It used to be that editors would decide the leading news stories that would make it to print. Now, Yahoo is posied to democratize the news by letting the masses have a voice in what will be covered – the search engine’s news blog The Upshot, which launched today, will be using search data to guide news coverage.

Yahoo has been focused on boosting its news features for some time and recently bought Associated Content. The search engine will use search technology as an editor of sorts to decide what people most want to read about. The current “trending topics” are published at the top of The Upshot page, and readers will find most of these topics are covered by news posts on the site itself.

According the New York Times, this approach to news coverage is “certain to be viewed suspiciously by journalism purists.” But it shouldn’t be. This model uses searches to fill in gaps about what consumers want to know and can’t find in other news sources.

James Pitaro, vice president of Yahoo Media, told the Times that Yahoo has seen success and quality coverage using this approach in the past. After the 2008 Olympics, consumers were searching for information about why divers take showers when they exit the water. Piatro said Yahoo’s writers did a little research and wrote a piece about it. The article both answered consumers’ query (the water keeps muscles limber) and drove traffic to Yahoo News. Thus, offering search-driven content can be an excellent way to become a thought-leader, generate clicks and boost a brand.

Traditionally, Yahoo has been the go-to source for online consumers looking for news; Tech Crunch reports comScore data showed that Yahoo News was the leading online news source at the end of 2009 with 138 million unique visitors worldwide. However, Google is also investing in its news coverage, and the recent updates to the Google News homepage may help the search engine giant take the lead in news searches.