Ambling Towards Snow Crash

An interesting development in another information-centric industry that is in need of re-tooling:

According to internal documents provided
to Wired News and interviews with key executives, Gannett, the
publisher of USA Today as well as 90 other American daily newspapers,
will begin crowdsourcing many of its newsgathering functions.
Starting Friday, Gannett newsrooms were rechristened “information
centers,” and instead of being organized into separate metro, state or
sports departments, staff will now work within one of seven desks with
names like “data,” “digital” and “community conversation.”

The initiative emphasizes four goals:
Prioritize local news over national news; publish more user-generated
content; become 24-7 news operations, in which the newspapers do less
and the websites do much more; and finally, use crowdsourcing methods
to put readers to work as watchdogs, whistle-blowers and researchers in
large, investigative features.

According to an e-mail sent Thursday to
Gannett news staff by CEO Craig Dubow, the restructuring has been
tested in 11 locations throughout the United States, but will be in
place throughout all of Gannett’s newspapers by May. “Implementing the
(Information) Center quickly is essential. Our industry is changing in
ways that create great opportunity for Gannett.”

Worth a full read.

I have no particular insights into how
newsrooms operate, but based on just the content of this article some
parallels to the IC model of “desks” and “portfolios” seem reasonable
enough. Form tends to trump function; with duplicative systems building
up over time, chewing up resources, contributing to bloat, poisoning
the culture and perpetuating bad ideas from narrowly-focused minds.

Note the typical response to the new
paradigm by the hidebound: the new model is suspect not because its
success goes against everything they know, but because it threatens the
paycheck. The best response is naturally a task force to study the
issue all the while the world outside races by (sounds familiar).

As with any endeavor of a similar nature
there are kinks that need to be addressed, but existing mechanisms
designed to vet contributors and their work are a quick, effective, and
proven fix. Stephenson noted
the possibility of this being an issue in 1992
and let market forces
deal with the issue (garbage in, no money out).

While old-school news producers deal
with their issues, those who would provide content also have problems
to address. Precious little original reporting takes place in the “new
media” space; most of the best serving as independent op-ed pages with
a pass-through function. Establishing baseline criteria for the new
practice is in order, though perpetuating J-school credentials is
neither necessary nor desired.

Practitioners and proponents of OSINT
should take note: this can be done internationally if the desire is
there. Fancy and expensive variations of the “google the answer”
approach to fulfilling 80-90% of our national security decision-making
needs isn’t going to cut it and we ignore the monks-watching-bombing
runs at our peril.

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