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](http://www.wired.com/news/culture/media/0,72067-0.html?tw=wn_culture_1. 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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