Gannett, USA Today Wants Everyone To Write The News For Them

from the cheaper-this-way dept

We've been waiting for the newspaper industry to realize it needs to do more than just put their articles online and sell advertising, but figure out ways to better enhance their offering via adding features that were simply impossible without the internet. For example, recognize that rather than readers, many people are willing to be distributors of the news as well. Gannett, most well known as the publisher of USA Today and a bunch of other newspapers is now trying to do much more by better involving readers in writing the news as well. Obviously, the idea of citizen journalism has been discussed at length for a while, but perhaps not when it comes to a major newspaper chain. Gannett is reorganizing their news rooms to be more collaborative (something that should have happened long ago), but are also encouraging newsrooms to get the community involved in the reporting process as well.

The article discusses how one newspaper got a bunch of readers to help them investigate excessively high prices for water and sewer lines to new homes. Apparently, it generated a lot of interest, with various experts all coming together to dig out the real story. Of course, that doesn't necessarily work in every case -- and there are some risks involved. As you might expect, many of the reporters are skeptical, wondering if this is just a way to fire reporters and replace them with "free" labor. At the same time, others wonder if such citizen journalism efforts are really sustainable. After all, even the highly touted OhMyNews has discovered that it's difficult to make money doing citizen journalism and the basic idea behind their site hasn't worked well outside of Korea. Still, it certainly could be interesting to see this hybrid model that involves both professional reporters and interested readers, with the division of labor being split up depending on who is best suited to cover the situation. Of all the various newspaper experiments in the online world, this is definitely one that's worth watching.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Parker, Nov 3rd, 2006 @ 6:53pm

    Citizen Generated Journalism

    It seems to me that with the rise of blogs, the entire journalism industry has been moving in this direction. While I realize that it is not quite the same as a newspaper,
    I think that as it becomes increasingly easy to post (from wireless-enabled laptops, mobile phones, etc.) the industry will continue to move away from big newsrooms and more to a community-oriented type of press where the reporters are the common citizens, your neighbour.

     

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    CD, Nov 3rd, 2006 @ 6:57pm

    I had a similar post today. I'm surprised that the newspaper companies haven't started acquiring blogs to extend their reach into niche areas, and to incorporate more interesting content in their papers.

     

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    Dr. A, Nov 3rd, 2006 @ 7:10pm

    Everyone To Write The News

    Yahoo's Help was replaced by http://answers.yahoo.com . Open source made Firefox and Linux what they are. News television made this for years asking for people to report.
    Journalism is more about gossip than scientific facts so who are best to cover it than ordinary people afterall?

     

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    the winking lizard, Nov 3rd, 2006 @ 8:36pm

    Requiem for a smoking man

    Murrows must be rolling over in his grave.

     

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    dorpus, Nov 3rd, 2006 @ 9:47pm

    Rabbletopia

    So Firefox and Linux are supposed to be models of open source endeavours? Even though the new version of firefox is inferior to the old version, and people are de-installing it in droves? (I did.) Or Linux remains a fringe operating system with basic compatibility problems?

    If OhMyNews is any indication, rabble-generated garbage is all about flat-out lies. Their articles are all about urban legends, false "history" and hokum "science".

     

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      nunya_bidness, Nov 6th, 2006 @ 5:45am

      Re: Rabbletopia

      Except for the part about OhMyNews, your post is a perfect example of "rabble-generated garbage", and you know that. I am delighted that you always always manage to steer the conversation off course, but you hit the nail on the head concerning forum generated news being trash. The only thing equally trashy is real news reporting. Please continue to enlighten us to you journalistic knowledge, I find it highly entertaining. rabble on!

       

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    aine, Nov 3rd, 2006 @ 11:09pm

    cit-j

    Maybe you should take a look at Newsvine.com

     

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    Corpus Crispy, Nov 4th, 2006 @ 12:14am

    RE: Rabbletopia

    Do tell how the new version of Firefox is inferior, and present some data backing up your claim that people are "deinstalling in droves." Are you a drove? You are the only one I know that has denistalled, and I work in a high-tech industry with thousands of people.

    And I suppose MacOSX and Solaris also suck because they are "fringe operating systems?" And what pray tell, please, let us know what the "basic compatibility problems" are, you trying to install it on an i286?

    I won't even go into why you think you have the background to make intelligent remarks about Firefox's usage, or Linux's abilities.

    Your comment about OhMyNews might be spot on, I've never heard of it, but considering your ignorance on the other subjects, I'd I have to discount it.

     

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      dorpus, Nov 4th, 2006 @ 3:35pm

      Re: RE: Rabbletopia

      How about this?

      Nine Reasons To Skip Firefox 2.0
      http://it.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/10/28/2115202

      Why the World is Not Ready For Linux
      http://linux.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/11/03/1535203

      "The one area of Linux ownership and use where it becomes apparent that there's an assumption that everyone who uses Linux is an expert is hardware support. Your average user doesn't have the time, the energy or the inclination to deal with uncertainty. Also, they usually only have the one PC to play with. Hardware just has to work. There's a very good reason why Microsoft spends a lot of time on hardware compatibility — it's what people want."

      I uninstalled firefox 2.0 because it created popup ads where the old version did not (and yes, the options are set so they're not supposed to happen, down to adblock filters). The new version randomly creates tabbed windows, even when I configure the browser so it's not supposed to happen. The interface buttons are harder to see and inflexible.

       

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        Corpus Crispy, Nov 5th, 2006 @ 12:55am

        Re: Re: RE: Rabbletopia

        Bah. While those links do bolster your argument, I'm sure it is not in the way you intend. I find it somewhat amusing that you would attempt to bolster your argument by pointing to articles that are in themselves merely opinions, and not technically accurate at that.

        The first link; If you read the comments, there are more comments pointing out the technical inaccuracies of the original post, and irrelevancies of the arguments it raises than agree with it. Most of the problems the original poster is having either have to do with his/her preference than anything, and the others are most likely due to the extensions that user is employing, rather than FF itself. It bolsters your argument in that the post gives these 9 reasons, but doesn't back them up with anything substantive, and in some cases, are just plain wrong, clearly bad journalism.

        The second link, again, is merely opinion, and gives nothing substantive to back it up. Installing linux on reasonably recent, mainstream hardware has no more compatibility issues than any other OS. The main reason there are issues is that hardware manufacturers many times don't publish their ABI's open-source, so Linux developers simply can't write compatible device drivers without reverse-engineering them, an error-prone process. There are as many examples of Windows drivers that are poorly written by the hardware manufacturers that cause problems in windows as there are examples of poor compatibility with Linux. This is not Linux's fault, just as it isn't FF's fault that extension developers write buggy extensions, which says nothing about the opensource model, and volumes about the closed-source model of software development.

        Secondly, this is a straw-man argument as the second post is talking about Linux as a desktop, SolarisX86 is in the same category, definitely not ready for prime-time on the desktop, however, this says nothing about the reliability and usefulness of Linux (or Solaris) for that matter, when used where it fits best, as a server OS. So calling Linux a "fringe OS" and somehow equating that with bad journalism just doesn't hold water.

        Dorpus has simply shown us that crowd-sourcing journalism is probably not a good idea by presenting these articles as "proof" of his claims. Neither is technically accurate, nor backed up by substantive evidence. He has not shown that the opensource model as a software development model is flawed in any way, with his original comparison of the "flawed" FF or the "incompatible" Linux, and drawing an inaccurate comparison with crowd-sourcing journalism, which I believe was his original intention.

        If the crowd-sourcing of journalism leads to these sorts of articles, which are demonstrably technically inaccurate and with no substantive evidence to back up the claims made in the article, then I think I agree with him. Just don't draw parallels with subjects that you know little about. That is what got my "dander" up.

        As to you others raring to see a fight, shame on you. I admit I was too acidic with my original rebuttal, I was rather tired and annoyed that Dorpus would draw parallels on subjects he clearly doesn't understand well enough, but my original intention was really to see where he was getting his opinions, and now that I see they are from Slashdot of all places, enough said.

        There will be no laptops at dawn, it isn't worth losing the sleep over.

         

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          dorpus, Nov 5th, 2006 @ 10:40am

          Re: Re: Re: RE: Rabbletopia

          I find it somewhat amusing that you would attempt to bolster your argument by pointing to articles that are in themselves merely opinions, and not technically accurate at that.

          So if consumers develop opinions about some hard-to-use technical product, then are they "ignorant" and "not technically accurate"?

          The first link; If you read the comments, there are more comments pointing out the technical inaccuracies of the original post, and irrelevancies of the arguments it raises than agree with it.

          Coming from a forum with a well-known pro-firefox bias, that is not surprising. Some of the comments do describe the flaws in detail, and nobody has rebutted them.

          The second link, again, is merely opinion, and gives nothing substantive to back it up. Installing linux on reasonably recent, mainstream hardware has no more compatibility issues than any other OS. The main reason there are issues is that hardware manufacturers many times don't publish their ABI's open-source, so Linux developers simply can't write compatible device drivers without reverse-engineering them, an error-prone process.

          In other words, the drivers don't work. We should not have to buy an operating system that requires us to write our own driver hardware, anymore than we should have to buy cars that require us to weld our own components. If you ask the working class crowd, welding is "easy" and only "wimps" wouldn't want to weld their own cars.

           

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            Celes, Nov 6th, 2006 @ 10:21am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: RE: Rabbletopia

            Warning: This is off-topic, focusing on the analogy rather than the spirit of the pervious post.

            Erm... I seem to be part of this "working class" you mentioned, and I don't think welding is easy - I've only used a welder twice. But it is fun!

            And how exactly do you write "driver hardware"?

             

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    Ouch !, Nov 4th, 2006 @ 10:07am

    The challenge...

    I optimize websites for a living and the primary challenge with newsroom journalism is that the text is not 'found' well by Google. Google prefers the language of usage written out in the common tongue. Corporate copywriting and professionally edited text is not considered as relevant as 'blog' styled text and as a result it does not perform as well as 'blog' style writing.

    In the past I have had the unenviable task of trying to 're-educate' professional journalists as to how text is found on the web by Google and to help them incorporate this type knowledge into writing for the web. Blog writing and search engine optimization techniques (new school SEO, not old Black Hat school) are not taken seriously by the professional writers I have dealt with, and for good reason. The craft of journalism is the antithesis of what one is taught in the newsroom. Yet, the fact remains that the anecdotal evidence of the 'rules of Google' and the way Google algorithms bear out in practice, that rambling prose transcribed into text gains 'page rank' response far more successfully than traditional 'newspaper' copy.

    As to the topic on the table in the previous posts, I think you two should go out and have a duel with laptops at dawn.

     

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      Slob Jones, Nov 4th, 2006 @ 9:53pm

      Re: The challenge...

      Don't we know it, Ouch. What are we gonna do, write challenging, thoughtful blog prose just the way we wrote for print, or compose lead paragraphs with a bunch of keywords, so Google will find us?

      Blogging is not going to kill writing. Google will, though.

       

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    As well, Nov 4th, 2006 @ 10:10am

    as well

    as well

     

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    AKAJohnDoe, Nov 4th, 2006 @ 6:49pm

    Cheap Bastards

    Simply an economic decision. Why pay reporters when you can get Joe or Jane Average to do it for Free?

     

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    identicon
    Ouch!, Nov 4th, 2006 @ 7:23pm

    The Battle rages on...

    The sun slowly sets as Dorpus and Corpus Crispy battle it out on the Plains of OS. Dorpus, blood oozing from a wound from his right ear, lands a nice uppercut with his laptop as Corpus Crispy staggers backward from the blow.

    Corpus Crispy, shaking it out, musters a charge and gives a haymaker with his open portable, connecting with verve to Dorpus's wouded ear...


    "AAuuughhg !"

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2006 @ 11:08pm

    Noooo!!!!

    Why, oh why are they doing this? With the amount of people relying on the ‘truthful, accurate, and well researched’ blogs, as well as all the 'shock news' on TV, you would think the few actual journalist publications out there would try to improve their quality. Not pollute it with crap.

     

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    DayneGull, Nov 5th, 2006 @ 11:55am

    Forgetting your own argument

    Dorpus, if you are receiving more popups with Firefox 2 than with Firefox 1, you are using it wrong. Which, to your credit, is quite an achievement considering the intuitive interface.

    The reason I post here is that I found the discussion enlightening, until you seemed to lose track of your own argument presented in your first post.

    What you seem to be arguing is that "open source" development, used as a comparison to "grassroots journalism," produces lesser quality results. This argument is not only false from a historical perspective (most of this century's greatest advances in technology, most monumental shifts in ideology, and most progressive switches in political power have originated in some guy's basement, quite literally). Yes, when you open the doors to anyone and their dog to either program, develop, report, engineer, "fiddle-with", think about, ponder, or produce, you do get a heavy mix of plain crap. On the other hand, you get an equally heavy mix of fresh ideas and perspectives, which (again historically) has proven to be one of the most effective ways to advance change and progression.

    If you entertain your own argument (using recent Firefox and Linux developments as examples) on an economic scale, you are saying we are better to leave industrial development to the corporate machines that exist, rather than the entrepreneurs and visionaries that might get it wrong at first, but are at least trying something new to improve the situation. If you apply your logic to a political environment, you would have to argue that change and improvement is best left up to the Republican's, as they are in power, or to the Democrats, as they are the understood rival of the Republicans. You would have to argue that any grassroots movement, or socially driven cry for change must inherently be ignored and Bah!-ed at simply because they are more prone to mistakes than a gigantic, hugely funded political party. Yet every revolution in HISTORY that has led to change (in fact, the American Revolution itself!) has come directly from a bunch of people discussing ideas and trying different things, and eventually (sometimes by sheer luck, sometimes by intelligent planning) change the WORLD!

    Yes it is frightening to think of print and broadcast journalism being reduced to the level of blogging by this stated openness to letting "Joe-Blow" write the headlines, but it also stands to be revolutionary itself in terms of how it could change the way information is exchanged and knowledge is distributed freely around the world. The possibilities are worth the risk.

     

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      dorpus, Nov 5th, 2006 @ 5:39pm

      Re: Forgetting your own argument

      Dorpus, if you are receiving more popups with Firefox 2 than with Firefox 1, you are using it wrong. Which, to your credit, is quite an achievement considering the intuitive interface.

      I fiddled extensively with the options, both basic and advanced. There are some sites that force a popup window to appear on firefox 2, which did not happen on firefox 1. If someone wants to fly over and show how not to make it appear, they are welcome to try. Otherwise, I will stick to FF1 regardless of whatever the cyber-bullies have to say. (Curiously, the same cyber-bullies defend Techdirt's ancient web technology, which does not even support forums properly.)


      What you seem to be arguing is that "open source" development, used as a comparison to "grassroots journalism," produces lesser quality results. This argument is not only false from a historical perspective (most of this century's greatest advances in technology, most monumental shifts in ideology, and most progressive switches in political power have originated in some guy's basement, quite literally).


      So which basement was the nuclear bomb built in? Or was it funded by a vast government project? Was the world wide web built in somebody's basement, or was it built by a well-paid government scientist at CERN who had plenty of spare time on his hands? Was the internet built in some California hippie's basement, or was it invented at a military research lab in Virginia? Was the transistor invented in some California hippie's basement, or was it invented at an IBM lab? As for "monumental shifts in ideology", did some guy in his basement figure out how to make communism collapse, or did it collapse because of macroeconomic pressures? Was the Republican Revolution of the 1990s invented in someone's basement, or was it a carefully coordinated, massive government and corporate project?

      Yet every revolution in HISTORY that has led to change (in fact, the American Revolution itself!) has come directly from a bunch of people discussing ideas and trying different things, and eventually (sometimes by sheer luck, sometimes by intelligent planning) change the WORLD!

      What is the success rate of "revolutions"? How often do Latin American countries have "revolutions", which fizzle out a year later? In many countries around the world, it is customary at every election for the new government to proclaim a "revolution", and things otherwise go on as before. Does not the same thing happen with "revolutions" in economics, technology?


      Yes it is frightening to think of print and broadcast journalism being reduced to the level of blogging by this stated openness to letting "Joe-Blow" write the headlines, but it also stands to be revolutionary itself in terms of how it could change the way information is exchanged and knowledge is distributed freely around the world. The possibilities are worth the risk.


      So should we live with the tyranny of the mob, where they believe in what they want to believe, with no accountability?

       

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    dorpus, Nov 5th, 2006 @ 6:25pm

    American Business Folklore

    The American business culture's fixation on "two guys in the garage" who invent a new device has its folkloric origins in the Wright Brothers, who imitated technologies featured at the Paris Air Show. Several other individuals throughout the world simultaneously invented the airplane, but only the Wright Brothers succeeded in getting corporate investors to take their invention seriously, thus their mythological status. Since then, American businesses have made a point of claiming that their product was invented in the company founder's garage, even if it is a pack of lies fabricated by the marketing department.

    Aerospace technologies of the 20th century, such as the jet engine, space shuttle, and rocketry, owe their existence to nazi scientists. At the end of WW2, the scientists were abducted by American and Soviet forces who threatened prison sentences unless the scientists cooperated. The interstate highway system was also invented by the nazis, which was then imitated in the USA under German-American president Eisenhower. The interstate highway system continues to have a profound impact on American culture to this day.

    In short, government has and will continue to be the primary source of technological inventions; however, these facts are suppressed in the American business culture, for it violates their sanctified belief of the "little man" who strikes it rich.

     

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    Frank, Nov 5th, 2006 @ 6:32pm

    We have wikipedia. Why not wikinews?

     

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    py, Nov 5th, 2006 @ 6:39pm

    Here's a story:

    Angelina Jolie is simply an unadulterated adultering slut. She is the premium yeasty-twat twit-whore. This hypocritical seeker of sloppy homewrecking seconds should invest in liposculpture of those gnarly scrotum-sausage lips to fund her exoskeleton of a bony arse, so her head might be better nestled while crammed inextricably up there.

    You festering baby-napper...we should try to be glad for your exotic child swiping if it limits your urge to propagate your own maggot genes, as the bad apple does not fall far from the nasty mutant family tree. Case in point: you have your father's bizarre, exaggerated facial twists and pus-bucket cheating heart. May you grow a male appendage so that you can go defile yourself in the way so many command you to. Pig.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Matthew micheal Alger, Feb 22nd, 2007 @ 6:37pm

    Massachusetts District of worcester county

    Why was a young prudent man at the age of 18 thrown in prison over a 50cent bag of potato chips by the Oxford,ma P.D? I served three years in prison with respects to the FINE Bellingham P.D B.Kutcher commited perjury 24 times along with his accomplice R.Edwards who commited perjury 12 times in which they contridict each other in which appeals judge agreed in which I was found NOT GUILTY after I served three years in which I still fight to make things right. Any comments visit www.JohnnyWhisperz@aol.com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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