“Pro-am” harnesses the power of citizen journalism
One of the never-ending delights of the human condition is the flukiness of inspiration, how creativity sometimes springs from unlikely places. And so it is that the newspaper chain with the most interesting and coherent approach to rethinking journalism and news-gathering is not the New York Times Co. (NYT ) or the Washington Post Co. (WPO ).
It's Gannett (GCI ), publisher of USA Today and 89 other mostly midsize American dailies, a company, to put it gently, much better known for profits than Pulitzers. In this case, that probably helps. Rethinking a companywide approach is easier when there's a smaller institutional ego at play. By May 1 Gannett will have rolled out to all its papers initiatives enabling readers to interact with each other and assist its journalists. (These approaches also will be launched at Gannett's TV stations.) To describe these efforts, Michael Maness, vice-president of strategic planning and one of the strategy's architects, is eschewing such clumsy industry terms as "user-generated content," opting instead for the more euphonious "pro-am" (as in, professional-amateur) to underscore the blend of reader contributions and traditional reporting. If this succeeds—and early indicators are good—an unlikely company will lead the industry down an unfamiliar but promising path. "What I like about it is that it's not just about saving money, it's about saving journalism," says a reliably revved-up Jeff Jarvis, proprietor of media blog buzzmachine.com.