Gannett Comes to Town

Gannett Vice President Maness introduced the term “crowdsourcing” to the News-Press’ editors over dinner on June 13, 2006. In attendance were Managing Editor McCurry-Ross, Executive Editor Marymont, and Deputy to the Publisher Warren, as well as another Gannett executive and other members of the News-Press’ editorial staff. Maness had just as vague a grasp of what crowdsourcing would look like in journalism as the News-Press ’ editors did. “He said,” recalls Deputy Warren, “’here’s this idea in a vacuum. I’ve never tried it. I don’t know what would happen. Figure it out.’”

Over the next hour, the assembled editors and executives discussed what crowdsourcing meant and what it should accomplish in practice. McCurry-Ross wondered whether the method could work at the News-Press . “It wasn’t entirely defined, of course,” she says. But she was excited by the idea. She continues:

I’ve always thought what we do is really... about the audience... Sometimes we get big egos and think it’s about us... but it’s really about the readers... and touching them very personally or doing public service in a broader sense for the community. [19]

What excited her most about the prospect was its potential to introduce more transparency into the reporting process. She envisioned the News-Press communicating more fully with its readers—actively soliciting their input, and publishing new facts and documents on as it received them, rather than hoarding and summarizing the information for the paper edition. Reporters could encourage readers to do their own reporting and contact the paper with what they discovered.

Listen to McCurry-Ross discuss transparency:
Length: 1 min 22 sec

The paper, she thought, would in essence be announcing to its audience: “We’re going to share with you what we find out when we find it out, not down the road.” In turn, the paper would ask its readers to do the same. Reporting would become a collaborative effort between the News-Press and its community.


19 . Author’s telephone interview with Cindy McCurry-Ross, October 19, 2007.