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Gannett’s Information Centers

Last week, one of our advisory team members, Ken Rogerson, passed along an article from Wired Magazine from July, called: “To Save Themselves, US Newspapers Put Readers to Work.” That headline is a little misleading, because it’s really about Gannett and how it’s radically transforming its newsroom through its Information Center initiative.

The article primarily focuses on the Cincinnati Enquirer and the way they’ve overhauled their newsroom to place the Internet at the center and to develop coverage based around community journalism. They scrapped their business and metro desks and replaced them with digital and community conversation desks.

By coincidence, I had a previously scheduled interview this morning with Jennifer Carroll, one of Gannett’s architects of the Information Center approach. She said this plan has been rolled out to just about every Gannett paper to various degrees. She also emphasize that it was done in a grassroots fashion, letting each newsroom adapt the plan for its particular community.

There were several key elements that Gannett used to develop that plan. But two in particular have stood out for Carroll. They wanted the new approach to enhance the newspapers’ watchdog function, and expand its local connections and coverage. And she’s confident they’ve been successful on both fronts.

That said, the company is already looking at version 2.0 and how to continually adapt it.

It’s pretty thrilling to watch, even from a distance. Proof, I think, that newspapers have a future and are finally on a path to figuring out what that it is. With all this change, Carroll said the most important thing college students could be doing was becoming critical thinkers who are also able to innovate and who have a passion for journalism. The blocking and tackling, the practical skills like audio and video editing, she figures Gannett can teach them.

I’ll post the full interview and audio next week.

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