Jeff Howe at Wired News is reporting that newspaper publishing giant Gannett, which publishes USA Today and over 90 other daily papers, is going to start using crowdsourcing as a way to gather news information.
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.
Crowdsourcing is a new term created by Jeff Howe and Mark Robinson (both of Wired) used to describe a way of soliciting content from the general public, for example, a media outlet searching Flickr for a photo to be used in a publication, Threadless building an empire out of printing shirts based on user contributed designs and so on. Of course the open source and wiki communities (like Wikipedia) have been successfully using crowdsourcing for a while now.
This is a pretty big deal and is the beginning of a major shift in mainstream media.