Just about everybody in the newspaper business belittles Gannett as the epitome of soulless corporate newspaper ownership. But Gannett's USA Today is by far the most influential and innovative newspaper of the past 25 years (oh yes it is), and now the company is taking a bold step into the future by attempting to transform its newsrooms into "information centers" that put the Web ahead of the printing press and are trying many other radical notions of news coverage.
The Washington Post's Frank Ahrens has a story about Gannett's new ideas in actions at the Fort Myers News-Press. "Mobile journalists," tighter newsroom cooperation with advertising and marketing staffs, hyperlocal micro-sites—these is the kinds of things that make many old-school newsies cringe. On the other hand, buyouts and layoffs resulting from plummeting circulation and advertising aren't very pleasant, either.
It's difficult to get staid newsrooms to accept this kind of significant change, but Gannett's ambitious program is a big step in the right direction. After USA Today's debut, it took years for other newspapers to adopt its common-sense innovations (color weather maps, anyone?). How long will it take other newspapers to get the hint about the leading-edge stuff Gannett is trying now?