Posted by: rcieri | September 22, 2008

Online community guru Michelle Ferrier emphasizes ‘crowdsourcing’ in changing news model

Michelle Ferrier spoke to Elon University students and faculty about the changing roles of journalists and the public in news and information gathering.

Michelle Ferrier spoke to Elon University students and faculty about the changing roles of journalists and the public in news and information gathering.

By Rachel Cieri
Sept. 21, 2008

Print media may have declining readership, falling ad revenues and a smaller news hole, but the Daytona Beach News-Journal might have discovered the key to keeping newspapers alive.

Michelle Ferrier, managing editor for online community hubs at, told Elon University students and faculty Friday, Sept. 19 that the changing “news ecology” lead the News-Journal to create a new kind of information-sharing tool for the community.

“Our idea was to be that place in the community where everyone knows your name,” Ferrier said.

With, the News-Journal is doing just that. Users of the site can post their own news stories to inform other members of the local community of meetings, events, causes and accomplishments.

“Our goal was to foster a network created by citizens. We wanted to create that town square feeling,” she said.

Shifting the paradigm

In its beginning stages, the now one-year-old website attracted users through its calendar. Organizations in the community wanted to promote their own events, and they soon discovered that could post stories and photos as well.

State of the Media Democracy Survey, Deloitte (August 2007).

State of the Media Democracy Survey, Deloitte (August 2007).

“They’re startled by the fact the paradigm has changed. They’ve gone from feeling that they don’t have anything to say to one where they thought that they could make contributions to this community conversation,” Ferrier said of user reactions.

Despite the fact that the community of Daytona Beach has a high number of senior citizens, there has been no tremendous resistance toward using the technology.

“You would be surprised at how technologically advanced the community is. You’d think these [baby] boomers aren’t technologically savvy, but their grandkids know a lot. When they want to learn something they ask,” Ferrier said

She described the  process of crowdsourcing as “high tech, high touch,” meaning that the media must be engaged with the community in order for it to be successful. In the face of a general decline of newspaper staff, there has been an increase in beat reporters and place bloggers, those who concentrate on a narrow geographic region.

With the proliferation of the internet, almost anyone has easy and free access to publishing, distribution and newsgathering, the former selling points of newspapers. The news model is constantly evolving with user generated content running rampant across the worldwide web, and newspapers are left with a questionable role. The News-Journal has embraced the changes rather than fighting them.

A changing news ecology

A group called Journalism That Matters recently mapped out the ways that news has been gathered traditionally and compared it to the contemporary flow of information. Ferrier refers to this as the news ecology,  the ways information and sources interact with one another.


“What we’re finding is a more distributed news information gathering, sourcing, creating process where people outside the news organization are much more involved in the gathering of news and the presenting of news,” Ferrier said.

In this model, the group traditionally called the “audience” is now cast as the “community” because of its active role in the news-gathering process. The Daytona Beach News-Journal is currently capitalizing on “crowdsourcing,” the process of gathering comment or diverse views on an issue through a survey or poll before writing a story.

“[You are] really using the masses, the crowd, to be able to source your story rather than going to your traditional three or four or five sources that you might use for a news report,” Ferrier said of the technique.

While the project is still in an experimental stage, and similar websites are enabling communities across the country, ensuring that the news ecology is far from finished changing.

For more information about Michelle Ferrier, visit

To learn more about the changing news ecology from Journalism That Matters, visit

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  1. Rachel, you really kicked it into high gear and set a good example for everyone in class on this assignment. You have photos, captions, a chart, a video. You need to put in a few subheadlines to move the audience through the interior of the story. and also get Michelle’s name and Elon into the headline, to get search engine optimization and then you really have covered all of the territory.

  2. Very Nice

    Thank You

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