October 13, 2022

Real transformation – the kind of shift that inextricably alters the very DNA of a person, organization or culture – takes years.

This is a lesson hard-fought and well-learned by the Associated Press’ Global Business Editor, Noreen Gillespie.

When Noreen walked through the front doors of the Poynter Institute for the Media Transformation Challenge, she was The Associated Press’s Deputy Managing Editor for U.S. News. Armed only with a blank sheet of paper, her imperative was to move the AP forward despite a rapidly changing news ecosystem.

“We were at a point where we had been holding onto our legacy,” she said. “It was pretty apparent that we were having a tough time delivering. Our customers wanted something different from us. And so we had to try to figure out in this new landscape — how is the AP going to evolve?”

With the help of her MTC coaches, Gillespie and her AP colleagues began what would be a multi-year transformation of the 175-plus year-old institution. The challenge was to take it from a traditional content provider struggling to adapt and turn it into a consolidated, digital-first landscape, and a collaborative network of content and capabilities with a focus on the future.

Gillespie took a cue from her earliest assignments as a young statehouse reporter in Connecticut to focus the AP on aligning local legislatures across the U.S. She used that early win to keep pushing internal stakeholders and customers toward experimentation and iteration, eventually shifting the very DNA of the organization from content to content and capabilities.

“We’ve evolved from being a fire hose of content to a partner that can help newsrooms with their audience goals and reporting process,” she said, “and who can help them fill gaps in their newsroom.”

“One of the biggest takeaways that I had from (my MTC fellowship) was that you’re not just coming up with a good idea and saying, ‘This is how I’m going to implement it across my organization.’ When you run into roadblocks, there’s a method,” she said. “It’s not just you against the world.”

Now, Gillespie is tasked with transforming the AP’s approach to business news – coverage of money, work and corporations – across the globe. Her advice?

“When you are a kid, you look at what you wanna do as just wanting to do it right, and getting there,” she says. “You may not think about what it takes once you are there.”

“Don’t be afraid of any challenge that you’re faced with; they’re achievable, they’re conquerable and they teach you a lot about your confidence to go into other situations and conquer those, too — regardless of whether or not you fully understand the challenge when you start it.”

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From helping launch Facebook’s Journalism Project globally and his tenure transforming MTV News, to his award-winning PBS documentary, “Mister Rogers & Me,” and podcast, “Friends & Neighbors,” Benjamin Wagner’s focus as a consultant, coach and creative is the essential nature of our shared human experience. 

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Benjamin Wagner is a consultant and coach, author, speaker, filmmaker and musician with 30 years of experience as a technology and media executive, award-winning journalist…
Benjamin Wagner

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