Noreen Gillespie: Transformer

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 Media Transformation Challenge at Poynter Institute‘s front door as AP’s Deputy Managing Editor for U.S. News, she was armed only with a blank sheet of paper and the imperative to move AP forward despite a rapidly changing news ecosystem.

“We were at a point where we had been holding onto our legacy,” she says. “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 the AP was going to evolve.”

With the help of her MTC coaches, Noreen and her AP colleagues began what would be a multi-year transformation of the 175+ year-old institution from a traditional content provider struggling to adapt to a consolidated, digital-first landscape, to a collaborative network of content and capabilities with a focus on the future.

Noreen took a cue from her earliest assignments as a young, statehouse reporter in Connecticut to focus the AP on aligning local legislative across the U.S. She then used that early win to keep pushing internal stakeholders and customers towards 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,” she says “To a partner that can help newsrooms with their audience goals and reporting process, 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 says. “It’s not just you against the world.”

Since March 2022, Noreen may feel like it’s her against the world as she us tasked with transforming the AP’s approach to business news – coverage of money, work and corporations – across the globe. Sound familiar?

“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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