As he turned in an article to his editor at Wired mag­a­zine, writer Jeff Howe inad­ver­tently coined the term that has now defined his career.

Howe was writing about how tech­nology was rev­o­lu­tion­izing con­tent cre­ation in fields such as music, pho­tog­raphy, video and news. It was the biggest story he’d written thus far, but he was wrestling with how to describe it. “So I called my editor and said, ‘It’s almost like out­sourcing to the crowd,’” said Howe, a new assis­tant pro­fessor in Northeastern’s School of Jour­nalism.

While Howe was mocking the tech-​​speak that has dom­i­nated Sil­icon Valley for years, his sug­ges­tion took on a life of its own. His editor used the term “crowd­sourcing” to sell the story to Wired’s editor-​​in-​​chief, and later the story became a front-​​page fea­ture and spawned Howe’s sub­se­quent book, “Crowd­sourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Dri­ving the Future of Business.”

We’re talking about a rad­ical change — the economy is catching up to the fact of our globally-​​connected world, and we’re just now get­ting our first busi­ness model that will be native to our busi­ness age,” Howe said. “The Indus­trial Age segued into the Infor­ma­tion Era in the ’60s and ’70s, and we’ve still been using busi­ness con­ven­tions and prac­tices that date back to the nine­teenth century.”

Howe studied as a fellow at Harvard’s Nieman Foun­da­tion for Jour­nalism before moving to North­eastern, where he plans to con­tinue studying crowd­sourcing from a more schol­arly, aca­d­emic per­spec­tive. When dis­cussing the idea of crowd­sourcing in rela­tion to news and jour­nalism, Howe fre­quently gets push­back from sup­porters of tra­di­tional models, but he argues that crowd­sourcing ben­e­fits the whole industry.

Any time you open up an industry to diverse voices, you make it stronger,” Howe said. “I think it’s so valu­able, even if it’s just things like CNN and its iRe­port fea­ture, which col­lects and broad­casts user-​​generated video reports, or the recent gath­ering of infor­ma­tion and photos during Hur­ri­cane Irene.”

Much of jour­nalism, Howe said, involves reporters gath­ering and dis­trib­uting basic infor­ma­tion that could be col­lected by nearly anyone. A news­gath­ering approach based on the crowd, he argues, allows jour­nal­ists to spend more time on com­pli­cated stories.

Are we as a society really suf­fering if we let that aspect of jour­nalism go the way of the dinosaur? I don’t think so,” Howe said. “This frees up jour­nal­ists to do cooler, more impor­tant stuff in terms of analysis, fea­ture news and holding the feet of author­i­ties to the fire.”