The Convergence Newsletter
From Newsplex at the University of South Carolina
Vol. II No. 4 (Oct. 7, 2004)
Exploring the Meaning
of Media Convergence
The purpose of this newsletter is to provide an editorially neutral forum for discussion of the theoretical and professional meaning of media convergence.
We welcome articles on any topic directly related to media convergence, including academic research or information about convergence experiences in your newsroom. We also welcome information about conferences, publications and related links.
The RNC, the Motorola V, and Me: One Moblogger’s Cingular Experience
Convergence for a Healthier Lifestyle?
Moblog Will Showcase Digital Revolution Conference
New Textbooks Focus on Convergence
Fall College Media Convention
Third Annual BloggerCon
2004 Online News Association Conference
Call for Papers
Editor’s Note: Ifra Newsplex at the University of South Carolina teamed up with Cingular Wireless, putting journalism students in Boston and New York to cover the Democratic and Republication National Conventions. Using camera phones, students covered a multitude of aspects of the conventions and their photos and text were posted on a mobile weblog--or moblog--that received hundreds of hits and offered journalistic depth overlooked by much of the mainstream media. The following article comes from Susan Witty, a copy editor at Barron’s who completed her master’s degree from Columbia University in May. She helped cover the Republican National Convention for the Election Connection moblog. For previous Convergence Newsletter articles on the Wireless Election Connection, visit http://www.jour.sc.edu/news/convergence/index.html.
The RNC, the Motorola V, and Me: One Moblogger’s Cingular Experience
By Susan Witty
As zero hour for the Republican National Convention in New York City approached, I became increasingly anxious. The city's dailies had ratcheted up the fear factor by constantly replaying the possibility of violent protest disruptions and terrorist attacks. Not only was I beginning to be concerned about life and limb, I was about to enter totally unfamiliar territory.
Though during my more than 20 years in magazine journalism I had mastered writing and editing on a computer, I was about to attempt reporting on the upcoming convention by sending in photos and text messages to a Web site via a Motorola V-400 camera phone supplied by Cingular Wireless. The closer I came to having to perform in this moblog arena, the more nervous I became.
But participating in this phase of the "multiskilled journalist/converged newsroom" experiment was an assignment for which I had volunteered. As part of a team of eight "digital reporters" chosen from Columbia University and Berkeley's graduate schools of journalism to cover the Republican convention for Cingular's Wireless Election Connection site (http://wec.textamerica.com/), I would be pioneering in a new form of journalism. The opportunity to be both in the forefront and increase my skills was a powerful motivator.
I've constantly pushed myself to undertake new challenges; joining the Peace Corps in its earliest years and tackling a master's degree in my later years are two examples. But, in this instance, I was the oldest member of the team by several decades. I was worried I might not be able to keep step with much younger team members, who had more cell phone smarts as well as the energy of youth. It would be a stretch. Would I be limber enough to make it?
As things turned out, the whirlwind five days were self-confidence affirming and energizing. In this nasty-ad election year, the impetus behind the Cingular site to entice young people into the voting booth was one of the more noble. I was proud to be part of the historic effort being mounted by a variety of peer-to-peer and adult groups to awaken this sleeping giant of around 40 million 18-29 year olds for the good of democracy. And I applaud the contributions the Wireless Election Connection moblog made to the coverage of the Republican convention in New York. In fact, while the bulk of the TV networks scaled back to only three hours each in a fit of ennui, and the mightier Fox happily stayed on Republican message, the moblog, in its way, provided some of the most comprehensive and balanced reportage around.
I have questions about the ultimate goals of the multiskilled journalist/converged newsroom concept. But first, the good news based on my experience on the ground.
Outside The Box
The Wireless Election Connection's national reach was a plus, and the breadth of its content in several instances outdid that of the nation's traditional media. According to my strictly anecdotal post-convention survey, the largest protest gathering in response to a convention—an historic event in which an estimated half a million anti-Bush and other demonstrators marched past Madison Square Garden—was only sparsely reported, if at all, by news outlets outside New York.
On Aug. 29, a day before the convention opened, our four Berkeley colleagues had not yet arrived. But we New York City-based reporters and the Newsplex support team managed to post a slew of images and comments from the two-mile long, six-hour march that trumped our more conventional news brethren.
In the same vein, on the convention's third day, some of us (me included) captured images and quotes from a large anti-Bush-administration labor rally. To my knowledge this event, certainly germane to the presidential election, wasn't covered anywhere else with the possible exception of union newsletters.
Also unusual was our particularly energetic attention to the man and woman on the street around town. From shoeshine stand entrepreneur, to bike patrol police officer, to gem cutter, to radio reporter, to schoolteacher, the variety of the people with whom I briefly engaged was, for me, the greatest pleasure of the whole endeavor.
When Size Matters
Because of the currently cumbersome and time-consuming nature of text messaging, the Cingular-supplied equipment largely limited what we could communicate in writing. On the other hand, the camera phone proved its merits in notable ways.
The phone's size enabled me to get in on the action unobtrusively. I got a dynamic shot of Katherine Harris at a LifetimeTV/Rock the Vote party because I could intrude my camera's eye into the hive of fans and large camera photographers swarming the controversial former Florida secretary of state without elbowing anyone aside or conking them over the head.
In addition, the featherweight phone's extreme portability made it easy to discover and document stories on the fly. Traveling light, I could be here, there and everywhere—and conduct interviews without attracting a host of onlookers. Freed to be exceptionally mobile, on the way to a big story I was forever running into little stories.
For example, having stumbled on the site of a luncheon honoring former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, I spotted a small group of racially diverse teenagers hovering outside the entrance to the event's tony restaurant. It turned out the kids were covering the convention as part of an organization called Children's PressLine, which trains teens to be journalists. I photographed and had a brief chat with 14-year-old reporter Laurence James. Our conversation was cut short when he and his cohorts were waved in to take a look at the luncheon's happenings.
Though my photo of James was far from a world-beater, introducing Children's PressLine on the Election Connection moblog was gratifying. The accretion on the Wireless Election Connection's moblog of unanticipated items like this one, along with the usual suspects, made for a colorful patchwork quilt of convention-related material, which, in my estimation, was the Web site's major forte.
My favorite among the site's features was its links. Expertly employed by the Newsplex newsresourcer, these story expanders added heft to otherwise sleight captions. My postings, including one of two young female delegates from Colorado who'd recently participated in a community-service cleanup in New York's Chinatown, and another of four pink-clad members of the women's peace organization Code Pink heading to a nighttime rally, were greatly enhanced by these embedded referrals.
In the first case, the link providing information about Manhattan's Chinatown was a creative choice. In the second, the link to Code Pink's Web site was fortuitous. The very night I posted my photo of the four Code Pinkers, Code Pink co-founder Gail Murphy foiled the city's $76 million security network and crashed the convention floor to admonish Vice President Dick Cheney during his John Kerry-bashing speech. I only hope that some young news junkie surfing Cingular's site came upon my entry and the Code Pink link and was, as a result, better able to put Murphy's action in context.
As fate would have it, Code Pink played a leading role in my most infuriating convention reporting failure. On the convention's final night, I received one of the coveted hall passes. President Bush was in mid-speech when I heard a distant commotion. I was standing inside the convention hall in a crowded aisle, deep into text messaging a longish caption. Suddenly the commotion that had sounded far off only a second ago was in front of my nose. Security personnel rushed by me, hustling out another Code Pink protestor. The group was gone before I could gather my wits.
If I hadn't been so intently focused on the cell phone keypad, I would have gotten a photo of Jodie Evans of Code Pink being frog-marched out wearing a slip with anti-Bush messages written all over it. On Saturday, the photo I could have published two days earlier appeared in the New York Times. Thumbs down on text messaging as a reporting tool!
Aside from yearning for an alternative to text messaging, I wish there had been a structured hands-on training session for use of the camera phone before we had to hit the ground running. The competency I gained learning-by-doing never reached mastery. Time constraints made consulting the manual difficult. My knowledge of the full range of the phone's capabilities remained incomplete, and, sadly hampered the quality of my output.
I have nothing but gratitude for the Newsplex personnel--the bureau chief, the newsflow editor, the newsresourcer and the storybuilders--who, just a wireless call away, quickly came to the rescue in techno, logistical and copy clarity emergencies. However, the ever-changing cast of storybuilders, some with more experience than others, left something to be desired. A couple of times, copy I thought pertinent was deleted from my captions. On one occasion Katherine Harris' name was changed to Kathleen Harris. On another, a storybuilder overrode my description of what a protestor in a photo was hawking and substituted the word "posters" for "newspapers." The fact that I had seen the subject close up on the streets of New York, and the storybuilder was in South Carolina seemed not to matter. But, hey, these are the small potatoes.
The Big Questions
Instant publishing, national reach, no watch-your-step newsroom atmosphere--for a reporter, Cingular's Wireless Election Connection moblog had a good deal going for it. But it also had its limitations. Was it blogging in the writerly sense? No. Was it a substitute for pieces of substance? No. Its emphasis on speed and quantity of input kept the material skating on the surface. As one of its practitioners noted, "This isn't a format for depth or context."
In a speech to graduating Columbia University journalism students this past spring, Washington Post veteran reporter Walter Pincus observed: "Today in Washington we work in a PR society. News and truth are not the same. The function of news is to signal an event. Truth's is to shine a light on it, so people can react wisely." Did the news bites we collected for the moblog shine Truth's light on the Republican National Convention in New York City? What we created was mainly a picture show. It was comprehensive--we showed a lot, but in the main, the telling was left to other’s Web sites. Is this Internet-based model the wave of the future that the multi-skilled journalist/converged newsroom would have journalism ride?
I don't think quick, on-the-surface news is the best the next generation of news purveyors can buy. While Newsplex's home-base functions--the support staff of newsresourcers and storybuilders--don't give me pause, I'm far from convinced that devoting energy to creating one-man-band journalists out in the field is good for journalists or journalism.
More Is Less
When I started at the New York Times Magazine, there still were printers setting type who worked in the Times building, journeymen from a different class that I, as a copy desk editor, had the opportunity to get to know and interact with. I was at the Times when these craftsmen were replaced forever by cold type, and the job of typesetting and correcting typos was passed on to editors working on computers.
In time, no doubt, the whole kit and caboodle of editorial duties will be transferred to computer software, and fewer people will be needed to press the keys. It's inevitable. Today, in practically every field, the unrelenting drive is to eliminate people, or to give fewer people more to do, in order to bring down costs. The tools are there to do it and are being refined to do it more extensively. Taking aim at reporters with these tools will kill something of value to journalists.
I'm no Luddite. I benefit by many a machine. But the sword of technological advance has ever been double-edged. I suspect that as soon as technology perfects a way for single journalists to handle every news- gathering task, the result will not only yield so-called productivity gains, but also more over-burdened, more quickly burned-out journalists. I also suspect that one-man-band journalists will lose valuable breadth of vision when they lose the benefit of on-the-ground colleagues with their own highly developed expertise.
It will be a unique "backpack journalist" who can expertly execute all the special skills of the trade (audio, video, still photographs and writing) each requiring intense focus. In my view, it's unrealistic to think you can combine all these functions in one person without compromising quality. Most importantly, I don't believe paring down the workforce is good for our economy or our country.
Editor’s Note: This article is taken from a report written by an ad-hoc convergence committee at the College of Mass Communications & Information Studies at the University of South Carolina. This article suggests an important topic for those studying convergence and its uses.
Convergence for a Healthier Lifestyle?
By Jennifer Arns, Opportunities to Use Convergence Practices and Research to Leverage Scarce Public Health Resources
The Institute of Medicine’s report The Future of Public Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Healthy People in Healthy Communities action plan provide a vision of public health that includes many partners working together to provide a group of essential public health services (http://www.apha.org/ppp/science/10ES.htm#mobilize).
At least three of these services appear to be particularly fertile ground for convergent journalism, and each brings to mind a number of ways that convergence could play an important role in creating the conditions that help all people to live healthy and productive lives.
==”Inform, educate, and empower people about health issues: This service involves social marketing and targeted media public communication; providing accessible health information resources at community levels; active collaboration with personal health care providers to reinforce health promotion messages and programs; and joint health education programs with schools, churches, and worksites.”
The “social marketing activities” suggested in the first of these service category are under way, and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control http://www.scdhec.gov/omh/other_health_issues.html points to several examples, including its “Good Health Depends On You” promotion campaign and the IMARA magazine (aimed at educating women of color about AIDS and other health topics). Similar activities could be launched using multimedia technology and their effectiveness strengthened through research on target audience perceptions. Faculty-led focus groups and community “design-build” workshops resulting in co-produced marketing/information products would accomplish both ends. If this model proved to be successful, it could be shared with other public health groups.
==”Mobilize community partnerships and action to identify and solve health problems: This service involves convening and facilitating community groups and associations, including those not typically considered to be health-related, in undertaking defined preventive, screening, rehabilitation, and support programs; and skilled coalition-building ability in order to draw upon the full range of potential human and material resources in the cause of community health.”
This service category could be furthered through a national series of investigative articles or multimedia productions that capture best practices or success stories. These, in turn, could be made available to Public Health Departments and Advocacy Groups interested in forming coalitions.
==”Link people to needed personal health services and assure the provision of health care when otherwise unavailable: This service (often referred to as “outreach” or “enabling” services) includes assuring effective entry for socially disadvantaged people into a coordinated system of clinical care; culturally and linguistically appropriate materials and staff to assure linkage to services for special population groups; ongoing “care management”; transportation services; targeted health information to high risk population groups; and technical assistance for effective worksite health promotion/disease prevention programs.”
South Carolina health statistics reveal that racial and ethnic minority infants in South Carolina are more than twice as likely to die before their first birthday as Caucasian babies; and in the year 2000, African Americans were over nine times more likely to be reported as having HIV/AIDS than were Caucasians (http://www.scdhec.gov/omh/disparities.htm).
As a group, these numbers are not out of line with national statistics, and targeting health information to high-risk populations and those that work with them is a priority at both the local and national level. A convergence research agenda aimed at improving our understanding of the risk perceptions associated with information seeking within high risk populations was begun by Elfreda Chatman (see Elfreda A. Chatman: The Impoverished Life-World of Outsiders. Journal of American Society for Information Science (3): 193-206 (1996) and http://www.ala.org/ala/lrrt/tributetochatman/tributedrelfreda.htm ). Its continuance lies within the interests of convergence scholars.
Moving beyond these essential services, The National Rural Health Association’s (RHA) June 2004 report Rural Public Health http://www.nrharural.org/dc/policybriefs/public_hlth.pdf has put ward an additional policy recommendation that falls within the convergence sphere of interest--strengthening communication systems and technological capacities within the rural public health system in order to manage public health emergencies, conduct surveillance, and receive and send up-to-date public health information. Communication systems also have a role to play in fostering public awareness of the risk behaviors that lead to chronic disease and encouraging personal preventive practices.
According to the recent data collected by the Pew Internet and American Life Project http://www.pewinternet.org/index.asp, a small percentage of senior citizens in the United States (about 22%) are now taking advantage of the availability of health information in electronic format on the Internet. This number is expected to grow considerably as younger Internet users age and become heavier consumers of health-related services.
Moreover, if trends continue, senior citizens in rural areas, which are typically affected by public health manpower shortages will be even more likely to seek health-related information on the Internet than their urban and suburban counterparts. In this situation, good quality electronic information could be a key to leveraging scarce public health resources in rural areas. However, before this can happen, two things must occur.
First, public health personnel need to develop the skills required to produce interesting, accurate and engaging electronic products. Secondly, specific efforts need to be made to improve rural Internet access, whether in the home or through community organizations such as public libraries, to high-risk groups that are both less likely to use the Internet and more likely to need public health information.
The first of these points can be initially approached through convergence-minded training programs, institutes and partnerships. The second requires convergence research and experimentation.
Moblog Will Showcase Digital Revolution Conference
Journalism educators from around the country will gather at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, S.C., USA, for an annual convergence conference this month. The Digital Revolution: The Impact of Digital Media and Information Technologies is set for Oct. 14-16.
While the main thrust of the conference is to provide a scholarly examination of the attributes and implications of the digital revolution, conference organizers have added a new techno-twist--a conference moblog (mobile weblog).
Additional moblog training at Ifra Newsplex was made available to the first 15 conference participants who signed up. They will spend the morning of Oct. 14 at Newsplex learning how to put together a moblog using camera-equipped cell phones and a Text America moblog site. Throughout the conference, those 15 trainees will document the event through photos, captions and short essays posted on the site at http://uscconvergence.textamerica.com.
Anyone not able to attend this year’s conference can check in on the sessions via the moblog, which also will have links to speakers’ Web pages, presentations and papers. Visit the moblog starting Oct. 14 and then let us know what you think by e-mailing email@example.com.
New Textbooks Focus on Convergence
In the August issue of The Convergence Newsletter (http://www.jour.sc.edu/news/convergence/issue13.html), we highlighted new books about convergence. Since then, we’ve received additional information on more books with a convergence theme.
===Dr. Claudette Guzan Artwick, an associate professor in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communications at Washington and Lee University, has published a textbook on working in digital media. “Reporting and Producing for Digital Media,” is the newest addition to Blackwell Publishing’s Media and Technology Series.
This book integrates sound journalistic perspective with the skills needed to research, report, write, and present news in a world of digital and converging media. Featured topics in this volume include: functions of the press in a digital society; case studies illustrating core journalistic values; legal and ethical issues specific to the Internet; examples and exercises of interactive techniques that set digital storytelling apart; strategies from print and broadcast media that are appropriate for the Web and those that aren’t; framing stories and storytelling tools for the Web; working with photographs, shooting and editing digital video, creating still images from digital video, and planning Flash presentations; working and competing in convergent media.
For more details or to order
this book, visit
===Dr. Ralph D. Berenger, assistant professor of journalism and mass communication at the American University in Cairo, has extended the call for chapters deadline for his upcoming book, tentatively titled “Cybermedia Go to War--Role of Non-traditional Media in the 2003 Iraq War and its Aftermath.” This text is a companion book to “Global Media Go the War,” the first scholarly examination of how the news and entertainment media behaved in the run-up and prosecution of the 2003 Iraq War. Authors were asked to write for a general readership rather than for an academic audience. Chapters reported on studies by 34 authors on global print, broadcast and digital media. Working professional journalists and senior media scholars such as Cees Hamerlink, John C. Merrill, Kaarle Nordenstreng and Yahya Kamalipour contributed to the comprehensive work. (Spokane: Marquette Books, 2004, ).
Berenger also will edit “Cybermedia Go to War.” While traditional media often snare the attention of academics, there is growing evidence that non-traditional media in the 2003 Iraq War played a significant role in informing global publics about the event and its aftermath. No other war in history was covered so completely by so many different types of media.
He is seeking 25-30 chapters between 3,500 and 5,000 words that succinctly describe research into computer-based behavior during the 2002-2004 prewar, war and postwar period by senders and receivers of information. International research is particularly encouraged. Successful chapters will be written for a college audience and will be based on some acceptable methodology, communications theory or professional practice.
Topics could include, but are not limited to:
*What impact did hackers and crackers have on news flows during the period under study?
*How effective were Weblogs during this time, and how do bloggers move from the narrowcast of the Internet, to the broadcast of mass media?
*What effect did war documentaries such as “Fahrenheit 9/11” and “Control Room” have on audiences or public policy?
*What evidence is there the computer was used to mobilize antiwar protest or support?
*What new media will be used to report and cover future wars? Are we entering an era of virtual reality here media provide the experience of war without pain and blood?
*What should college students be taught about the nexus of war and computers; or what impact instantaneous online news has audiences, if anything?
*Photography on the Internet. How did shocking photographs contribute to the war debate?
*Is there ground for hope that increased new media use will result in behavioral changes of bellicose nations? Are there examples from elsewhere around the world?
Those interested in writing a chapter should send a 75-word biographical sketch, abstract or outline of your proposed chapter before Oct. 15, 2004 (new extended deadline) to Dr. Ralph D. Berenger at firstname.lastname@example.org. Original final chapters are due Dec. 15, 2004, for publication Aug. 1, 2005. Authors are responsible for securing permission to reprint Web pages, artwork, photographs and cartoons, according to international copyright conventions. Permission must accompany press-ready reproductions of the work.
Fall College Media Convention
Nov. 4-7, 2004
Nashville, Tennessee, USA
Convergence and online journalism are just two of the many topics that will be addressed at the Fall College Media Convention, sponsored by the College Media Advisors.
Third Annual BloggerCon
Nov. 6, 2004
Stanford Law School
Palo Alto, California, USA
Join other bloggers to discuss the role blogs and
citizen journalism played in the Presidential election. There also will be
sessions on blogging in education, science, the arts and daily life. BloggerCon
is a user's conference about technology and a forum for the use of technology.
2004 Online News Association Conference
Nov. 12-13, 2004
Hollywood, California, USA
Digital journalists will gather for the 5th Annual Online News Association Conference and Awards Banquet. Two full days of panel discussions and keynote speeches focused on the best practices for digital news will culminate with an elegant banquet and the announcement of the 5th Annual Online Journalism Awards.
Call for Papers
The 2005 annual meeting of the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts, and Letters will be March 4-5 at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Mich. Programming will include communication topics.
Send submission form and two copies of each abstract to the chair of the appropriate section by Nov. 11, 2004. Contact information for section chairs is available at http://www.umich.edu/~michacad/2005chairlist.html.
Authors of papers accepted for presentation will be notified by section chairs and the Academy office in December. Presenters must register upon acceptance to be placed on the program. (Note: Proposals for presentations by undergraduate students should be sent directly to the Academy office by Nov. 11 with registration fee of $40 attached.)
Abstracts of all papers presented at the Academy meetings are published in the spring issue of the Academy's quarterly journal, the “Michigan Academician.” Articles submitted for the other three issues of this multidisciplinary journal undergo peer review.
For more information, visit http://www.umich.edu/~michacad/.
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