The Convergence Newsletter

From Newsplex at the University of South Carolina

Vol. II No. 6 (Dec. 7, 2004)

 

Commenting on Convergence

By Holly Fisher, Editor, The Convergence Newsletter

 

I have spent the last several weeks immersed in convergence. In addition to my work as editor of this newsletter, I also assisted Dr. Augie Grant with a fall convergence conference, The Digital Revolution, hosted by the University of South Carolina. To add even more convergence to my days, I have spent this fall semester researching and writing a paper about management of converged newsrooms. I seem to be drowning in convergence—as evidenced by my dining room table, which is home to several piles of academic papers, articles and books about digital media, management and online journalism.

 

Finding books and detailed research about convergence is challenging; it is still a relatively new subject. Yet finding information on managing convergence and the role of media managers in a converged news operation is even more difficult. I’ll look forward to sharing the fruits of my labors in an upcoming issue of this newsletter.

 

As 2004 comes to a close, The Convergence Newsletter takes a closer look at convergence in the classroom. Read about how one professor at Franklin Pierce College is using innovative software called Control Tower to teach students about convergence. And at Emerson College in Boston, broadcast students are finding the videotape is becoming a thing of the past as they learn to create newscasts using digital formats. We look again at blogs, highlighting the work a group of students at a USC branch campus did in conjunction with their local newspaper in Spartanburg, S.C., USA.

 

Also in this issue, you will find some changes to the format of The Convergence Newsletter. With 545 subscribers, it is impossible to meet the needs of everyone’s e-mail systems. Many of our subscribers were receiving truncated newsletters, and we certainly don’t want anyone to miss a portion of our publication. Beginning this month, as a subscriber, you will receive an e-mail containing highlights of the latest issue as well as tidbits of news and information about convergence, conferences and academic news. The newsletter in its entirety—as well as archived issues—will be available online at http://www.jour.sc.edu/news/convergence/index.html.

 

We hope this format change will resolve any problems you might have had in reading the newsletter. Bear with us as we continue to tweak the format. And, please feel free to share ideas and suggestions about ways to improve The Convergence Newsletter.

 

As a reminder, we will not publish in January. So enjoy the holiday season and look for more great convergence news in February.

 

Holly Fisher is working on a master’s of mass communication at the University of South Carolina. Contact her at convergence-editor@mailbox.sc.edu.

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Feature Articles

 

Using Control Tower in the Classroom

Near Naked News: Producing News without Videotape

Election Blog Makes History

Reflections on Moblogging

Newsplex News

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Conference Information

 

Cross-Platform Media Teams

Media Opportunities and Strategies for the Multiple Media Enterprise

Midwest Political Science Association 63rd Annual National Conference

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Announcements/News

 

Call for Papers

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---------------Feature Articles

Using Control Tower in the Classroom

 

By Paul Bush, assistant professor, Franklin Pierce College

 

The journalism program at Franklin Pierce College is now entering its second semester of using professional newsroom management technology in its entry-level course. This system—Control Tower—was created by London-based Proxim-IT to manage the multimedia news flow in a converged newsroom and not for pedagogical purposes. However, Control Tower has proven to be an effective teaching tool.

 

Franklin Pierce students particularly seem engaged by its modeling of the professional workplace, while, as a professor, I value its usefulness in driving home basic skills. Its use has not been problem-free, but I feel confident enough about it as an aid in teaching good journalism that I am planning to introduce it into upper level courses next semester, with the goal of integrating some of the activities of upper and lower level students.

 

I was first exposed to Control Tower in July 2003 at the Newsplex Summer Seminar on Teaching and Research in Convergent Media in Columbia, S.C., USA. Shortly afterward, I contacted EPN, European Press Network as it was then called, which allowed me to use Control Tower at no charge. I was subsequently told that Franklin Pierce College was the first college in the world to use Control Tower, with the University of Dortmund, Germany, following several weeks later.

 

In terms of learning styles, Franklin Pierce’s students have been categorized in large part as “experiencers”—they learn best experientially, through collaborative activities, hands-on assignments, and the like. In fact, many mass communications students report that what they find attractive about Franklin Pierce is that they do not have to wait until their junior and senior years to take an active part in the campus’s TV and radio stations and newspaper.

 

I began using Control Tower in the fall of 2003 in my two sections of Journalism 1. Control Tower, which is located on a password-access Web site, allows editors to assign stories in multiple media, communicate with reporters and other staff members, and in general, manage what goes on in their newsroom. For example, editors can enter a story heading and description, and then assign different elements of the overall story to print reporters, videographers, photographers, online writers and broadcast staff. Among its various functions, schedules can be set, staff can be contacted, and sources can be listed, in what might be regarded as a virtual Rolodex. 

 

I use Control Tower to link two sections of Journalism 1, the entry-level reporting course at Franklin Pierce. Students in these two classes, which would not normally have any contact, work together as they assign each other stories and then critique the resulting articles. While this connection is a very basic one, it has proven an effective teaching tool.  

 

The majority of students learn Control Tower very rapidly—though admittedly a few do not. Most of its functions are relatively intuitive. Students in one class assign articles to students in the other, a matter of selecting the “story” function, entering a title and instructions, and selecting team members—a co-editor who will also review the draft article along with a reporter. By selecting the “add new task” function, the primary editor can have Control Tower send an e-mail notice of their assignments to the co-editor and reporter. When the draft is complete, the reporter can upload it in the “assets” area, and the editors can critique it before the reporter hands in a final copy for my grade.

 

Most of my students like the idea that they are using something that is on the cutting edge, as Control Tower’s vision of the “newsroom of the future” is. I think Control Tower also generates a largely positive, if not even an enthusiastic, response because it puts students in a professional environment. My students want to see a purpose in what they are doing (something that has not changed dramatically since my days in college, when we demanded “relevance”). Control Tower’s newsroom gives it to them.

 

Besides this positive atmosphere, I value Control Tower’s contributions to the learning environment. I have found it useful as a tool for teaching and reinforcing the fundamentals. For example, its “story” assignment function helps drive home the importance of performing proper legwork, even at the earliest stages of coming up with a workable assignment. When students create assignments with insufficient substance to work, their reporters in the other class let them know. 

 

Control Tower is also useful in supporting my lessons on good writing. I have always had my students critique one another’s draft articles, but a problem is that students are reluctant to honestly critique someone sitting next to them. Even with the forms and guidelines I give them, they write “sounds fine” and “good” out of fear of causing hurt feelings. Control Tower, on the other hand, gives them enough distance that their critiques are more direct and more accurate, and hence more valuable.

 

Control Tower has also, in a sense, expanded the classroom. With assignments and drafts in a central location, Control Tower’s “story” page, I am more likely to draw both sections’ attention to errors in order to make a point. Even though they may never meet the other section face to face, students tend see the other class as an extension of their own, rather than something only I have contact with, which places the error and its solution within a more personal context. The result is that they are more likely to pay attention when the other class and its lessons are mentioned.

 

Finally, I value Control Tower because it does not hijack my classes. Whenever one introduces a new technology into a course, the danger exists that the technology will come to dominate the process. Students get so wrapped up in using the technology, the lesson they’re meant to learn gets lost. Such has not been the case with Control Tower. 

 

Using Control Tower has not been without its challenges. Some students do not adapt readily to it. Among them are the computer phobic, which is to be expected, as well as those who are not particularly interested in dealing with anything new or challenging. I have found that seniors who are taking Journalism 1 because they need an elective sometimes show the most resistance to it. In 12 years of teaching Journalism 1, I have never had to offer extra help sessions, but after two semesters of using Control Tower, I realize they may now need to be part of my regular schedule.

 

The beta version we used last fall was not particularly intuitive, featuring awkward functions, as well as insufficient classroom compatibility. A prime example would be the team function, which only allowed one reporter and one editor to work on an assignment. However, my students provided feedback to Proxim-IT’s staff, through a survey and through a phone call patched through a speakerphone in the classroom. This year’s redesign is much cleaner and has incorporated some of their suggestions, such as e-mail notification of assignments and the ability to word-process articles within Control Tower, something that was not previously available. 

 

Nonetheless, Control Tower’s staff has been quite responsive and has been able to make a few changes very quickly. The redesign was rolled out in October at a trade show in Amsterdam.

 

While Control Tower is an effective tool in the journalism classroom, it may hold out the most promise as a tool for small programs. Large programs, with entrenched constituencies and established history or traditions, offer certain obstacles to its most ambitious use. 

 

I would go so far as to suggest that in this ambitious multiple-classroom role Control Tower can make small programs more competitive. Integrated course offerings not only promise to prepare students for the future of news, but they also put the schools that offer them in the forefront of current pedagogy, i.e. the growing emphasis on collaborative learning, on learning communities, and the like. Researchers are suggesting that lifelong learning requires an expansion beyond the limits of the traditional classroom—and Control Tower certainly offers one way to do that.

 

I regard my use of Control Tower in the classroom as only a first step. I hope that in the future I will be able to report that it is equally useful in a wider application that goes beyond just two sections of Journalism 1.

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Near Naked News: Producing News without Videotape

 

By Janet Kolodzy, Assistant Professor, Emerson College

 

Digitization is revolutionizing broadcast news by eliminating tape in the production of TV news. At Emerson College in Boston, broadcast students can put together newscasts without ever touching a piece of videotape, thanks to an integration of server-based news gathering, news producing (writing and editing) and television production systems.

 

The first step in eliminating videotape comes in newsgathering. Students work with video images that come in via satellite or fiber and are digitized and stored in the Avid Unity server. Students still use DV-tape for their own reporting, but some cameras are being equipped with hard drives, eliminating tape cassettes altogether.

 

With Avid Newscutter, a non-linear editing program, students access video on the Unity server and edit it. As many as 18 students can access the same source video at the same time, editing video to fit their stories’ needs. This allows students to edit more quickly and precisely. They can make mistakes and correct them, learning what works and does not work in visual storytelling. By stressing simple editing, students can focus on the images needed for storytelling despite their lack of technological sophistication.

 

Students also put together scripts, graphics, and rundowns for newscasts using the Associated Press’s Electronic News Production System (ENPS), which is integrated with the Unity system. This allows greater coordination and communication among the various individuals working on newscast elements.

 

The final piece to tapeless news involves the integration of the Unity system with Parkervision, a digital studio and control room system. Rather than having to put their edited video pieces on cassettes, students can send them from the newsroom to the playback server, or Avid Airspace. ENPS computer commands that identify video clips and their order in the newscast get loaded for Parkervision. The Parkervision system then uses those commands to trigger playing the clips from Airspace.

 

The tapeless news system provides for greater efficiencies in the newsroom and the control room. It allows for more time and focus to be on doing more stories and better stories. However, a server-based system can be prone to computer glitches, such as crashes and operator errors. As a result, server-based television news requires attention to different details to ensure quality work.

 

Janet Kolodzy presented this information as part of the Digital Revolution conference in October at the University of South Carolina.

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Election Blog Makes History

 

By Kim Smith, Instructor, University of South Carolina Upstate

Eight students from the University of South Carolina Upstate (USA) joined the Spartanburg Herald Journal and its Web site GoUupstate.com to cover the Nov. 2 election in a way that had never been done before in that region of the state. 

 

They used digital cameras and camera phones to capture the excitement of voters casting ballots in Greenville and Spartanburg counties.

 

The comments and pictures of more than 40 voters were taken by students enrolled in my media and society course taught on the Greenville, S.C., campus. The pictures and text were downloaded, edited and sent to a specially-designed election Web site on GoUpstate.com for posting. See Web http://www.goupstate.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?Category=electblog. (Free e-mail registration is required).

 

More than 1,700 visited the site that day, according to Andy Rhinehart, new media editor at GoUpstate.com. He was pleased with the project and hopes to do similar projects with students in the future. WSPA-TV in Spartanburg and WYFF-TV in Greenville also featured the unique effort in their newscasts. Several journalism organizations noted the effort on their Web sites.


Students in Smith’s class spent a good part of the semester learning about blogs and their impact on the mass media and society. One survey puts the number at above 4 million, and one is built every few minutes. Some media experts say blogs may be changing traditional journalism. News is no longer defined by editors and reporters but by average citizens. With access to the Internet, free blogging software available on the Web, a camera phone or a digital camera, bloggers are empowered to become their own publishers, almost instantly.

 

“Studying blogs has opened my horizons to what is possible,” said student blogger and USC Upstate student Elizabeth Bahan. “I realize now more than ever that people will soon become more involved in what is going on around them instead of blindly following what the media tell them is right or just.”

 

“We broke ground into what has become known as convergent journalism, where text, graphics, pictures and video are produced on the Internet,” Rhinehart said. “As more people begin to get their news and information from the Web, we may be witnessing, and in this case, experienced the future of journalism.”

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Reflections on Moblogging

 

By Candace Lee Egan, Assistant Professor, California State University, Fresno

 

This past October I was one of the participants in the moblog workshop that was part of the Digital Revolution Conference hosted by the University of South Carolina (USA). As Jeff Wilkinson wrote last month, (http://www.jour.sc.edu/news/convergence/issue16.html) it took a bit of an attitude adjustment to switch into the role of a journalist covering the conference. (In my case this was a big switch because I haven’t been a working journalist for years.) And as often is the case when faced with something new, I was true to my roots as a news videographer and amateur digital photographer and gravitated to that which I was most comfortable—playing photographer. It’s from this perspective, as well as my background in Web design, that I reflect on moblogging and offer some ideas for its evolution.

 

Capturing Photographs

 

Our moblog experiment involved using camera-equipped cell phones. These camera phones offered the advantage of an all-in-one device that could capture the photo and then connect to the Internet to send an e-mail with the attached photo. Undoubtedly there are situations, say an unfolding natural disaster or civil unrest, where inconspicuously pulling out a cell phone to capture a photo and immediately sending the image are worthwhile. In these situations the photo can powerfully tell part of the story without requiring much, if any, textual information. In most news gathering situations, however, there is the need to provide a written report of the story and carefully composed photos. Neither of which is practical to do with a camera phone.

 

Entering text for the e-mail that contains the photo is a painfully awkward and slow process. Because you are using the phone’s key pad, typing in letters involves repeated pressing of keys to select a letter because phones assign up to three letters to each number. This can make entering a single-word subject for the e-mail a lengthy process, so sending any caption details, let alone story details, is impractical. The tendency, then, is to keep the letters to a minimum, which resulted in a recurring complaint by our “teacher,” Doug Fisher (USC journalism instructor), that the received photos had no identifying information. That meant that the storybuilders (http://www.jour.sc.edu/news/convergence/issue9.html) receiving the photos had no information for writing captions, limiting the usability of the photos.

 

The other challenge was composing and taking the photo. Clearly seeing what you were shooting was difficult. Outdoors the screen washes out so there’s little detail visible on the phone. There also was a lag between when you pressed the button and when the shot was captured sometimes resulting in your subject having walked out of frame by the time the shot was taken. On one phone model taking the picture brought up a menu which covered up the screen, which made it tricky to maintain your shot composition. Additionally, it took quite a bit of time to save or to send the photo, making it easy to miss another, better, photo opportunity happening within the next minute.

 

While some of the limitations will be overcome as the technology improves, I believe the cell phone is the wrong device for capturing the photos and composing text. A better option would be to develop a field system that uses a digital camera working with a PDA and laptop. Integrating wireless technology would allow the camera to download photos to the reporter’s PDA where the reporter would review his or her notes and write the story. When ready, the photos and text would be sent to the field producer’s laptop for final story assembly. Then via a wireless Internet connection, a cell phone, or satellite phone the story and images could be e-mailed for publishing on the Web.

 

If Bluetooth technology were added to the digital camera, images could be sent to the PDA or the laptop for quick processing of photos. Taking this a few steps further for the one-man-band reporter/photographer (http://www.jour.sc.edu/news/convergence/issue12.html), camera manufacturers could add the ability to attach an external keyboard to the camera, along with wireless connectivity. This would give news reporter/photographers an all-in-one device that had, as its first priority, capturing quality images.

 

Alternatively, I see value in having a two- to three-person crew covering a story. This would mimic the approach used by TV news crews where one person runs the camera equipment while the second person does interviews and writes the story. A third person could serve as a field producer (in Newsplex lingo, the storybuilder), gathering background information and lining up interviews. The producer would also man a laptop, facilitating uploading of written and photographic material to the newsroom editor (a.k.a. workflow editor). An alternate setup would allow the field producer to directly post to the moblog. With the addition of wireless communication between the reporter and photographer and the field producer, text and photos could be sent to the laptop without having to be in the immediate vicinity.

 

Having the storybuilder at the news venue was shown to be desirable during our moblog coverage of the conference. Being present at the news event enabled the storybuilder to be directly aware and involved in covering the story, improving the depth and quality of the moblog entries.

 

A three-person news crew with a quality digital camera and wireless PDA or laptop will allow crews to be extremely mobile while providing in-depth and timely reporting. This will significantly improve the journalistic quality and value of moblogs, representing a next step in the evolution of moblogs.

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---------------Newsplex News

 

By Julie Nichols, Ifra Newsplex Projects Director

 

VISITORS – After a blisteringly busy fall, the Newsplex staff is breathing a collective sigh of relief and once again granting tours of the facility. 

 

This month we’ve welcomed Licda. Carolina de Asturias, dean of the communication faculty at the University del Istmo in Guatemala. Asturias is overseeing the establishment of a new journalism school at her university. 

 

Diane Frea, human resources and circulation operations director for The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., also toured with a group from the human resources/circulation and marketing departments of the paper. Joining Frea were Mike Albo, Chris Bane, Steve Burlison, Mike Compton, Richard Curtis, Janet Hill, David Montecino, Tammy Moshier, Kevin Shields, Brenda Smith, Ginny Stout, Lauren Tucker and Cathleen Wedding.

 

Members of the University of South Carolina Campus Ministers toured the Newsplex as well. Attending were the Ven. Frederick C. Byrd , chaplain of Canterbury of Columbia (Episcopalian); Bernard Friedman, adviser to the University of South Carolina Hillel; Jane Poster, Baptist Collegiate minister, and Cheryl Soehl, administrative coordinator in the University of South Carolina Office of Student Life.

 

Finally, Steve Capus, executive producer of the “NBC Nightly News,” toured during a recent campus visit, as did member of the Association of Capital Reporter and Editors, in town for their annual conference.

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Newsplex at the University of South Carolina Web site: http://newsplex.sc.edu

 

For information about our Academic Affiliates, visit www.newsplex.org/affiliates.shtml

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---------------Conferences

 

Cross-Platform Media Teams

Feb. 13-18

Reston, Virginia, USA

http://www.americanpressinstitute.org/

 

Sponsored by the American Press Institute, this workshop focuses on strategic thinking for a multi-platform world. Covers content, revenue and convergence for online-offline teams, departments and companies.

 

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Media Opportunities and Strategies for the Multiple Media Enterprise

March 22-25

Dallas, Texas, USA

http://www.mediacenter.org/content/5101.cfm

 

This event, sponsored by the American Press Institute, focuses on how to create and sell innovative content and information services for connected, multiple-media audiences.

 

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Midwest Political Science Association 63rd Annual National Conference

April 7-11

Chicago Palmer House Hilton Hotel, Chicago, Illinois, USA

www.mwpsa.org

 

This conference will include a section on Mass Media and Political Communication, featuring panels and papers about the nature, origin and impact of mediated messages. The Midwest Political Science Association is a national association of researchers with an interest in politics and policy. The MPSA was founded in 1939 and publishes one of the top journals in the discipline, the American Journal of Political Science (www.ajps.org ), as well as hosting a national conference with over 3,000 presenters on about 600 different panels.

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---------------Announcements/News

 

Call for Papers

 

AEJMC Midwinter Conference

Feb. 11-12

Kennesaw State University, Georgia, USA

https://webspace.utexas.edu/mark43/www/

 

Participating Divisions/Interest Groups: Communication Technology & Policy, Media Management & Economics, Cultural and Critical Studies, Mass Communication and Society, Visual Communication, Civic Journalism, Entertainment Studies, and Graduate Education.

 

Submission Requirements: Authors are invited to submit research paper abstracts or panel proposals to be considered for presentation at the 2005 AEJMC mid-winter conference.  Submissions can address any aspect of mass communication & society, and may include work in progress.  Work that addresses both mass communication & society and issues of interest to other participating co-sponsors is encouraged. Graduate student submissions are strongly encouraged. Here are some specific guidelines for submission:

 

All proposals must be submitted by Dec. 20.  Send proposals to MC&S vice head at jdgreer@unr.edu. Use a standard word-processing format (preferably RTF) for all attachments.

 

Research paper or panel proposals should include a 300- to 500-word abstract. In addition, each panel proposal should include a list of potential panelists.

 

Identify the paper's author(s) or panel's organizer(s) on the title page only and include the mailing address, telephone number and e-mail address of the person to whom inquiries about the submission should be addressed. The title should be printed on the first page of the text and on running heads on each page of text, as well as on the title page.

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---------------Interesting Links

 

Daily Newspaper/TV Station Partnerships—Almost 30 percent of daily newspapers in the United States have partnerships with TV stations, and those newspaper-television partnerships exist at all circulation levels. That finding by researchers at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, USA, comes from the first nationwide study of daily newspaper editors regarding their newspaper’s convergence routines. The study also suggests the ways in which those partnerships operate can vary greatly. Results of the study reflect both some surprises and some expected findings on the operations of newspaper-television partnerships.

On the one hand, editors report that their partnerships frequently perform many of the functions often considered to reflect convergence: sharing of daily news budgets, cross-promotion of partners’ content and appearances by newspaper staff members on partners’ broadcasts. On the other hand, some functions are performed by a relatively small number of partnerships. Read more of the executive summary at http://web.bsu.edu/mediasurvey/summary.pdf

 

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---------------Copyright and Redistribution

 

The Convergence Newsletter is Copyright © 2004 by the University of South Carolina, College of Mass Communications and Information Studies. All rights reserved.

 

The Convergence Newsletter is free and published by The Center for Mass Communications Research at the University of South Carolina, College of Mass Communications and Information Studies. It may be redistributed in any form – print or electronic – without edits or deletion of any content.

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---------------Submission Guidelines/Deadline Schedule

 

The Convergence Newsletter provides an editorially neutral forum for discussion of the theoretical and professional meaning of media convergence. We welcome articles of all sorts addressing the subject of convergence in journalism and media. We also accept news briefs, calls for papers and conference announcements. Our audience is both academics and professionals, and the publication style is APA 7th edition. Feature articles should be 750 to 1,500 words; other articles should be 250 to 750 words; announcements and conference submissions should be 200 words. All articles should be submitted to The Convergence Newsletter Editor at convergence-editor@mailbox.sc.edu. Please include your name, affiliation and contact information with your submission.

 

The Convergence Newsletter is published the first week of each month (except January). Articles should be submitted at least 10 days prior to the publication date. Any questions should be sent to convergence-editor@mailbox.sc.edu.

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---------------Subscribe/Unsubscribe Information

 

To subscribe, unsubscribe or edit your information, please send a message to

convergence-editor@mailbox.sc.edu or write to The Convergence Newsletter c/o School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208.