The Convergence Newsletter

From Newsplex at the University of South Carolina

Vol. II No. 9 (April 7, 2005)

 

Commenting on Convergence

By Holly Fisher, editor, The Convergence Newsletter

 

This month's issue of The Convergence Newsletter steps beyond the bounds of what we might consider "traditional convergence"—the delivery of news across print, broadcast and online media platforms. This month we look at how convergence can be expanded and stretched, allowing news to reach an even wider audience.

 

Jan Schaffer, executive director of J-Lab, writes about civic journalism with a twist. When public or civic journalism was first discussed, no one had even heard of a blog, and surfing the Net wasn't the daily task it is now. J-Lab is working on the second phase of civic journalism, which makes use of today's technology and lets the consumers become creators.

 

Journalists like to think we know just what readers and viewers need to know. But allowing consumers to help us shape the news is a way to become even more engaged in the community and to tell the stories that impact people's lives where they live, work and play.

 

Looking at different media platforms is another way to move convergence from just online, print and broadcast media. Executive Editor Augie Grant writes about how we should be looking at ways to extend our convergence efforts to radio, message boards and periodicals as well as text messaging, podcasting, e-mails, and even, blogs.

 

Convergence, by its nature, has forced journalists to think outside the box. So as we continue to develop the idea of convergence, it seems natural that further expansion and development would be discussed whether it be through public journalism or expansion to additional media platforms.

 

Holly Fisher is working on a Master of Mass Communication at the University of South Carolina. Contact her at convergence-editor@mailbox.sc.edu.

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Feature Articles

Citizens and Convergence, Phase II

New Convergence Challenge: Reaching Beyond Traditional Media

Designing Converged Newsrooms

 

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Conference Information

Newsplex 2005 Summer Seminars Announced

Call for Papers and Showcase Presentations: Conference on Media Convergence

Cross-Platform Media Teams

Society of Professional Journalists Convention & National Journalism Conference

 

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

 

Citizens and Convergence, Phase II

 

By Jan Schaffer, J-Lab executive director, University of Maryland

 

When the civic journalism movement launched in the early 1990s, the Web wasn't even on journalists' horizons. Interacting with citizens meant having town hall meetings or focus groups or taking a poll.

 

But technology and the tech savviness of citizens have opened up exciting opportunities for engaging in public issues. Some are initiated by news organizations, but, increasingly, others are being initiated by news consumers,

 

Call it Interactive Journalism, Participatory Journalism, Citizens Journalism—or Civic Journalism, Phase II.

 

The hallmark of what's happening is the convergence of the content creators—professional and amateur. And I would assert that this trend is far more important than the convergence of delivery platforms.

 

In just the past 18 months, we've seen a swelling of the ranks of quasi-journalists in the blogosphere, and we've seen the launch of several early citizen media initiatives, such as NorthwestVoice.com, many built on blogging platforms.

 

J-Lab's pioneering New Voices project later this month will announce funding for 10 citizen news start-ups that we hope will become prototypes for more projects in which consumers become creators.

 

Certainly our civic journalism work fueled the idea for this new initiative. How, we asked, could we create opportunities for citizens both to get informed and to inform others about micro-news that so often falls under the radar of traditional news organizations? Especially news organizations that are cutting feet on the street? And we are grateful to the Knight Foundation for sharing the vision.

 

In the New Voices' citizen media spotlights, these hyper-local pioneers tell us their readers want local, local news to be sure. But they also want photos (lots of them), recipes, events, community bloggers, kids' sports, forums, niche interests, and small retail ads.

 

They want to hunt for the missing 80-year-olds in their communities, mobilize the community to question a park plan, and pursue more aggressively than the local paper permit irregularities for a film crew. They also want to go head-to-head with things like Baktopia, a Bakersfield, California, USA, version of Craigslist.

 

In tracking the impact of bloggers, a different kind of citizen journalist, we've seen repeatedly the value of their holding both public officials and news organizations accountable. To me, it heralds an Age of Guerrilla Journalism, one that exists symbiotically with mainstream journalism. It moves on a parallel track but converges at moments to set the record straight—or, equally important, to define "news" differently from their mainstream counterparts.

 

As major news outlets merge with major online partners in the latest twist on new-media convergence, they are impelled by a search for new eyeballs, new ad venues, new revenue opportunities—and, yes, even some new thinking.

 

Perhaps it's time to consider a different news construct that converges all these activities and participants—one that has a place for the newcomers—the citizen journalists and the guerrilla journalists—even as it elicits greater value from the old timers.

 

To me, that construct might include these players:

 

       Relationship Entrepreneurs. Charged with creating the outlets that value, use and monetize news in different ways -- be they media literacy initiatives, reputational systems, positive media ventures, rip-and-stitch exercises, creative consulting, brand shepherds.(See Katherine van Jan's trends presentation  from the Media Center's "Whose News?" Conference.)

 

       Community Connectors.  Responsible for covering small-J community journalism—citizen correspondents and tipsters, hyperlocal news sites, community beat bloggers, local sports sites, and yes, guerrilla journalists and local craiglists.

 

       Triage Editors. Assigned to comb, maybe with the help of robots or spiders, citizen sites for "buzz" and frequent topics of concern. They sniff for stories that need more in-depth reporting and alert Big-J journalists.

 

       News Enterprisers. Charged with parachuting in to do some head-turning journalism, database-driven, computer-assisted, in-depth reporting that breaks new ground instead of echoing old news and connects the dots on meta issues like only highly skilled journalists can.

 

From a civic journalism perspective, it's gratifying to see how easily the words "civic journalism," democracy" and "citizen engagement" tumble from the lips of bloggers, citizen journalists and other new media types.

 

They don't worry, as press thinker Jay Rosen once put it, about "getting the separations right."

 

For them, it's all about "getting the connections right."

 

J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism helps news organizations use new information ideas and innovative computer technologies to develop new ways for people to engage in critical public policy issues.

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New Convergence Challenge: Reaching Beyond Traditional Media

 

By Dr. Augie Grant, executive editor of The Convergence Newsletter and associate professor in the College of Mass Communications and Information Studies, University of South Carolina

 

One of the next challenges in the study and practice of convergent journalism is extending the range and number of output media. Most convergent journalism projects deal with some combination of print, broadcast and online media. The emerging opportunity is to extend the reach of messages by incorporating other traditional and emerging media into the set of output media of a convergent newsroom. 

 

Among the media that can be served by a convergent newsroom are traditional media including radio, message boards and periodicals. New media ready for distribution of news include text messaging, podcasting, e-mails, and even, blogs.

 

These media have little in common. Radio is ubiquitous. Text messaging is immediate and brief. Podcasting can be personal, quite detailed or both. These and other new media will vary in their richness, reach, permanence, and capability of targeting specific consumers or segments.

 

The opportunity for extending the range of output media is created by the fact that the information for the news stories has already been gathered. The two tasks that must be performed in the process of distributing messages through additional media are the journalistic task of editing the information and the technical task of formatting and transmitting the information. Although these tasks can be formidable in the early days of any new medium, they soon become much less significant than the fundamental process of newsgathering, which has already been completed for other media.

 

The experimental nature of most of today's convergent newsrooms makes them an ideal test bed for this type of technological innovation. Perhaps more importantly, the innovative culture in today's convergent newsrooms provides fertile ground for the planting and cultivating of this new crop of news media.

 

As with most experiments of this type, we should expect more failures than successes, but the successes will become part of the everyday flow of news and information to the public. The process of experimentation with new media should be expected to provide another important outcome—offering new perspectives on the practice and processes of journalism. 

 

In the process, there is the potential for a paradigmatic shift in the conception of journalistic roles. Instead of having an identity that is related to a single output medium (e.g., newspaper reporter or broadcast journalist), journalists will focus primarily on the story and the most appropriate media for delivering each story to those who want or need to be informed, seeing themselves as reporters, photographers, or editors first, with output media being less important than the stories and the audiences.

 

This new paradigm is one of the promises of convergence: To create a newsroom and journalistic culture that is fundamentally focused on the delivery of information through the most appropriate and effective media.

 

This challenge to the status quo will be seen by many as a threat, just as it will be seen by others as an opportunity. In the long run, consumers who have the chance to sample content through these new output media will be the ultimate judges of the success or failure of the convergence paradigm.

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Designing Converged Newsrooms

 

By Dr. Augie Grant, executive editor of The Convergence Newsletter and associate professor in the College of Mass Communications and Information Studies, University of South Carolina

 

The structural and functional design of convergent newsrooms is one of the most basic aspects of implementing convergence in either academic or professional settings. Most converged media operations utilize a shared facility for producing content for print, broadcast and online media, but how that facility is organized will play a major role in how successful the converged operation will be. This article will address a range of issues related to the physical set-up of the newsroom, from assigning work areas to design elements that will enhance convergence.

 

The most important variable is how the space is organized within the newsroom. Because organizational theory suggests proximity is a major factor in interaction and cooperation within an organization, the most important starting point is organizing a newsroom by content type. This means putting all of the editors in one area, surrounded by separate areas for news, sports, features, etc. The presumption is that individual reporters will continue to concentrate on one or two media, but, with proximity, they are more likely to share information and to look for areas of collaboration rather than engaging in internal competition.

 

Organizing a newsroom by subject matter might seem an obvious design element, but many converged operations have chosen to group individuals by medium, grouping print reporters in one area, broadcast reporters in another, and allocating a third area to online reporters. Organizing space by medium certainly facilitates production of content for that medium, but such an organization creates a natural barrier that inhibits the flow of information among reporters working across media.

 

The assumption underlying the grouping of reporters, editors, etc. by subject matter is that the organization will have few, if any, reporters who contribute equally to multiple media. (For a more detailed discussion of the role of multiskilled reporters in converged newsrooms, see http://www.jour.sc.edu/news/convergence/issue12.html.) Convergence is thus facilitated by communication among all the reporters, and physical proximity is a major factor in this communication.

 

Ifra Newsplex at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C., USA, also has taught us a few important lessons about the physical layout of a converged newsroom. The most important design element is flexibility, as converged newsrooms must be able to adapt space to changing demands of the organization, the output media and consumers. 

 

Introducing broadcast reporters into a print newsroom creates a special set of requirements. Control of light and sound are critical if the newsroom is to be used for live shots or recording of stand-ups or voice-overs. Ceilings must be high enough (at least 10 feet) to allow placement of lights, and ceilings also should include hardware for mounting the lights and access to power for the lights. The floor of the newsroom must be solid and smooth enough to allow camera movement on a tripod or pedestal. 

 

The computers in a converged newsroom should also be configured differently from those in traditional newsrooms. The software on each workstation should allow the user to create and edit newspaper copy, broadcast scripts, Internet pages and rudimentary graphics. (Some newsrooms also include video and photo editing software on all computers.)

 

The primary criterion for deciding what software belongs on each computer should be that each computer should include all the software needed to allow a reporter to create content for broadcast, print, and the Web. This configuration is more expensive than having specialized areas with software for one medium or another, but the result will be greater opportunities to realize true convergence in the newsroom. (Note: It is critical that the system allow content to be easily moved from one program to another.)

 

We are continuing to look for "best practices" in converged newsroom design, as well as other theories of how to physically structure a converged newsroom focus on the flow of production. If you would like to share your newsroom layout or your experiences in designing a converged newsroom, please consider submitting a presentation to the Showcase of Converged Media Processes and Practices that will take place at our October conference in Utah.  (The Call for Showcase Presentations appears later in the newsletter.)

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

 

Newsplex Summer Seminar Series

College of Mass Communication and Information Studies

Columbia, South Carolina, USA

 

The College of Mass Communications and Information Studies at the University of South Carolina is pleased to announce the 2005 Newsplex Summer Seminars. Three seminars will be conducted in May and June, exploring Teaching and Research in Convergent Media, Web Publishing for Convergent Media and Video Boot Camp for Academics (Backpack Journalism).  Attendees may choose to attend, one, two or all three seminars. 

 

Who is eligible?

Any college or university faculty member who teaches courses in journalism (print, broadcast, or online). 

 

Seminar #1:  Teaching and Research in Convergent Media, May 16-20, 2005

 

This week-long seminar on Teaching and Research in Convergent Media is designed to provide college faculty with advanced training in converged media operations and journalistic practices that they can they adapt to their individual programs..  Through an intensive set of seminars and hands-on workshops, participants will learn and practice skills essential to working in a converged media environment, as well as studying the process of teaching and conducting research in a converged media environment.  All enrollees completing the program will receive a Newsplex training certificate.

 

Seminar #2:  Web Publishing for Convergent Media, May 23-27, 2005

 

This week-long seminar is designed to train faculty in the conceptual and practical dimensions of Web publishing. The emphasis in the seminar is on training faculty in the use of software tools used to create a Web presence in a converged newsroom. Participants will then apply these skills in a series of exercises designed to provide the foundation for comprehensive Web publishing that includes traditional text and graphics along with video, animation, and interactive content elements. All enrollees completing the program will receive a Newsplex training certificate.

 

Seminar #3:  Video Boot Camp for Academics, June 6-10, 2005

 

Video Boot Camp for Academics is a week-long seminar designed to provide college faculty with advanced training in backpack journalism with an emphasis on shooting and editing video. Participants will learn and practice skills in the acquisition and editing of video through lectures, hands on practice and field exercises. In addition, participants will be exposed to relevant research in the field as well as an overview of managing a converged newsroom. All enrollees completing the program will receive a Newsplex training certificate.

 

Tuition:  $750 without hotel/$1,250 with hotel (single occupancy). Discounts are available for individuals attending two or three of the 2005 Newsplex Summer Seminars ($1,400 for two and $2,100 for all three).

Tuition for the five-day seminar series includes all seminars, books, materials, etc. related to training, as well as local transportation from the host hotel, lunches and dinner. Participants are responsible for their own transportation to and from Columbia.

 

For more information:

More information, including preliminary schedules for each week-long seminar and online registration, is available at http://newsplex.sc.edu. For more information, e-mail:  augie@sc.edu, or call (803) 777-4464

 

Note:  Enrollment for each of the five-day sessions is limited to the first 10 registrants!

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Call for Papers and Showcase Presentations

Conference on Media Convergence: Cooperation, Collisions and Change

Co-sponsored by Brigham Young University and University of South Carolina

October 13-15, 2005, Provo, Utah, USA

Now in its fourth year, the purpose of this annual conference is to provide a scholarly forum for the presentation of theory, research and practice related to media convergence. Projects addressing virtually any area of media convergence may be submitted, with special consideration offered for theoretically-based submissions and case studies of organizational issues related to media convergence. A showcase of convergent media practices will run concurrent with the academic conference. With author approval, selected submissions will be considered for publication in a future book to be edited by the conference co-chairs.

 

For the paper competition, faculty and graduate students are invited to submit in one or more of three categories:

* Completed papers

* Proposals or abstracts of papers in progress

* Proposals for panels

The top three complete papers by graduate students will be recognized with cash awards of $300, $200, and $100.

 

For the Showcase of Convergent Media Process and Practices, faculty and graduate students are invited to submit in one or more of four categories:

* Hands-on demonstrations of digital media and information projects or practices

* PowerPoint, video, or other multimedia presentations of digital media projects or practices

* Software demonstrations

* Case studies (poster format with demonstration)

 

Submissions may address practical, theoretical, phenomenological, critical and/or empirical approaches to digital media and information technologies. All submissions will be reviewed by a jury that will consider: 1) relevance to the conference theme, 2) the quality of the contribution and 3) overall contribution to the field. 

 

Papers, proposals, abstracts, and panel proposals should be addressed to:

Augie Grant, Conference Co-Chair

Media Convergence Conference

School of Journalism and Mass Communications

Carolina Coliseum

University of South Carolina

Columbia, SC  29208

e-mail: augie@sc.edu

 

Submission guidelines:

* Electronic submissions (Word or RTF attachments) are encouraged (send to augie@sc.edu).

* Paper copies may be submitted: three paper copies of the submission should be mailed.

* A detachable cover page should be included with the title of the paper or panel and authors' names, addresses, telephone numbers, and e-mail addresses. 

* Showcase proposals must include a brief description of the project or demonstration, a list of equipment needed to conduct the demonstration, names of the presenter(s), and contact information (e-mail, telephone number, and address).

* Submission deadline (postmark) is June 15, 2005.  All submissions will be jury-reviewed with notification to authors and panel organizers on or before July 31, 2005.

 

For registration and further information about this academic conference or the showcase, visit the conference Web site at http://convergence.byu.edu.

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Cross-Platform Media Teams

June 21-24

Reston, Virginia, USA

http://www.mediacenter.org/content/5103.cfm

 

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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Society of Professional Journalists Convention & National Journalism Conference

Oct. 16-18

Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

www.spj.org

 

The Society of Professional Journalists' National Convention offers our members and the journalism community an opportunity to reflect on the industry and to engage in thought-provoking, stimulating and hands-on training. Reporters, editors, educators and students from across the U.S. and several foreign nations will make this event a top priority.

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

 

New Books on Convergence: Publishing a book about convergence? The Convergence Newsletter regularly publishes information about new and upcoming books on convergent journalism. Send your submissions to convergence-editor@mailbox.sc.edu.

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

 

The Convergence Newsletter is Copyright 2005 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

 

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