The Convergence Newsletter

From Newsplex at the University of South Carolina

Vol. II No. 10 (May 4, 2005)

 

Commenting on Convergence

By Holly Fisher, editor of The Convergence Newsletter

 

When I took over this newsletter as editor 15 issues ago, we had about 230 subscribers and the content was heavily academic. I had two goals: to grow the number of subscribers and to make the newsletter more balanced between academic research/teachings on convergence and the practical application of convergence in newsrooms around the world. As I complete my last issue as editor, I feel I have succeeded on both accounts—and I hope you agree.

 

The Convergence Newsletter now has 600 on its subscription list, and the content is a blend of theory, research, practice and debate. While researching convergence and discussing the best way to teach it in the classroom are critical elements, hearing about what is happening in newsrooms is also relevant.

 

This issue is an example of that mix. Dr. Augie Grant at the University of South Carolina writes about the need for theory in the study of convergence. Anyone working on convergence research is asked to submit a paper or presentation to the annual convergence conference—this year in Provo, Utah, USA.

 

George Daniels from the University of Alabama brings convergence into the classroom as he discusses converged coverage of the election of Pope Benedict XVI. The University of Indiana’s School of Journalism is launching an online Convergence Forum where educators can chime in with their best practices for teaching convergence.

 

And on a purely practical front, you’ll read about a “community of convergence” just launched in Bluffton, South Carolina, USA. BlufftonToday.com is a Web site for the Bluffton community. It is focused on local news and encourages residents to chime in with their own news tidbits and information.

 

Thanks to those of you have contributed to the newsletter or who have e-mailed me with comments and suggestions. I appreciate your input. I have enjoyed learning about convergence and will look forward to watching this model of journalism develop. Please welcome warmly the next editor, Jordan Storm. She is working on a Master of Arts at the University of South Carolina, and she is eagerly awaiting your submissions.

 

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

Convergence Research Needs Larger Focus on Theory

Freshening Up the Convergence Lesson: Papal Coverage Normalizes Multimedia?

A Community in Convergence

Indiana University Launches Convergence Forum

 

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Conference Information

Newsplex 2005 Summer Seminars Announced

Call for Papers and Showcase Presentations: Conference on Media Convergence

National Association of Hispanic Journalists Annual Convention

Cross-Platform Media Teams

Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Convention

Society of Professional Journalists Convention & National Journalism Conference

 

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

 

Convergence Research Needs Larger Focus on Theory

 

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 most exciting thing about doing research on media convergence is that the field is relatively new, with most research projects introducing new dimensions to our understanding of the field. As valuable as the novel aspects of these descriptive studies are, the findings of most of these studies could provide lessons that can be applied across media and media-related processes if they also included an element that is less novel namely, theory.

 

As we are preparing for our October Media Convergence Conference in Provo, Utah, USA, we’ve been looking at submissions from past conferences to see what we could add to this year’s conference to make it even better. The conclusion is that the conference, as a whole, needs to do a better job of contextualizing media processes, journalistic values, and consumer behavior relating to convergence through the wider use of theory in the presentations. Accordingly, in our Call for Papers, we have expressed a special interest in papers and abstracts that apply theory to help us understand convergence or to help draw lessons from our study of convergence that will have a more general application.

 

Among the questions I would personally like to see considered are:

 

One sign that the study of a phenomenon is maturing is the increasing presence of theoretically-based research. Our expectation of more theory at this year’s conference is directly related to the idea that the study of media convergence is also maturing.

 

Of course, incentives don’t hurt—and we have added two interesting incentives to this year’s Call for Papers in order to increase the number and quality of submissions. First, with author approval, selected submissions will be considered for publication in an edited book that will be published in 2006 or 2007. My goal is to balance theoretical and descriptive research to provide a true “state of the field.” Second, we are offering cash prizes of $300, $200, and $100 to the top three graduate student complete papers accepted for the conference.

 

The brief form of the Call for Papers appears later in this newsletter; the complete version is available at Newsplex.sc.edu. The deadline for submissions is June 15, and submissions can be complete papers, research in progress or abstracts. For any questions or comments about the conference, contact me directly at augie@sc.edu. 

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Freshening Up the Convergence Lesson: Papal Coverage Normalizes Multimedia?

 

By George L. Daniels, assistant professor of journalism at the University of Alabama

 

It’s the end of the spring semester and a colleague has asked me to come to his class and do the semi-annual mini-lecture on convergence in our basic reporting course.

 

The recent coverage of the surprise early announcement of the election of Pope Benedict XVI was the perfect fresh case study.

 

I quickly put together a set of screen captures showing the multimedia ways reporters at newspaper, television and stand-alone news Web sites went beyond just text and a few images to tell this story. (See handout at http://bama.ua.edu/~gdaniels/papalelex.pdf)

 

As I did this, I thought, “Are we reaching the point where the audience EXPECTS us as media to converge—working across platforms to feed them information on the Web?  In other words, has the novelty of the multimedia photo galleries, flash animations, video and audio clips worn off?

 

If this is the case, we as educators have new reason to be concerned about how we’re doing that semi-annual convergence lecture or lesson. Perhaps it’s not a topic at the end of the semester during that last “Look Into the Future” unit right before final exams.

 

Rather than being fixated on whether to re-structure or re-organize our departments, schools or sequences or change course requirements, perhaps we are better served to freshen up our lessons and lectures.   

 

For years, some of us have been mired in the debate over what convergence is or isn’t, who is converged or who isn’t converged.

 

Fortunately, here at my school, we’ve decided to infuse convergence as a unit in most of our required courses. In fact, I’m teaching convergence to our freshmen in “Introduction to Journalism” this semester. 

 

Before entering our upper-level courses in the journalism major, they are required to know what convergence is and what it might look like in a media product and in a media workplace.

 

 It’s a new day and perhaps time for a way to convey convergence.

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A Community in Convergence

 

By Ken Rickard, manager of product strategy for Morris DigitalWorks

 

First, a little background.

 

When news industry folks discuss convergence, they focus on instances where technology has been used to unite different organizations. Case in point: The Tampa Tribune/TBO.com/WFLA converged newsroom—a three-story tabernacle of technology and reporting resources. The value behind convergence is usually expressed as leveraging assets to capture market share or as increased return on investment. Bean-counter stuff.

 

In Bluffton, South Carolina, USA, there is a different type of convergence under way.

 

Bluffton sits across the Calibogue Sound from Hilton Head Island, one of the Atlantic Southeast’s premier coastal destinations. The town itself, once a small hamlet, has boomed to over 10,000 households in recent years. And that figure is expected to increase dramatically over the next 10 years.

 

Bluffton just happens to have some of the best available coastal property from the Carolina coast down to Florida, so people are attracted to its climate and amenities. As a result, most of the residents of Bluffton are new transplants with little connection to the town itself.

 

For over 10 years, the Savannah Morning News (Savannah, Georgia, USA) published a daily wrap called the Carolina Morning News and delivered it to their South Carolina subscribers. With the phenomenal growth of the region, there came an opportunity to launch a new kind of newspaper.

 

The Carolina Morning News was folded and its staff reassigned to Bluffton Today, a free daily home-delivered newspaper printed in tabloid format. The focus is relentlessly local: news is about Bluffton and its residents. As an example, the day after the election of Pope Benedict XVI (which ran on the front page of my hometown paper), the cover of Bluffton Today featured the previous night’s school board meeting, and a feature story about how a local orchid grower made her business succeed.

 

So what does all that have to do with convergence? 

 

It is against this backdrop that the plan for BlufftonToday.com emerged. The goals of Bluffton Today are quite simple: to become a part of the daily conversation in Bluffton.  The paper needs to build trust, solicit feedback and help develop a sense of shared community. The motto of the Web site, then, is “It’s what people are talking about.” 

 

And that’s where the convergence comes from. The Web site is entirely created by the residents of Bluffton; those who work for the newspaper and those who do not. Anyone can register with the site and post photos, add comments, start topical discussions, and, yes, create their own blog.

 

There is traditional convergence at work as well, as editors, reporters, photographers and the online staff all contributes work to the site. But that work is fresh and never “repurposed” from print. Editors discuss the weekly news budget, solicit story ideas and ask for feedback about the daily paper. Reporters ask questions, document sources and post notes directly to their readers. The online staff ties it all together by highlighting the best posts, encouraging interaction, and posting their own notes and photos.

 

The purpose of the Web site is to create an open forum and (to steal from the Greensboro News and Record’s Lex Alexander in North Carolina, USA) to create an interactive “public square.” From a technology point-of-view, BlufftonToday.com enables convergence among the staff, the readership, and the broader community.

 

BlufftonToday.com is still in a very early beta release, which means that it is still being tested and tweaked as we go. But the early results have been very promising. The most notable result has been largely unintended:  There exists a level of transparency and dialogue about the creation of the newspaper that engenders a real sense of trust in the community.

 

Since everyone can write for everyone to see, there are natural discussions occurring on the site. And these discussions work their way into the printed newspaper, giving the readership a voice that it never had before. With that voice comes a sense of ownership and a sense of belonging. 

 

A sense of a community in convergence.

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Indiana University Launches Convergence Forum

 

By Gena Asher, editor of the Convergence Forum, Indiana University School of Journalism

 

Just as professional news organizations are wrestling with multimedia, journalism educators are rethinking course offerings to teach convergence in the classroom. And, like their professional counterparts, schools are struggling with issues of technology, funding and facilities in response to these changes.

 

A new Web site from Indiana University’s School of Journalism (http://www.journalism.indiana.edu) is designed to offer a place for educators to share ideas about convergence, from revamping entire curricula to tweaking an individual course. The Convergence Forum (http://convergence.journalism.indiana.edu) includes articles detailing other school’s models and news from other campus’ programs; a detailed accounting of IU’s own 10-year odyssey toward redesigning the curriculum to meet these changes; and lesson plans, syllabi and project files from IU’s School of Journalism.

 

Though “IU-centric” right now, the site aims to include news and views from journalism educators everywhere.

 

“We hope the Web site will be a clearinghouse for educators to share their experiences, including what has worked and what hasn’t,” said David Boeyink, IU School of Journalism associate professor who directed the convergence project. “Many schools have Web sites that include information about their own programs. And many professional news Web sites deal with their experiences with multimedia journalism. But no Web site we know of is specifically for educators to discuss how convergence or multimedia issues play out at the classroom or curricular level.”

 

Educators may submit problems or questions. They can also download lesson plans, assignments and projects—or upload their own. They may also read about other schools’ curriculum models, as well as share their own. The site is viewable by anyone and doesn’t require registration or membership.

 

An editor oversees submitted material and announces additions on the site’s home page, which also includes articles about other schools’ programs and projects. To date, these range from reports on one-time projects, such as an election night multimedia project at Arizona State, to articles about the status of major revisions, such the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication four years after it made big changes.

 

The site is part of a Knight Foundation grant awarded in 1995 to help Indiana develop a model for a curriculum responsive to changes in the field of mass communication. Though it went live last fall, the site officially launches in May with a mass mailing of CD-ROMs to Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication members to explain the impetus for the project and Indiana’s challenges in the new media arena.

 

Anyone can view the site now, however. A free CD-ROM introducing the Web site can be requested by e-mailing Boeyink at boeyink@indiana.edu. Those with news to report about projects or views to share about their schools’ convergence ideas may contact site editor Gena Asher at eulasher@indiana.edu.

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

 

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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National Association of Hispanic Journalists Annual Convention

June 15-18

Fort Worth, Texas, USA

http://www.nahj.org/home/home.shtml

 

Several interactive media workshops are included in the convention, such as “What the Blog?”, “Reaching the Hispanic Online Audience,” “Online’s Place in the Traditional Establishment,” Intro to Final Cut Pro,” and “Hispanic Online Publishing: Past, Present & Future.”

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Cross-Platform Media Teams

Strategic Thinking for a Multi-Platform World

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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Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Convention
Aug. 10-13
San Antonio, Texas,
USA

http://www.aejmc.org/convention/

 

The AEJMC keynote session will feature Alejandro Junco de la Vega, who heads the newspaper group Reforma in Mexico. It publishes three papers: Reforma in Mexico City, Mural in Guadalajara and El Norte in Monterrey. The AEJMC plenary will focus on media literacy, and whether it has a place in journalism/mass communication education. Special speaker will be Dr. James Potter of the University of California at Santa Barbara. Several pre-convention workshops will take place on Tuesday, Aug. 9.

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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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