The Convergence Newsletter
The Convergence Newsletter

From Newsplex at the University of South Carolina

Vol. X No. 4 (August 2013)

Ever-changing media field takes shape at collegiate level

By Chris Winker

Like everything in the media business, things are changing rapidly in student media. Today, a student working for his or her college newsroom is likely to have vastly different responsibilities from five years ago. While printed, student-run newspapers are still common on many campuses, the shift to digital news organizations is becoming more rapid.

In July 2011, Texas Christian University launched, a news website that included content from all platforms of TCU's student media. Aaron Chimbel discussed these changes for The Convergence Newsletter, both in 2010 and 2011, and this month he revisits the ever-changing program.

Our second article is from Executive Editor Doug Fisher. It first appeared in his Common Sense Journalism column, which is run by press associations around the country. Fisher talks about the passing of two longstanding journalism publications that were valuable for journalism educators.

Also if you haven't yet, please take time to fill out our readership survey. It will only take 10 minutes and the information you give us will be invaluable in helping us chart the newsletter's future.

Respond to Mr. Chimbel's article at The Convergence Newsletter blog and at the newsletter's Facebook or Google+ pages. View the full archive of newsletters at


Quick Glance Calendar (Details)

Sept. 12-15: Newspapers and Community-Building Symposium, Phoenix

Sept. 26-28: American Journalism Historians Association National Convention, New Orleans

Oct. 24-26: Beyond Convergence: Mobile, Social, and Virtual Media, Las Vegas

Oct. 28-29: International Conference on Journalism and Mass Communications, Phuket, Thailand

Nov. 8: Social Media Conference, Fort. Worth, Texas

March 20-22: AEJMC Southeast Colloquium


Featured Article

A Changing College Newsroom: From Convergence to Digital First to What's Next
By Aaron Chimbel, Texas Christian University

The rapid evolution of a college newsroom is easy to see at Texas Christian University, where student media is focused around TCU 360, a digital-first news organization that has overtaken the campus newspaper to be the central news source.

It has been a methodical shift that we've chronicled through several articles in The Convergence Newsletter. The TCU Daily Skiff, an 111-year-old newspaper, was the primary news outlet on campus. Then in July 2011 the Schieffer School of Journalism launched TCU 360 to be the home of all student-produced journalism including the Skiff, the TCU News Now television broadcast and Image magazine. However, each outlet largely produced its own content and the website's small staff had little time for original digital reporting.

That changed last year with the shift to a digital-first approach. TCU 360 – not the Skiff – became the primary news organization. While the paper was still printed four times a week, the entire news gathering infrastructure for student media was moved under one executive editor for 360, with the goal of producing news in real time. Each program still had a student leader, but those jobs changed dramatically, as the Skiff editor and News Now executive producer organized content already produced and no longer assigned stories.

"The website is becoming the preferred way of receiving news on campus," said Taylor Prater, a managing editor for TCU 360 in spring 2013. "Watching traffic grow and seeing social media response has helped me see its impact on the student body."

Through these changes and others, including moving all the news products into a single lab in 2009, everything was converged but the advisers. There remained three: one for print, one for broadcast, and one for the website.

Enter Kent Chapline, who was hired in 2012 as a faculty member in the Schieffer School after serving as executive producer of digital media for, the converged website for two television stations and two radio stations owned by CBS in Dallas-Fort Worth. He became director of student media in 2013 to provide a singular focus – and he knows exactly what he wants to do.

"My goal for TCU 360 is for it to compete with – and beat – the pros when it comes to innovative storytelling," Chapline says. "Our students are smart, creative, and energetic. They love journalism, they love storytelling, and they love the possibilities of digital media. That combination is all they need."

Chapline points to The New York Times' "Snow Fall," the Peabody Award-winning immersive multimedia story about an avalanche in Washington state, as a model for students to push the limits of storytelling.

"It's a great example of the power of a good idea executed well," Chapline said. "Few news outlets have the resources to pull off a project as good as 'Snow Fall' – although that doesn't stop them from trying. But anybody can come up with the idea for a 'Snow Fall.' That's got nothing to do with the size or resources of the news outlet."

Aiming to do innovative work is something Executive Editor Olivia Caridi says the digital-first focus allows.

"Students working for student media spend most of their time experimenting with tools for the Web and less time trying to innovate the printed Daily Skiff," says Caridi, who returned as executive editor for fall 2013.

The other big change for 2013-14 is that the Daily Skiff is dropping the daily and is being reborn as a weekly paper with a new focus on in-depth coverage of important issues and less event coverage.

The goal is to produce more journalism while still giving students the opportunity to produce a paper as well as provide a vibrant product for advertisers.

"I think the last step is to put full effort into making student media a completely digital operation," Caridi said. "Ultimately, the Skiff is a historic product, but students and faculty aren't picking it up, and the interest in newspapers just isn't there anymore. If we could use the staff and energy to put full effort into the website, I think digital first would really take off at TCU."

Advisors are working on a redesign for the website, which will be responsive, meaning the same page will conform to the device being viewed. Combined, smart phones and tablets already account for nearly 40 percent of visits to TCU 360.

One of Caridi's managing editors for fall 2013, Jordan Rubio, says that while progress in digital journalism had been made, the work is not yet done and that, realistically, there will always be new challenges.

"Overall, I think that our imaginations need to lead us where we need to go next and that there is a great deal left to do," Rubio said. "We need to evolve as a news organization that can use other tools such as databases ... to fully tell a story."

Students say the digital-first evolution has taken time, with some improvements and imperfections. Prater, who was also visual editor, one of the top positions in fall 2012, during the first semester of digital first, said things have gotten better after about a year.

"We've done a good job about assigning reporters to breaking stories and making quicker deadlines as well as planning a more efficient editing process to get the story online as soon as possible," Prater said. "Communication is much better."

But Rubio says the smoother organization hasn't translated to using all that digital journalism can offer.

"When it comes to breaking news stories, we only have text and photos," he said. "We need to incorporate some other media such as video and infographics. Nevertheless, 360 has evolved to become more digital first in its approach."

Chapline says the operation might never be fully digital first given the nature of a news organization that is integrated with courses as well as several media products.

"It's close, and maybe this is as close as it's possible to get," Chapline said. "The outlier is our television programs. As it stands right now, most of the stories produced by students in the newscast and sportscast classes are done specifically for those television programs. The stories run online, but that's not their first destination. Likewise, the programs themselves are produced from a television-first perspective."

The challenge, in part, is that students still want – and are getting – jobs in television newsrooms, where specific skills are required.

"Certainly, it would be possible to produce both the stories and the programs themselves as digital-first products," said Chapline, who spent 20 years at television stations in Texas and Oklahoma. "But I think the nature of television programs, and the television industry, is such that we would be doing our students a disservice by adopting that approach."

But there remains room to experiment in student media, which receives financial support from the university and doesn't have to make a profit. The rapid turnover of the student staff each year also allows quick changes in organizational structure, Chapline said.

"In student media we have the luxury of being very nimble in the way we operate," he said.

It's flexibility that professional news organizations don't always have.

"As managers in professional newsrooms across the country can verify, it can be very difficult to teach old dogs new tricks," Chapline said. "Some established journalists aren't comfortable with digital technology; others are simply unwilling to learn. With rare exceptions, our student journalists don't have those problems.

"It's also easier to experiment and fail in student media. That's vital; it's part of the learning process. But pros often don't have that luxury."

So the focus is on producing journalism and preparing students for the digital world, even if they may not end up working in a digital-first newsroom, though the digital skills and mindset are something most legacy newsrooms want too.

"They're learning that a story is a story regardless of where it's published," Chapline said. "The important thing is for journalists to reach their audience on the audience's terms."

The good news is the students have bought in. They're ready for the challenge and are full of ideas on how to meet it.

"Digital first has the potential to make student media, and all media organizations, tell complete stories from all sorts of different angles and let us be part of the community," Rubio said. "It is truly an exciting time."

Aaron Chimbel is an assistant professor of professional practice in TCU's Schieffer School of Journalism and Strategic Communication. He can be reached at


Goodbye to two old friends

By Doug Fisher
Executive Editor

I'd like to take a moment to mark the passing of two old journalism friends.

These aren't people, but publications of note from two noteworthy figures in journalism and journalism education: Writer-L from two-time Pulitzer winner Jon Franklin and Update from journalism professor Melvin Mencher.

In these tumultuous times, both were places to which one could repair for a moment of reflection, a knowing insight and, most of all, a path of discovery to new and wondrous corners of this myriad-faceted thing we call journalism.

Writer-L ( began in 1994, a subscription mail list that Franklin operated with his wife, Lynn, as a gathering place for those who love the craft of narrative journalism. I was mostly a lurker, enamored with the advice from Walt Harrington, Jack Hart, Roy Peter Clark, David Hayes, Wendy Call, Mark Kramer, Tam Hallman, Tom French, Michelle Hiskey – so many that for $35 a year it was dollar for dollar some of the best journalism education you could get.

In his April farewell, Franklin reflected that long-form journalism was once seen as "a proven way to get and hold readers" and to "help newspapers and magazines transfer their operations to the net."

But, he lamented: "Most of the first class storytellers have left the business. The entry-level reporters who replaced them were doing good to produce a coherent news story. ...

"Young journalists now are rarely exposed to first-rate storytelling. They don't see long-form storytelling as a way to make their bones or even as the reward for hard work."

In many ways, however, Writer-L showed us that narrative is not about length but impact, and impact (and engagement) are increasingly the currency of the digital age. In fact, the contributors often showed us that impactful narrative can be short.

Organizations like the Readership Institute ( had been pounding the drum for years for "experience" papers instead of the "tepid" fare being served up then – and too often even more so today.

But Harrington and Hart, in their praise for Writer-L, saw what Hart called "a wide-open future for narrative nonfiction."

While the form has faltered in recession-wracked newspapers, online aggregators are giving it new life, there is increasing interest on college campuses and even some newspaper groups are starting to ask for instruction again, Hart wrote.

"So the seeds that Jon and Lynn helped plant are springing up all over the place."

Writer-L emphasized the roots of journalistic had work – wide sourcing, meticulous observation and critical evaluation. Mencher, whose reporting textbook is a classic, embodied that journalistic conscience.

The now professor emeritus at Columbia University, distributed his Update to anyone who wanted a regular reminder that journalism doesn't happen in a classroom – or a newsroom – but on the street. "GOYA/KOD (Get Off Your Ass/Knock on Doors) or, not to offend, CTS (Climb the Stairs)," he preached.

"Journalism is the story of how we live now, the human consequences of public policies – the struggle of the single mother to afford nutritious meals for her children, the ruined lives of uranium miners, and the family living in crime-infested public housing," Mencher wrote in June's Journalism & Mass Communication Educator.

He constantly questioned whether journalism education was replacing those values with technology – "Have we become the tools of our tools?" – and whether schools were admitting too many unqualified students.

And he rejected the idea of journalists as blank slates. 'Reporting is not a passive enterprise," Mencher wrote. "It begins with the journalist's tentative story ideas, hypotheses that guide the reporter's questions and observations. The reporting reality confirms or rebuts the reporter's assumptions. If rebutted, other hypotheses are rapidly put in play."

Every edition of Update was not just a reminder of these things but a compendium of story ideas and other ways to put them into practice. I wish it had been read in as many newsrooms as faculty offices.

Ultimately, Mencher said, he concluded, "my scoldings, reminders, and splenetics went unheard by the 1,900 I preached to. To them, I was calling out from the distant, and irrelevant, past. So I announced the demise of Update."

It, and Writer-L, will be missed at a time they are sorely needed.


Conferences, Training, and Calls for Papers (Return to top)

Newspapers and Community-Building Symposium
Sept. 12-15


American Journalism Historians Association 32nd National Convention
New Orleans
Sept. 26-28
Deadline to submit paper: May 15


Beyond Convergence: Mobile, Social, and Virtual Media
Las Vegas
Oct. 24-26
Deadline to submit paper: June 15


International Conference on Journalism and Mass Communications
Phuket, Thailand
Oct. 28-29


Social Media Conference
Tarleton State University, Fort Worth, Texas
Nov. 8


AEJMC Southeast Colloquium
University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla.
March 20-22
Deadline to submit papers: Dec. 9


Job Listings

University of South Carolina: Assistant Professors, public relations and digital media, big data and multiplatform journalism.
To apply, send a letter of application, curriculum vitae, the names of at least three references and any supporting material to Erik Collins, Chair, School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C., 29208. For more information, visit the job listings online. Review of applications will begin Oct. 1.


University of Massachusetts Amherst: Journalism Broadcast Lecturer.
To apply, submit a letter of application and resume to: Paper applications also accepted, but online applications are strongly preferred. Search committee will begin to review applications on Sept. 23.


Samford University: Assistant/Associate Professor, public relation or advertising.
Send letter of application, curriculum vita with references, and evidence of teaching effectiveness to Dr. Bernie Ankney, Search Committee Chair, JMC Department, Samford University, 800 Lakeshore Dr., Birmingham, AL 35229 or email at: Screening of applications will begin Sept. 15.


Florida State University: Assistant Professor, social media research and analysis.
Applications must include a letter of interest detailing research and teaching interests, curriculum vitae, and contact information for at least three professional references. Materials must be submitted via (#56346). Review of applications will begin Oct. 1.


University of Pennsylvania: Tenured or Tenure-Track Professor of Communication.
Submit letter of interest, curriculum vitae, three names of references, and up to three articles, chapters or other research to the Search Committee of Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania. Applications should be received by Sept. 16.


University of British Columbia: Assistant Professor.
Submit curriculum vitae, description of research interests, evidence of teaching excellence and effectiveness, evidence of public outreach, and confidential letters from three references. Applicants should also provide an electronic sample of their most outstanding publications, including evidence of research impacts. Apply at: Review of applications will begin Sept. 1 and will continue until position is filled.


University at Buffalo: Assistant/Associate Professor of Media Theory.
To apply, submit a letter of interest, curriculum vitae, research and peer reviewed publication samples, and contact information for three references via Review of applications will begin in the fall.


Publisher and Editorial Staff

The Convergence Newsletter is free and published by The College of Mass Communications and Information Studies at the University of South Carolina.

Executive Editor: Doug Fisher

Editor: Chris Winkler

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Submission Guidelines

The Convergence Newsletter provides an editorially neutral forum for discussion of the theoretical and professional meaning of media convergence in all forms including technological, organizational, operational, psychological, and sociological. We welcome articles of all sorts and encourage those addressing the subject in new ways and with new perspectives. We also accept news briefs, book reviews, calls for papers and conference announcements. Our audience is both academic and professional; the publication style is AP for copy and APA for citations.

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