The Convergence Newsletter
The Convergence Newsletter

From Newsplex at the University of South Carolina

Vol. XI No. 4 (May 2014)

Farewell from The Convergence Newsletter

By Chris Winker

In July 2003, in conjunction with Newsplex, the University of South Carolina launched The Convergence Newsletter to provide a forum for discussion regarding the meaning of media convergence. Over the years, we've had commentary and contribution from some of the most respected and well-known journalists and journalism educators and researchers. So it is with mixed emotions that this is our final issue.

Dr. August Grant pioneered the newsletter and supervised it until 2007. Senior instructor Doug Fisher took over the reins and has turned the newsletter into what we see today. Our final issue shares their thoughts on what we have learned along the way.

On behalf of Grant, Fisher, and nine past editors, I want to thank all our loyal readers for following along each month. It has been a pleasure to serve in this capacity and to pass along fascinating information of an ever-evolving field.

Respond to both Grant and Fisher's thoughts at The Convergence Newsletter blog and at the newsletter's Facebook or Google+ pages.

As always, you can view the full archive of newsletters at


Featured Articles

Convergence Crossroads: Hindsight and Foresight

A few final thoughts on convergence – whatever that is


Quick Glance Calendar (Details)

May 28-31: Annual Hawaii International Conference on Social Sciences, Honolulu

June 20: Deadline to submit papers for International Conference on Journalism and Mass Communications

Aug. 6-9: AEJMC annual conference, Montreal

Sept. 23-24: International Conference on Journalism and Mass Communications, Singapore


Featured Articles

Convergence Crossroads: Hindsight and Foresight
By August E. Grant
J. Rion McKissick Professor of Journalism, University of South Carolina
Founding Executive Editor

John Varley's 1983 novel, Millennium, ended thoughtfully: "This is not the end. This is not the beginning of the end. It is the end of the beginning." [1] These words may be as fitting to close this newsletter as they were to close that novel.

Eleven years ago, this newsletter was created as a forum for sharing research, practices, and ideas regarding the trend toward increasing convergence in newsrooms. At that point, both journalists and academics were attempting to define "convergence," ultimately identifying a number of dimensions, including technological convergence, organizational convergence, and audience convergence. [2]

Today, our field has entered the post-convergence era. Virtually all news organizations publish news and other information across multiple media, including traditional media, social media, websites, and other Web-based distribution systems. The need for a publication that shares information on convergent journalism processes, practices, and research has diminished.

But before we sign off, it is helpful to look at some of the lessons learned over the past 11 years.

  • Convergence ended up having so many definitions that researchers and journalists moved to use the term only in the most general sense, instead preferring to use more specific terms such as "multiplatform journalism," "cross-media ownership," and "cooperative endeavors among news organizations." This and other specific terms are much more important for our field today because they identify specific process and practices.
  • Although convergence appeared to be a 21st century phenomenon, Bajkiewicz reminded us, in an excellent essay, that the field of journalism has been consistently evolving over the past 100 years, with journalism education evolving with the field. [3]
  • The biggest barriers to implementing change in a newsroom are not economic or technological; rather, it is resistance from people who need to learn new words and new ways of doing things.
  • Although economics was seen as a major force pushing technological and organizational convergence, savings was not typically the primary byproduct of applying convergence in a newsroom.
  • Despite the need for new models and practices to accommodate new media and evolving audience behaviors, the media industry has been relatively hesitant to experiment with new processes and practices. Instead, technology companies and startups were more likely to develop next-generation processes, practices, and models, putting them in the position to compete with traditional journalists.
  • Every appeal we made for submissions to this newsletter usually yielded as many questions and requests for information as it did articles that could be published. A direct result was the creation of Newsplex Summer Seminars to help faculty learn how to apply convergent journalism practices in the classroom, a textbook teaching convergent journalism, now in a second edition [4], and a book providing a wide-ranging theoretical discussion of the themes arising from these discussions [5].

As this chapter in journalism education comes to a close, it is helpful to project changes the next decade will bring:

  • "Mobile journalism" will emerge as a critical trend, with two definitions. The first is the use of technology that will increasingly allow a reporter or editor to do most or all work in the field. The second describes the audience members' increasing desire to access news any time and anywhere, changing basic news flows and schedules.
  • New revenue models will emerge, bringing needed stability to journalism. At the same time, new competitors, including technology companies, will challenge traditional journalistic organizations for these revenues.
  • Advanced computer software will create new content that will be generated with minimal input from traditional reporters.
  • Increasing distribution of recording devices such as camera-equipped cell phones and Google Glass will continue to increase the amount of user-generated content that will capture breaking news. News organizations, especially television newsrooms, will increasingly depend on this content.

For all of these, we will need research and experimentation as well as channels for sharing the results. In short, the convergence wave may have receded, but the tide of technological change will continue to create challenges and opportunities for journalists and journalism educators. I'm eager to see how these and other changes develop, and I hope that you will be part of that adventure as well!

[1] Varley, J. (1983). Millennium. Berkley Books. (Return)

[2] Grant, A. E. (2009). Dimensions of media convergence. In Grant, A. E. & Wilkinson, J.S. (Eds.) Understanding media convergence: The state of the field. New York: Oxford University Press. (Return)

[3] Bajkiewicz, T. (2009). Tracks, silos, and elevators: Postsecondary convergence journalism education in the United States. In Grant, A. E. & Wilkinson, J. S. (Eds.), Understanding media convergence: The state of the field. New York: Oxford University Press. (Return)

[4] Wilkinson, J. S., Grant, A. E., & Fisher, D. (2012). Principles of convergent journalism (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. (Return)

[5] Grant, A. E. & Wilkinson, J.S. (Eds.). (2009). Understanding media convergence: The state of the field. New York: Oxford University Press. (Return)


A few final thoughts on convergence – whatever that is
By Doug Fisher
Executive Editor

When I became executive editor of The Convergence Newsletter, then 4 years old, in 2007, "convergence" was still one of those potentially useful terms we were debating and defining. We had talked about a "convergence continuum." [1] We wondered how to overcome the "tower of Babel" [2] as we watched one of the icons of the era, Media General's Tampa news center, try to work through the many issues. Rich Gordon helpfully reminded us there were multiple definitions of convergence [3], something we have tried to promote over the years as part of the newsletter's mission.

We still had the idea that some merging of traditional print and broadcast newsrooms might be the way this played out. Then there was the debate about whether the "digital folks" should be in the office park ghettos many had been put into or if they should be brought into the newsroom. And who should be in charge?

And then, while we discussed and debated and researched, convergence went on its merry way and just happened – organically.

Spurred by social media, newspaper and broadcast newsrooms, always uneasy allies, began dissolving what partnerships they had [4] and found ways to grow their digital capabilities in house. After some halting first steps into the ungainly named "newspaper video," traditional print newsrooms began embracing the form and, shoved forward by post recession economic realities, are now rushing headlong into it, for good or bad, as many also put up paywalls. At least one major broadcaster has decided the more "print" oriented assets of its website also are as valuable as its video – and it, too, is experimenting with a paywall. [5] The debate over who should be in charge has now turned, with some arguing that only the digital folks have the alacrity to lead, unencumbered by the impediments of years of newsroom tradition and culture, and that in some cases, at least, perhaps they should be in their own company. [6]

We have computers in our pocket with smartphones (or maybe our glasses or other wearables now emerging), and the new buzzwords are things like "mobile," "cord cutting," and "aggressive versioning." "Convergence" seems so, well, 2007 – or older.

Let's hope this relatively short period of "convergence" will not end up consigned to limited relevance, as "civic journalism" (or "public journalism," if you prefer) has been in some quarters. To understand this period of struggling with meaning, it helps to occasionally also remember civic journalism and its advocates' struggle to define it and its relevance even as everyone was getting a digital megaphone and printing press.

I often run through the pages of Public Journalism 2.0: The promise and reality of a citizen-engaged press, edited by Jack Rosenberry and Burton St. John III. [7] If a good academic book is one that you can return to repeatedly and get new insights, this rather slim (198 pages) volume fits the bill. It captures the promise – and angst – of an important moment when parts of the news industry were trying to redefine their relationship with their publics, just before the "civilians" armed with their new freedom to report, write and share news and ideas (or cute pictures of cats) were about to storm the Bastille.

The book starts with a 1990 speech by James Batten, then CEO of the now-defunct Knight-Ridder, in which he promised: "The old arrogance is receding, and we're inventing new ways to listen – really listen – to our customers." (Well, in 2014, maybe that's still a promise in progress.)

Late in the book, Jan Schaffer, a Pulitzer Prize winning former journalist and now director of J-Lab: the Institute for Interactive Journalism (, illustrates the struggle of defining our terms: "I see the content produced by many new media makers and the very act of producing that content as an act of civic participation, not an act of journalism." And Davis "Buzz" Merritt, one of the early proponents of "public journalism," wrote that "naming it was necessary, but we recognized that the long-term goal was for it to lose its name, to become simply the way journalism is done."

That's much the same as convergence. We are picking our way through, finding one term inadequate and trying another – and yet another. One may yet fit, even as we try to simply make the best parts of it the new norm.

Merritt, former editor of The Wichita Eagle, wrote of "citizen journalism" (another imprecise term like convergence): "This new journalism is fragmented, not easily defined, and highly experimental. Its future as a sustainable practice and, eventually, a viable business model is unshaped and uncertain. ...

"Thus, it is important that those interested in its potential consider, at the earliest possible stage, what its future structure and philosophy should look like."

We are past the earliest stages of the "convergence" journey, but we are far from the end as we seek structure, philosophy, theory, and clarity. At the beginning, much of this conversation lay outside large parts of mainstream research, and The Convergence Newsletter unabashedly has always called itself a publication "of first impressions." We think we've helped with this journey by bridging theory and practice and surfacing some important research and observations.

But just as convergence happened around us while we were debating it, with time, the number of peer-reviewed journals in this area has risen. Convergence, such as it is, is now the mainstream. The truly cutting-edge conversations have moved on. And so we think it's time to bring the newsletter to a close.

We can't thank enough our loyal readers – and especially our contributors – throughout the almost 11 years of this part of the journey. May you find the rest of it rewarding, surprising, and stimulating. Our archives will remain online; we hope you will find them useful – and we look forward to seeing you down the road.

[1] Operationalizing convergence. (August 2003). The Convergence Newsletter 1 (2). (Return)

[2] Silcock, B.W., and Keith, S. (2006). Translating the tower of babel? Journalism Studies 7 (4), 610-627. (Return)

[3] Gordon, R. (2003). The meanings and implications of convergence. In K. Kawamoto (Ed.), Digital journalism: Emerging media and the changing horizons of journalism. 57-73. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. (Return)

[4] Batsell, J. and Kraeplin, C. (December 2011). Converging with the former audience: TV-newspaper partnerships decline as focus turns to public collaboration. The Convergence Newsletter 8 (9). (Return)

[5] Doctor, K. (Dec. 5, 2013). The newsonomics of Scripps' TV paywall and the Last Man Standing Theory of local media. Neiman Journalism Lab. (Return)

[6] Levitz, D. (Feb. 1, 2013). 6 principles Clark Gilbert used to transform Deseret News. American Press Institute. (Return)

[7] Rosenberry, J. and St. John III, B. (Eds.) (2010). Public journalism 2.0: The promise and reality of a citizen-engaged press. New York: Routledge. (Return)


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

Annual Hawaii International Conference on Social Sciences
May 28-31


AEJMC Annual Conference
Aug. 6-9


3rd Annual International Conference on Journalism and Mass Communication
Sept. 22-23


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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The Convergence Newsletter archive is at


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