From Newsplex at the University of South Carolina
Vol. III No. 12 (June 1, 2006)
Commenting on Convergence
By Jordan Storm, editor of The Convergence Newsletter
This issue of the newsletter shares four distinct perspectives of convergence, some reflecting on the past and present uses of convergence while others offer direction for the future. A review of this newsletter provides us with the opportunity to recognize that convergence does not mean the same thing to everyone. Rather it is a multidimensional concept. This is especially clear now as the June deadline approaches for the fall Convergence Conference.
We encourage you to share your perspectives of convergence at the conference in the form of an abstract, paper, or panel proposal. (The Call for Papers appears in the final section of this newsletter.) The goal of the convergence efforts at the University of South Carolina is to facilitate the sharing of convergence perspectives and research. This conference provides a venue for networking for those of us who see convergence as a fundamental force shaping the field of journalism.
View past newsletters at http://www.jour.sc.edu/news/convergence/.
Jordan Storm is working toward a Master of Arts degree at the University of South Carolina. Contact her at email@example.com.
Military Journalists Ahead of the Pack
Convergence and The Beat Reporter -- A Tipping Point
Confusion and Convergence
It’s the Mindset That Needs to Change
ICA: Networking Communication Research Conference
SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference
Convergence and Society: Ethics, Religion and New Media
Military Journalists Ahead of the Pack
By Chris Vadnais, veteran US Air Force radio and television journalist and author of broadcast technology books, including Instant Boris FX and Broadcast Graphics On the Spot (CMP Books)
The war in Iraq gave civilian journalists a closer-than-ever look at how the military operates during combat. Embedded reporting was blessed with the unlikely simultaneous and long-lasting combination of ubiquity and novelty, which is definitely good for the news business. This combination allowed embedded reporting – which is simply telling stories from inside the war – to earn the long term interest of consumers. It was a truly revolutionary time in journalism.
Or was it? For years all military service components have employed their own broadcast producers. These enlisted men and women are charged with telling the stories of their fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines – from inside the war, to use that term loosely. They fly in jets, sail on ships, and ruck with infantrymen and Devil Dogs, running tape and checking sound levels the whole time.
Like any young person in the military, journalists, including myself, have traditionally looked across the vocational fence at the grass in their civilian counterparts’ yards and, as is common from either viewer’s perspective, it has often appeared greener. Being restricted to covering the events in our tiny overseas communities meant covering a lot of stories that may seem trivial to those outside the community. As such, it was easy to feel inferior to civilian journalists. It wasn’t until we began to work more closely with embedded reporters that we began to realize that we may be more skilled, more efficient at communicating to our audience and more relevant to our customers.
Military broadcast journalists have always been trained in both radio and television journalism principles while sailors and Marines are also trained as print journalists (the Army and Air Force have traditionally trained different people to fill those positions). Despite a fairly finite line between television and radio operations with separate producers and teams assigned to each respective medium, military broadcast journalists have also been reasonably “hot-swappable” as producers, able to adapt to manning or operational changes. In addition, the traditional role of military television news producers has always been one of a one-person band, with each producer acting as a videographer, a script writer, an editor, and an available on-air talent – something embedded journalists never understood and often couldn’t believe. Their teams included a shooter, an editor, a reporter, and sometimes even a separate sound gatherer.
In retrospect I can admit I always thought our work lagged behind civilian journalists, but I now see that we were way ahead of the game; in many ways we had already converged back then.
These days convergence is a buzzword and news agencies all over the country are doing “more with less.” While this is relatively new to civilian journalists, it’s old hat to us; it’s always been part of the military mindset. Many of today’s military broadcasters are writing print stories, taking photographs, and even building new and interactive media for their audiences – all in addition to their traditional duties. We are also using technology in ways that few other agencies have considered, like using existing Internet connections and standard FTP protocols to deliver broadcast-quality television stories from any given place on the planet to another, and building Web-based repositories of broadcast-quality video clips for stations to download.
Our producers stationed at Aviano Air Base, Italy can pull video from a site published by producers at our news bureau at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, produce a TV news package and make it available to our Regional News Center at Yokota Air Base, Japan – all in one day. You’d think our civilian counterparts would be interested in this highly effective, low-cost process, but it becomes clear to us that they don’t yet understand how it works when we work with them to exchange media. For example, in a recent exchange with Fox News I was told they could use either Beta SP or DVD. If they had been more tech-savvy they could have had the clips they wanted almost immediately and they would have saved $80 and the two days it took for the DHL delivery service. These are the types of innovations that surface when you truly are doing more with less.
Though I may not have known it until recently, it’s clear to me now that military journalists have led the way in media convergence for years. It’s all about sensibly using the resources you have available, which the military does very well. The one-person band TV producer of yesterday is tomorrow’s do-it-all hybrid print-Web-photo-video journalist. In many ways your military forces are leading the convergence movement. However, it took the coverage of war in Iraq for me to figure that out. So maybe revolutionary isn’t the best word for embedded journalism; at least for me it seems that revelationary would be more appropriate.
Convergence and the Beat Reporter -- A Tipping Point
Sid Bedingfield, former CNN executive, is now president of California Fault Line Productions, a joint venture launched by KCET in Los Angeles and KQED in San Francisco to produce news and current affairs programs for the PBS network
(Editor’s note: This piece is adapted from a presentation at the 2006 convention of the Broadcast Educators Association)
Perhaps this is obvious, but I’ll say it anyway: Reporting is the essential ingredient in good journalism. Everything else is dressing. Whether covering the White House or the school board, the reporter is the engine that drives the newspaper, the contributor who makes the newscast worthwhile. Forget the fancy packaging. The news organizations that are most successful – the ones audiences consider essential – are those that care most about good reporting.
This seems worth repeating now because of the tremendous changes coming to daily journalism. The rise of the Internet and the penetration of high-speed, broadband connections are triggering a revolution in the newsroom. And no one will feel the impact more than front line reporters.
This revolution actually began 25 years ago. The launch of CNN in 1980 accelerated the news cycle and changed the rules for national journalists working in Washington. Charles Bierbauer and his colleagues on the CNN White House beat ushered in a true 24-hour news cycle. No longer could Washington reporters hold news until their evening newscasts or morning newspapers and expect to get first shot at the story. News consumers already had the basic information. To compete, newspapers and even evening newscasts changed the way they covered those stories, going beyond the so-called five W’s to add more analysis and background.
Fifteen years later, the Web arrived – and the news cycle accelerated once again. News organizations launched Web sites and reporters and correspondents to some extent were asked to service them. You remember the Web-madness of the late 90s: All news organizations talked a good game about their digital futures but only some really meant it. For most reporters, the changes were minimal. They filed their stories as they always had and those pieces were then posted on a Web site. This process did not fundamentally change the reporter’s life.
That is about to end. We are at a tipping point in this digital revolution – and the changes to come will affect every working journalist.
With the spread of broadband, news networks, local news stations and especially newspapers now realize their futures lie in the digital arena – on the Web, on the PDA, in a time-shifted, multi-media, on-demand world. They have all said this before, but now they mean it.
Consider this quote from Miami Herald Executive Editor Tom Fiedler, in a memo to his staff:
“We are beyond being satisfied with incremental change and giving polite head nods toward other media platforms… Every job in the newsroom – EVERY JOB – is going to be redefined to include a Web responsibility… For news gatherers, this means posting everything we can as soon as we can. It means using the Web site to its fullest potential for text, audio and video. We’ll come to appreciate that MiamiHerald.com is not an appendage of the newsroom; it’s a fundamental product of the newsroom” (2006).
Critics suggest Fiedler’s urgent tone may be driven in part by the Herald’s late embrace of the digital world. Nonetheless, the point is made. Journalists who once focused exclusively on the so-called “daily miracle” of publishing an ink-and-paper product will now report news 24/7, update when necessary, add video and audio, and deliver it in formats for the desktop, the PDA, broadcast and, finally, newsprint.
These “print” folks will soon be full-fledged multi-media journalists.
No longer will journalists define themselves by platform – newspaper, TV, radio, even online. What will be most important is the content. Thomas Curley, president of the Associated Press, calls this new digital world Web 2.0. His speech to the Online News Association is worth quoting at length:
“Content will be more important than container in this next phase… The franchise is not the newspaper; it’s not the broadcast; it’s not even the Web site. The franchise is the content itself. And in Web 2.0, discrete pieces – stories, photos and video clips – all categorized and branded – will be dis-assembled from whatever presentation you create and magically re-assembled on the PC desktop, the mobile device or TV set-top box, for consumption on-demand” (Online News Association conference, 2004).
So what does this “on-demand” world mean for the front line reporter?
The quality of the content, I believe, will still matter most. The best reporting, the best writing, the best editing will win. But this new world will require journalists to be multi-skilled and to be flexible about format.
Video will grow more important as broadband spreads. Soon all news organizations – broadcasters, newspapers and online – will offer video. And yes, that means print reporters and still photographers will occasionally shoot video for their stories. Consider this: A deputy managing editor of the New York Times recently boasted – boasted! – about how much video his reporters were now shooting. And it is no surprise that the Times has tapped my old colleague, Vivian Schiller, a TV veteran, to serve as general manager of its Web site. The Times may be called the old grey lady, but she knows the future demands full-color video.
Information Design will continue to evolve and grow in importance in this on-demand world. Those who design the best, most accessible, user-friendly formats for multi-media – text, audio and video – will be the winners. And front line reporters will need to understand and service these new formats.
Given these new demands and changing priorities, managers will be tempted to pass all the burdens of change on to the poor beleaguered reporter. That would be a critical mistake. Front line correspondents need the time to gather and verify the facts, then organize them in a coherent, contextual way. That’s a hard job – and it can’t be done if managers constantly add new demands for video, audio and non-stop Web-filing. As part of this digital revolution, good managers must re-design newsrooms and create new workflows that carry out these new responsibilities without gutting the journalists’ primary function: to report the news.
Tom Curley is right: The consumer is now in control. They want what they want when they want it. And they will go to the news organizations that can provide it quickly, accurately and in the most accessible formats.
The changes ahead pose challenges for everyone – especially the reporter. But this new digital world also presents new opportunities for those with the skills and flexibility to take advantage of them. The formats may be different, but in the end success will still be measured by the quality of the reporting. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Confusion and Convergence
By Jeff Wilkinson, associate professor of journalism, Regent University
(Editor’s note: Wilkinson’s is co-author of two forthcoming books, Understanding Media Convergence and Principles of Convergent Journalism.)
The great catch phrase for journalism in the 21st century is convergence. It aptly captures the fundamental shifts occurring at every level of journalism and media practices in modern society. While definitions abound regarding what it IS, scholars have not done a very good job telling us what it is NOT. Without knowing where the (ever changing) boundaries are, we run the risk of boxing ourselves in, saying a thing is only such-and-such even though society at large may apply it differently. It matters that what we say about convergence matches what others says it is. Our books and articles on media convergence, new media convergence, principles of convergence, convergent journalism, and even diverging convergent journalism and media must be relevant outside our field.
This is especially important now because media technology has escaped the box and is permeating every aspect of modern life. We can boast that media firms overall continue to grow in terms of profits, products, and employees. We are comforted that even as broadcast audiences and newspaper subscriber numbers are shrinking, these same companies' Web sites are among the top Internet sites. But as individual practitioners, we must be cautious. We are not global media corporations and we do not have the same benefits.
Convergence is bringing competition to us as individuals from an entirely new direction. It challenges us to stay competitive, learn new tricks and adopt new ways of marketing ourselves and our skills. We can learn a lot by looking at how non-media fields are using our convergence tools for fun and profit.
In medicine, doctors are coached on how to be storytellers and authors of books. They are increasingly becoming experts on communication tasks involving physician-patient relationships, working with interactive media to consult and perform microsurgery. Very sexy, indeed! Anesthesiologists are music programmers for the ultimate niche audience, meeting with their patients before surgery to compile a list of favorite songs to get them through the procedure.
Media workers also face competition from the legal profession. Besides coaching in public speaking and oration, it's common to find ads for animation and video services to help prosecute or defend a case. Need a video documentary for your client? Try a Web search and see how many hits come up. Any guesses on how the pay compares with starting at your local television station?
That's why we have to give ourselves the competitive edge in this new media environment. Even among academics, podcasts and video lectures are now routinely performed by people with—gasp!—no training in media or communication. As we sulk or complain, the world yawns and moves on.
An important starting point for our extreme makeover is to define what content is, how we create it, and how we can enhance it. Since almost anyone can create a blog site with video and podcasts, it doesn't matter as much whether you're labeled a media professional. Rocketboom and Ask a Ninja, two video blogs, are just as entertaining as the latest failed network sitcom. Countless bloggers are now the "new news for those in the know." And whose views are given more attention—a loudmouth celebrity or a reasonable, smart, but faceless reporter?
In order to survive, we have to be better agents and coaches for ourselves. We have to push ourselves, train ourselves, and most importantly, promote ourselves and teach our students to do the same. If you want to be humble, volunteer with your local non-profit or church. If you want to go anywhere in the age of media convergence, you need to be willing to look beyond our borders. Your next job may be in the field of business, architecture, medicine, or government. They've also embraced media convergence and have created it in their own image.
It’s the Mindset That Needs to Change
By Janet Kolodzy, assistant professor of journalism, School of Communication, Emerson College
(Editor’s Note: Kolodzy’s book, Convergence Journalism: Writing and Reporting across the News Media was published in May 2006 by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.)
A few weeks ago, Ed Wasserman’s Miami Herald op-ed piece warned that convergence could be the next media disaster if journalists have no say in shaping its implementation. Talk about stating the obvious. Convergence journalism is doomed from the start if journalism is the last thing on people’s minds. Therein lies the biggest hurdle to convergence -- getting people’s minds around the idea of doing journalism differently from how it’s always been done. It’s the mindset.
In dozens of newsrooms I and others have visited to see how and if convergence can succeed, a key concern involves changing the mindset. That does not mean doing EVERY story in multiple media. It DOES mean deciding which stories work best in which medium, i.e., playing to the strengths of print or broadcast or online.
And this isn’t just pie-in-the-sky idealism. The mindset or the newsroom culture at ESPN, for example, centers on providing sports news to sports fans in the best ways possible. ESPN does not use its print platform, ESPN the Magazine, for game scores any more than it puts its in-depth reporting from “Outside the Lines” on a cell phone. But it does use its Web site for both immediate scores and game updates and develops longer, more in-depth reports to work in the magazine, on television and on the Web. Both managers and reporters at ESPN noted in interviews with me that some attitude adjustment is needed to make this work. Among those adjustments: 1) sharing information and resources is good and useful and 2) each medium or platform has value.
Those two attitude adjustments can be particularly rough in print newsrooms because of the decentralized way newspapers have been organized and managed and the cherished belief that newspaper journalism is the purest, best form of the craft. To make convergence journalism work, the mindset of newsroom leaders has to be more than just demanding reporters to do more work faster. They need to share; they need to re-allocate time and resources differently.
Additionally, the medium should not define the quality of the journalism. As the Associated Press’s Beth Fouhy noted in a journalismjobs.com interview, print and television have pluses and minuses. She said,”… while print allows stories to be told with much more breadth and depth, TV still has such a monumental impact." And online has the capacity for interactivity, multiple media and depth of information.
But more importantly, online is attracting the eyeballs. As any journalism professor will tell you, they struggle to get their students to read a newspaper, let alone other college-age individuals. It’s not that young people have no interest in news, but that the daily paper dropped on a doorstep at 6 a.m. or the local newscast at 6 p.m. does not mesh into the daily routine of many people.
Ultimately, Ed Wasserman is right. Convergence may be inevitable but journalists must work to ensure it promotes quality. And that involves thinking differently. The mindset of news audiences has changed. Isn’t it about time the mindset of the people writing, reporting and producing it catches up? +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
International Communication Association
Networking Communication Research Conference
June 19-23, 2006
Conference registration starts January 15, 2006.
August 2-5, 2006
San Francisco, CA USA
SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference
August 24-26, 2006
Chicago, IL USA
University of South Carolina College of Mass Communication and Information Science and Newsplex
Convergence and Society: Ethics, Religion and New Media Conference
October 19-21, 2006
Columbia, SC USA
Since September 11, ethics and religion have emerged as important topics in the study of new media. At this conference, the moral implications of emerging media are addressed at the levels of society, culture, and the media professions. It is a forum for scholars, media professionals and theologians to discuss converging media from the standpoint of competing values. Papers and panels may include institutional, content, audience, cultural, political and technological perspectives on media from the perspective of social responsibility. Abstracts, completed papers and panel proposals for this conference should deal with one or more of the following four themes:
= Ethics: Examination of current approaches to moral reasoning about convergence
= Values: Analysis of values related to converging technologies (i.e., information equity, privacy, diversity, etc.).
= Religiosity: How denominations are contributing to public and policy discussion of convergence and values.
= Media Convergence, including convergent journalism, technological convergence and audience behavior.
The purpose of this conference is to provide a scholarly exploration of these issues individually and of the connections among them. Submission may address theory, history, media practice, social influences, cultural issues, legal implications and effects upon consumers.
Faculty and graduate students are invited to submit in one or more of three categories: completed papers, proposals or abstracts of papers in progress and proposals for panels.
Submissions may address practical, theoretical, phenomenological, critical and/or empirical approaches to any of the subjects listed above. 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.
=Electronic submissions (Word or RTF attachments) are encouraged (send to firstname.lastname@example.org).
=Paper copies may be submitted: five 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. For electronic submissions, the cover page should be in a separate file.
=Submissions deadline (postmark) is June 15, 2006. All submissions will be jury-reviewed with notification to authors and organizers on or before July 31, 2006.
For registration and further information about this academic conference, visit the conference Web site at: http://Newsplex.sc.edu.
Papers, proposals, abstracts and panel proposals should be addressed to:
Augie Grant, Conference Chair
College of Mass Communications and Information Studies
Columbia, SC 29208
Publishing a book about convergence? The Convergence Newsletter regularly publishes information about new and upcoming books on convergent journalism. Send your submissions to email@example.com. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
---------------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.
Augie Grant, Ph.D.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, affiliation and contact information with your submission.
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