The Convergence Newsletter

From Newsplex at the University of South Carolina

Vol. III No. 3 (September 7, 2005)

 

Commenting on Convergence

 

By Jordan Storm, editor of The Convergence Newsletter

 

As I am sure most of you already know, The New York Times has officially merged its print and digital newsroom staffs. Newspaper consultant Tim Porter commented on the merger in a Poynteronline news feed, saying, "The Times is an iconic symbol of American print journalism, and when it says the walls are coming down, then institutional evolution is clearly afoot." Poynteronline's news feed, The Chaser, highlighted Porter's use of the word "evolution" rather than "revolution." 

 

This point cannot be stressed enough. Convergence is not a concept that will quickly pass by as some fads have in the past (think CB radios or teletext). Rather, as Porter remarked, it is an evolution of media practices. For this reason, we need to continue to study, debate and modify our understanding of convergence so that we can better apply it in the future.

 

With this aim in mind, I invite you to share The Convergence Newsletter with your students and/or coworkers in the coming weeks. As a subscriber, you have already identified your interest in convergence, but your colleagues, who may not be as well read in the fundamentals of convergence, are the readers who will benefit most from its content. I believe The New York Times' newsroom merger is yet another strong indicator that implementation of convergent practices has become a reality.  While The New York Times is not a pioneer, its approval or adoption of convergence is a benchmark of acceptance.  As such, it would be a shame not to help educate present and future media practitioners and professionals about practices that are taking root in the industry.

 

In this issue, Thomas Ruggiero from the University of Texas at El Paso discusses changes in journalists' authority, particularly regarding new technologies. Rather than simply extolling the virtues of convergence and the Internet, Ruggiero explores some of the issues the field of journalism is faced with today.  

 

Building on Ruggiero's acknowledgement that media convergence in practice is not always unproblematic, Augie Grant, the executive editor of The Convergence Newsletter, has issued a call to action to the newsletter's subscribers. I encourage you all to respond. In addition, April Brown discusses the University of South Carolina's AMBER Alert training initiative, through which law enforcement officers and broadcasters will be trained using converged media. 

 

On a final note, mark your calendars: September 29 is the last day to register to attend the Conference on Media Convergence in Provo, Utah. 

 

Jordan Storm is working toward a Master of Arts degree at the University of South Carolina. Contact her at convergence-editor@mailbox.sc.edu.

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Feature Articles

Traditional Journalistic Authority

AMBER Alert: Convergence at Work

The Dark Side of Convergence

Newsplex News: Interest in Convergence is Worldwide

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Conference Information

Adplexing: Cross-Media Advertising Tools & Techniques

Media Convergence Conference: Cooperation, Collisions and Change

Society of Professional Journalists Convention & National Journalism Conference

Association for Women in Communications 2005 Professional Conference

Citizens Media Summit

2005 Online News Association Conference

BEA2006: Convergence Shockwave

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

 

Traditional Journalistic Authority

 

By Thomas E. Ruggiero, associate professor in the Communication Department at the University of Texas at El Paso

 

Historically speaking, the prominence of established media technologies such as motion pictures, radio, newspapers and network television have vacillated in popularity, and often have been forced to evolve as newer technologies have developed and diffused. While it is not yet certain that Internet news content will eventually displace traditional news content, historical patterns of competition among mass media provide evocative evidence for the process of convergence and a change in the traditional role of journalists.

 

Correspondingly, hyperbole about the Internet as the single most constructive and revolutionary force in journalism since the invention of the printing press abounds. But some journalists continue to perceive the Internet as an unreliable news source. An apt example of the cause of their concern occurred when a Brazilian student, Marcio A.V. Carvalho, spread false information on the Internet the night after September 11, 2001. He asserted that CNN video of Palestinians celebrating the terrorist attack on the U. S. was really Persian Gulf War-era file footage from a decade earlier. The video that aired on CNN and other networks was in fact shot by a Reuters TV crew in the hours after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Yet with no further corroboration or elaboration from others, Carvalho's e-mail dispatch dashed around the world at a speed only the Internet can offer. Within 24 hours, the story had spread so extensively that The St. Petersburg Times began to organize a news series to discredit September 11 rumors such as this one.

 

More recently, a site called India Daily passed through Google's rigorous approval process and is included in their index of news sources. An April 2005 story headline reads "Exterrestrial UFO communications systems use information transfer between dimensions through tiny mega intensity energy modules." Other Internet news hoaxes have ranged from Pierre Salinger's allegation that a U.S. Navy missile downed TWA Flight 800, to novelist Kurt Vonnegut's nonexistent MIT commencement speech in which he advised the Class of '97 to "wear sunscreen, sing, floss and do one thing everyday that scares you."

 

Despite these examples of Internet "news" duplicity—and there are countless more—the journalistic mandate is to continue to produce legitimate news even in the face of the rapid incursion of convergence on traditional journalistic formats. Whether journalists are prepared or not, technology and business fervor is fast eroding the previous presumption that the Fourth Estate possesses an exclusive constitutional mandate, or what Haiman calls the "monopoly of traditional media coverage."

 

Blogs appear to some to offer a particularly potent challenge to the authority of traditional journalists. Dave Winer, CEO of Userland.com, celebrates the non-professional nature of blogs and their nearly revolutionary potential to supersede traditional media as news gatekeepers: We're returning to what I call amateur journalism, created for the love of writing, without expectation of financial compensation. This process is fed by the changing economics of the publishing industry, which is employing fewer writers and editors. The Web has taught us to expect more information, not less. Winer says the paradigm shift conventional journalists are facing is how to retain relevancy to a populace that can create for themselves what the big publications refuse to produce.  Others, however, are not yet persuaded. Martin Nisenholtz, CEO of New York Times Digital, speculates against the blog phenomenon surpassing the primacy of traditional news sources. He says readers need a source of information that is unbiased, accurate and coherent. News organizations such as The New York Times can provide that far more consistently than private parties can. Besides, the Weblog phenomenon does not represent anything fundamentally new in the news media; The New York Times has been publishing individual points of view on its Op Ed page for 100 years.

 

In spite of Nisenholtz's bravado, rather than dismissing the blog phenomenon, a growing number of traditional news organizations are "converging" and incorporating blogs as part of their news content, including The New York Times, The San Jose Mercury News, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Boston Globe, the Congressional Quarterly, the Guardian in the United Kingdom and The San Francisco Bay Guardian.

 

A 2005 Pew Research Center for the People and the Press survey shows favorable ratings for daily newspapers, and favorability ratings for local TV news and network TV news have all remained fairly stable since July 2001, even as public attitudes toward the news media have declined. The same survey, however, begins to hint at the progressive convergence of print news content: One third of Americans below age 40 name the Internet as their main source of news, and many of these people are reading newspapers online. Consequently, while people under age 50 remain far less likely to read a print newspaper than older people, they are turning to local and national newspapers online in fairly significant numbers.

 

For more than a century, traditional journalists have defended their privilege to define the "news." Yet, now at the birth of the twenty-first century, communities are confronted with fewer and fewer newspapers; broadcast news divisions are experiencing waning market shares; and many media consumers appear to be selecting their news from online sources. Furthermore, while negative reaction by mainstream journalists to the Internet as a news source was fiercest in the last decade, it appears to have softened substantially with the proliferation of e-news Web sites worldwide.

 

Ironically, convergence, the Internet and blogs may ultimately represent both a boon and a challenge to the production, distribution and basic forms of conventional media institutions. It's probable that mainstream journalists will eventually have much less difficulty accepting the technological advantages that convergence has to offer, than they will sharing their authority as disseminators of news with "amateur" journalists.

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AMBER Alert: Convergence at Work

 

By April Brown, Master of Mass Communication student at the University of South Carolina 

 

The AMBER Alert System offers a good, practical example of convergence at work in this day and age. The AMBER Alert, an early warning system used to notify the public about abducted children, crosses media boundaries to distribute information, particularly in the critical first three hours after abduction. The Department of Justice awarded the University of South Carolina's College of Mass Communication and Information Studies a $200,000 grant to conduct 25 one-day training sessions for broadcasters, law enforcement personnel, and others involved in AMBER Alerts.  The purpose of the training is to help develop the processes and procedures through which broadcasters and law enforcement personnel disseminate AMBER Alerts in the future.  USC's Newsplex facility was selected because of its ability to simulate AMBER Alerts in an environment with the latest technology and convergent media practices. The training sessions for broadcasters, law enforcement personnel and AMBER Alert coordinators will begin in October and run through August 2006.

 

Although the primary media for AMBER Alerts are television and radio, the system also uses highway signs, the Internet, and cell phone text messaging to disseminate information about abducted children. USC's program will train participants on how to use these media to disseminate AMBER Alerts in the most effective way.

 

USC faculty members will lead training participants through analysis of the AMBER Alert system in preparation for a series of mock scenarios. The participants will study cases of past alerts before they work through these scenarios as a team. The scenarios are designed to walk the participants through each step of a potential AMBER Alert, forcing participants to make decisions in regards to what media outlets should be contacted, when they should be contacted and what information should be shared. The training will emphasize how these choices could affect the outcome of a future alert.

 

Hugh Munn, a former law enforcement officer and current public relations instructor at USC, was approached by the Department of Justice to create the training because the DOJ saw the need for broadcasters to be trained by journalists who understand the complexities of the newsroom. According to Munn, the training sessions offer broadcasters and law enforcement the opportunity to work together and gain perspective on the others' role in an AMBER Alert. "Our goal is to make AMBER Alerts more effective," says Munn. "It all comes down to communication and practice. Time is our most precious resource in an AMBER Alert, and the training is designed to make alerts more effective, saving lives."

 

The AMBER Alert is a voluntary effort between law enforcement agencies and broadcasters to activate an alert system that motivates the community to assist in searching for abducted children. AMBER stands for America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response. The name was created as a legacy for 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was abducted on January 13, 1996, while riding her bicycle in the parking lot of an abandoned grocery store in Arlington, Texas and later murdered by her abductor. The Arlington community was outraged and in the aftermath, locals questioned the lack of an alert system. In response, radio managers of Arlington developed an idea and proposed it to Public Information Officer (now Sheriff) Dee Anderson, who was in charge of the Hagerman case. In December 1996, the AMBER Alert plan was unveiled, and the first activation occurred in July 1997.

 

In 1998, the plan gained national acclaim, and in 2002, President George W. Bush directed the Department of Justice to set up its own AMBER plan. A year later he signed the PROTECT Act of 2003. Today all 50 states have plans. In addition, there are also 27 regional plans in the United States and a plan for every province in Canada. The AMBER Alert system is also slated to go international; Sheriff Anderson indicated that England has finished developing its plan and Australian officials have contacted him for direction on developing a plan.

 

Through USC's training and resources, the AMBER Alert system will continue to evolve as an effective and timely method of notifying the public about abducted children. Using a convergence of media, the AMBER Alert is developing to meet the needs of an increasingly technology savvy public.

 

For more information on how to get involved with the training and the AMBER Alert system, contact Augie Grant at 803-777-4464 or email augie@sc.edu.

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The "Dark Side" of Convergence

 

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

 

Now that The Convergence Newsletter is in its third year of publication, I have had an opportunity to look across the articles that we've published to see what patterns emerge. Many of these patterns are good (the sharing of research findings, conference information, and a wide variety of perspectives on convergence, for example), but one pattern is disturbing—we have yet to publish an article offering a strong critique of convergent journalism.

 

In creating this newsletter, one of my goals was to provide a balance of information regarding convergent media practices and perspectives, and that meant that this newsletter could not become a "cheerleader" for the convergence movement. That goal has not been achieved.

 

This failure is not from lack of trying. Indeed, I've made personal appeals for such articles to a number of colleagues across the country who have offered critical comments relating to the wide range of activities in media convergence that emerge from this office. I remember begging an article from a colleague from one of our peer universities who indicated that his program was not converged and would never converge. He made a number of strong points in favor of keeping his curriculum as it was, but he was not willing to go "on the record" to make those points.

 

So why the concern? As a staunch advocate of converged media, I want to make sure that all sides of the issue are addressed. Virtually every school that has attempted to implement a converged curriculum has made a misstep or two—if we can document these, we can help others avoid the same mistakes.

 

The areas of concern are numerous:

 

You certainly can add your own examples to this list. In fact, I invite to you take one of these topics, or one of your own, and prepare a brief commentary on the subject that we can publish in a future edition of this newsletter. Your article can be theoretical, practical, historical, speculative or cautionary, addressing any dimension of convergent journalism or converged media in general.

 

Of course, you can also submit articles that balance the positive and negative aspects of convergence, and I know that we will continue to publish research on commentary on the benefits of converged media. But this forum needs to do more to provide a balanced view of the impacts of convergence.

 

At a future time, I'll address the other patterns that I've observed regarding the content of this newsletter. It will be a lot more fun looking at the positive side. But for now, the mission is for this newsletter to present a much broader range of perspectives on convergence. I eagerly await your input.

 

To submit an article or commentary, or to comment on this commentary, email convergence-editor@mailbox.sc.edu.

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---------------Newsplex News

 

Interest in Convergence is Worldwide

 

By Randy Covington, director of the Ifra Newsplex and assistant professor of journalism at the University of South Carolina

 

When the Ifra Newsplex opened in the fall of 2002, there were some who said it was ahead of its time. Now almost three years later, it is become increasingly apparent all over the world that the newsroom of the future needs to be different from the newsroom today.

 

Whether in Europe or in Asia, media houses are wrestling with very similar issues—circulation that generally is declining, an audience that is fragmenting, and new media that are being produced and used in increasingly creative ways. So it is not surprising that media houses are turning to the Newsplex knowledge base for help.

 

In September, a second Newsplex will open at Ifra headquarters in Darmstadt, Germany. (Ifra is the world's leading association of newspaper publishers with more than 3,000 members in 70 different countries.) Newsplex Europe primarily is intended to serve the European market. It will offer hands on training in weeklong increments, as at the U.S. Newsplex, as well as special seminars on topics such as backpack journalism and Podcasting.

 

Over the summer, I learned the conversation about convergence is indeed a global one. I have done presentations in Seoul, Korea; Cains, Australia; Prague, the Czech Republic, and Madrid, Spain. While I was many miles and time zones away from Columbia, S.C., the issues and questions were identical to the ones we hear from journalists and academics who come to Newsplex.

 

Media houses are turning to Newsplex for answers, and, quite frankly, there is much we can learn from them. As I travel, it is interesting to see how experiments in new media journalism, such as OhmyNews in Korea and the use of SMS as a reader feedback tool in Australia, are achieving success. In fact, I will have more to say about OhmyNews and its style of citizen journalism in a future edition of The Convergence Newsletter.

 

Continuing on this one world theme, this fall some of the world's leading media houses will come to the U.S. Newsplex for training, including the Guardian Media Group from the UK, El Tiempo from Bogota, Colombia and two groups of newspaper executives from Norway. It would seem this is a good time to be in media, and especially new media, almost anywhere in the world.

 

Newsplex at the University of South Carolina Web site: http://newsplex.sc.edu

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

 

Adplexing: Cross-Media Advertising Tools & Techniques

IfraNewsplex

September 19-22, 2005

Columbia, South Carolina, USA

http://newsplex.org/program/training_adplexing05.shtml

 

The IfraNewsplex's four-day Adplexing seminar is in its third year. It is reflective of the explosive growth of the cross-media advertising phenomenon that has been taking the media world by storm. Millions of dollars, euros and pounds are being made building a cross-media advertising enterprise, and this workshop will show you how to build one and maximize its revenue-making potential.

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Conference on Media Convergence: Cooperation, Collisions and Change

Co-sponsored by Brigham Young University and the 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. A showcase of convergent media practices will run concurrent with the academic conference. 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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Society of Professional Journalists Convention & National Journalism Conference

Oct. 16-18, 2005

Las Vegas, USA

www.spj.org

 

The Society of Professional Journalists' National Convention offers 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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The Association for Women in Communications 2005 Professional Conference

October 20-22, 2005

Lubbock, Texas, USA

http://www.womcom.org/

 

The Association for Women in Communications is a professional organization that champions the advancement of women across all communication disciplines by recognizing excellence, promoting leadership and positioning its members at the forefront of the evolving communications era. 

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Citizens Media Summit

October 24, 2005

University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA

http://www.j-newvoices.org/index.php/site/story/citizens_media_summit/

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2005 Online News Association Conference

October 28-29, 2005-October 29, 2005

New York, New York, USA

http://www.onlinenewsassociation.org/news/archives/000144.php

 

The conference will explore topics such as Defining Online Journalism, What's Still New in New Media, Participatory Journalism What's That all About?, Web Analystics, Working Without a Net and a Blogging 'how-to.' 

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Broadcast Education Association

Convergence Shockwave:  Change, Challenge and Opportunity

April 27-29, 2006

Las Vegas, USA

www.beaweb.org 

 

The BEA2006 Conference aims to create a forum for discussion and research on the issues that face media convergence today. The deadline for research papers is December 2, 2005. 

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

 

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.  +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

---------------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

Augie Grant, Ph.D.

augie@sc.edu

 

Editor

Jordan Storm

convergence-news@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.

 

This newsletter 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

 

To subscribe, unsubscribe or edit your information, please send a message to convergence-editor@mailbox.sc.edu or write to The Convergence Newsletter c/o School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208.