The Convergence Newsletter

From Newsplex at the University of South Carolina

Vol. III No. 4 (October 6, 2005)


Commenting on Convergence


By Jordan Storm, editor of The Convergence Newsletter


Throughout the past month, journalists and non-journalists alike have used new technologies to cover Hurricane Katrina in creative ways. Evoking strong responses in audience members, Katrina coverage has resulted in what Jay Rosen calls deliberative dialogue, public problem solving, cooperative and complementary action and, finally, the value of hope, understood as a renewable resource in the public (Public Journalism: Theory and Practice, 1997, p.14).


This issue of The Convergence Newsletter tracks some of the ways media convergence is helping to redefine the field of journalism. Susan Robinson of Temple University remarks on the shifting roles of citizen and journalist in her critique of Hurricane Katrina coverage, while Elliot Masie, president of The MASIE Center, provides a first-hand account of his experiences at CNN the day after Katrina hit. Former photojournalist Colin Mulvany also shares the lessons he learned while transitioning into a full-time role as video journalist for The Spokesman-Review’s Web site. In the final article, Jan Shaffer describes how the new J-Learning Web site provides a ‘how-to’ guide to design and launch a community news Web site, opening up what Sue Robinson calls new gateways for new journalists.


Next week we will be in Provo, Utah gathering the latest research at the Media Convergence Conference.  If you will be attending the conference, please stop and chat with us; we would love to hear your thoughts regarding the newsletter, especially how we can make it a better resource for you. 


On a purely practical note, to eliminate readability issues, subscribers of the newsletter will receive the full text of the issue by e-mail each month.  Previously an abbreviated newsletter was issued with links to the full text.  Past newsletters can be viewed at  


Jordan Storm is working toward a Master of Arts degree at the University of South Carolina. Contact her at



Feature Articles

Technology and Katrina: How Gatekeepers are Becoming Gateways

Rapid Development...Content Objects...Learning Implications: Special Report: CNN Newsroom in   

     the Midst of Katrina

Making the Transition from Photojournalist to Vlogger: Convergence in Practice

There’s a Lot You Can Learn at



Conference Information

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

Ifra/WAN/FIPP World Digital Publishing Conference: Beyond the Printed Word

Southern Newspaper Publishers Association Annual Convention

What’s Next for Online: Seminar for Senior-Level Executives

Citizen Media: Engaging an Empowered Audience

BEA2006: Convergence Shockwave

World Editors Forum



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


Technology and Katrina: How Gatekeepers are Becoming Gateways


By Sue Robinson, Ph.D. student, Temple University 


Hurricane Katrina blew into the Gulf coast and knocked out printing presses and network signals. Local reporters and photographers penned and clicked nevertheless, their products appearing in cyberspace. But, there in that virtual world, they were joined by … well … everybody. The resulting Web journalism further obfuscated the delineation between news producers and their audiences that first began blurring after the convergence seen in the wake of 9/11.


The staff of the Times-Picayune in New Orleans and other publications turned to their Web sites to report what was happening, as the reporters became characters even in their own stories. Online, citizens were asked for their stories and photos, joining “real” journalism in side-by-side blogs. In the last Convergence Newsletter, Thomas Ruggiero called this latter phenomenon “amateur journalism.” But, the trends occurring from within these traditional journalism publications reflect more fundamental shifts in traditional concepts and understandings of media and audience roles.


Much of the shift can be attributed to technology. Just as print standards evolved in part because of the telegraph (and television objectives in part because of the broadcast medium), Web journalism is shaped by Internet attributes, particularly multimedia and interactivity. Where once the focus of the journalistic mission centered on instrumental and informative roles, today the purpose also incorporates creating a space for dialogue, experience and connection. Some of these new concepts can be found in Mark Deuze’s online journalism model, which suggests that the platform of news publications incorporates a dialogic, monitorial function. He wrote in 2003: “The content of a news medium is fully maintained by journalists interacting with citizens. In other words, a strict division no longer necessarily remains between producers and consumers of news content, as all become ‘prosumers.’”**


Consider the sharing of harrowing tales posted on the Times-Picayune Web site in forums provided by the publication. In these virtual rooms, people called out for missing loved ones, offered help from different states, and related both victim and survivor stories as if in a tête-à-tête over the campfire. Some of the most heartbreaking posts were of trapped doctors in hospitals or elderly grandparents waiting on roofs to be evacuated (relayed by relatives). It was the drama of news broadcasts in real time, without the filters of hours, editors and space.


What transpired on the J-blogs ended up changing the course of the news events themselves (the progress of reality really). This entry is from September 14, 2005 on a Times-Picayune partner, “During the events immediately following the flood, a small group of people (including myself) noticed the rescue requests appearing on this site as well as craigslist and began providing this information to a Search and Rescue team working in New Orleans. I have come to find out this team actually evacuated more than 5 people using the messages on NOLA for guidance.”


Where were the journalists? They were there too, note taking right online, telling of adventures themselves, of narrow escapes and problems with survival and “eye-witness” reports. Reporter blogs unsheathed the normally cloaked institutional news gathering process. Videos and audiotapes available on the site provided yet another layer to the news event for the newspaper.


And yet, it is not as if the typical journalism of hard news was absent. The hard-news stories, complete with their inverted pyramid formulaic writing and the official sources, also appeared. In fact, an electronic version of the Times-Picayune was produced – and it looked exactly like the newspaper would have. Readers could download the entire 15-20-page edition each day into a PDF file for leisurely perusal over bacon and eggs. Who needs printing presses?


So traditional journalism is making room for something else, and lots of something elses. It seems as if convergence is leading not so much to multiple journalisms (though I wouldn’t disagree with this oft-repeated illumination) but rather to an amorphous, dis-institutional journalism in which citizens can report and journalists can be citizens. It would be wise to remember a comment made by Deuze in that 2003 piece that when you change any part of the beast, the beast itself is changed. Perhaps this means that existing standards will need to change. Perhaps current expectations must be altered. We are of course still much too early in this evolution to understand how it will all play out. But for now, we can certainly say that the gatekeeper has become more of a gateway.


** Deuze, M. (2003). The web and its journalisms: Considering the consequences of different types of news media online. New Media & Society, 5(2), 203-230.



Rapid Development ... Content Objects ... Learning Implications:

Special Report: CNN Newsroom in the Midst of Katrina


By Elliott Masie, President of The MASIE Center, Saratoga Springs, NY, USA

(Originally printed August 31, 2005 in the Learning TRENDS Newsletter,


 (Atlanta - August 30) I spent a powerful morning at CNN Headquarters here in Atlanta. The trip had been scheduled for several weeks in order to prepare for the Learning Innovations award that we will present to CNN at Learning 2005 later this fall.


It turned out that the visit happened one day after Katrina hit the Gulf coast and the news tempo turned to "breaking news" with real time news content flowing at an incredible pace.


There were some incredible learnings and observations as I quietly watched the news gathering and assembly process and interviewed the Learning team at CNN. Many of these items relate directly to how organizations will be assembling content in the near future:


* Content From Multiple and Unconventional Sources: The nature of content in journalism is changing dramatically as media flows from non-traditional sources. CNN calls an aspect of this "citizen journalism", as they receive pictures and video feeds from digital cameras and even mobile phones. While I was standing in the newsroom, there were hundreds of citizen journalists feeding content in real time. Each had to be categorized, verified and placed into context. Ironically, many viewers actually see the amateur content as having high credibility, given its non-professional nature. Context is high and the challenge is to integrate this informal content with produced segments.


* Content To Multiple Formats: As content was created in the CNN newsroom, it flowed to multiple formats. Content started as video feeds, became streamed video, text on the Web site and even a mention for a scroll at the bottom of the screen. Each piece of content was "tagged" as it came into the newsroom; timecoded, meta-tags were added with context to be viewed by CNN staff around the world in low-res format. The concept was to see each media object as being highly reusable and redeployable.


* Digital News Gathering: The footprint and format for news production is changing radically as the size and mobility of equipment evolve. I watched newsfeeds coming from CNN reporters using satellite phones (after the cell network dropped). They were even feeding content that was edited on laptops in the field using Final Cut Pro. The reduction in equipment has allowed content to be created and advanced in the field rather than back at headquarters.


* Content Repository: CNN operates a content and media repository that is quite impressive. The content objects are viewable, editable and sharable. Key levels of data are kept for how each object is being used and deployed. Digital Rights Management is tracked, to honor the appropriate use of each media object. I was struck by how easily every CNN staff person could access and work with these content repositories.


* Learning for Performance: The CNN Technology Training team integrates learning about these systems with training on their work processes and methods. Their learning programs focused on the combination of systems knowledge, team work/collaboration and newsroom work processes. Most of the trainers were seasoned newsroom professionals and they provided this intensive training to everyone, including the CNN anchors. I saw the anchors personally accessing the same content and "flow systems" during short breaks from their on-camera segments.


* Rapid Development: While CNN clearly has a breaking news model, it was fascinating to watch this process in action including: Use of templates, collaborative and team based editing and content refinement, focus on content ethics and standards and legal/compliance issues. I witnessed a team of professionals, drawn from a wide set of backgrounds, deeply focused on producing content that had value for viewers and the hurricane's victims.


CNN will be presented the Learning Innovations Award later this month at Learning 2005 in Orlando. Grace Dyson, leader for the CNN Technology Training team, will review their learning approaches. I want to thank Grace and her team for allowing me to witness their process in action on this sad day. I have more to process from this field trip, but that will wait for another day.


Our prayers are with Learning TRENDS colleagues and families in the path of the horrible disaster. Donation for Katrina Relief can be made at



Making the Transition from Photojournalist to Vlogger: Convergence in Practice


By Colin Mulvany, video journalist for The Spokesman-Review’s Web site,, Spokane, WASH., USA


At The Spokesman-Review, convergence has arrived with a twist. Three months ago, I was a still photojournalist with 17 years of experience at the paper. In June, I left that part of my career behind, venturing into the world of video and multimedia storytelling fulltime. I am one of only a handful of video journalists in the U.S. producing exclusive content for newspapers’ online Web sites.


Lately, there has been a lot of buzz about vlogs or video blogs on the Web. Broadband penetration in larger markets has allowed anyone with a video camera and free editing and blogging software to post self-produced videos. As I look at the content of most of these vlogs, I find them to be lacking one important element–storytelling. The videos tend to be poorly shot and edited, containing only snippets of some facet of a vlogger’s life.


These weaknesses have not prevented me from joining the vlogosphere. When I was given the chance to work full-time creating video content for, I struggled with how best to display my work. With all the industry talk about newsroom transparency, I felt that the vlog format might work best. Blogs have become an important part of’s online content. At the end of July my Video Journal vlog went live. Video Journal might be the first true newspaper produced vlog in the country. I posted the last 10 videos I had produced and wrote a little about each one.


The response has been positive from both viewers and colleagues. For me, it has been a learning experience like no other. I have read everything I could find about the process of video production. Last March, my newspaper sent me to the Platypus Workshop, an intensive nine-day video production boot camp. It helped me fill in the gaps of knowledge that I could not find in a manual. The paper also invested $20,000 in a laundry list of essential video gathering related equipment. Having the proper tools has made my transition to multimedia easier. I am beginning to discover what the best stories to tell are and which to avoid - I find intimate stories with one subject work best.


My goal is to produce two three-five minute videos a week as well as one other multimedia Flash based project using still photography and audio. The way it works now is I have a shoot day, then an edit day. On video feature stories, I need more time to edit. Breaking news means I have to make it all happen by the end of my shift. Sometimes I will post a news video that is a rough edit. I then re-post it as soon as I have a final cut version ready.


It seems our local TV news stations spend most of their airtime with reporters telling viewers about a story. Instead, my video essays let the subjects tell the story. I add a voice over narrative only when necessary. The storytelling is intimate and more introspective.


So what advice would I give other reporters or photojournalists who want create video content for their newspaper’s Web site?


Support. Without the complete support of your publication, success will be hard to come by. My foray into video production has the support, in both words and resources, from the publisher on down through the newsroom management.


Training. In order to do video production right, video journalists must commit to time intensive training. I can’t stress enough the importance of attending workshops like the Platypus, because without proper training, most video storytelling looks unprofessional and amateurish.


Commitment. This is new ground for everyone. There has to be a willingness to take chances with every story produced. Experiment. Find what stories work best in your community. I believe it is important for papers to invest in committed employees who want to learn to do multimedia for online. One day, all these skills will just be expected and the trailblazers will be relied on to help train the next wave of multimedia journalists.


I believe video will eventfully become a big part of newspapers’ online content. The discussion of convergence for so long has been about how to re-purpose local TV news content for use on a newspaper’s online Web site. Why bother? With proper training, newspaper photojournalists and reporters can produce better video stories than local TV news. Video will also help stem the loss of readers from the newspaper by keeping them in their online family. As broadband technology improves, so will the way in which online viewers will expect to get their news and information. At, that future has already arrived.



There’s a lot you can learn at


By Jan Schaffer, Executive Director, J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism


While anyone can publish on the Web, many community-publishing newbies suffer from varying degrees of technophobia., a new “how-to” site, walks newcomers, step by step, through the process of designing and launching a community news site. Produced by J-Lab at the University of Maryland, J-Learning also offers suggestions on how to start becoming self-supporting.


Early signs are that it is a welcome addition. In its first month, the site has already attracted a couple thousand users who were visiting, on average, 20 pages per visit — a healthy sojourn.


The Web site offers 20 chapters and more than 60 subsections of basic skills training on how to plan a community news Web site, build it, use the latest off-the-shelf software to add interactive online features, market it and track users.


We’ve tried hard to avoid jargony Web-speak that intimidates many, and we’ve tried to explain all the terms we do use. If users don’t understand one of the site’s tutorials, they can post a question or a comment and we’ll find the answer.


While J-Learning was created to provide technical assistance to fledgling citizen media ventures, we expect that the site will also prove useful to a couple of other audiences: small journalism programs that are trying to teach new media skills, and small-market news organizations where a Web-savvy copy editor or reporter may be tapped to be the new media person.


J-Learning was created as part of J-Lab's "New Voices" project, a $1 million initiative funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. New Voices is a pioneering program that is helping fund the start-up of 20 micro-local news projects with $12,000 grants and foster their sustainability through $5,000 second-year matching grants.


J-Learning offers basic training in Web site creation, HTML, page design and use of photos, audio, video, animation, surveys and databases.


Early feedback has been positive: “As one who has just started to dabble with HTML, I found your presentation (1) demystifying; (2) graphically effective,” offered Jack Driscoll, Editor-in-Residence at MIT’s Media Lab who helped launch the Melrose (MA) Silver Stringers community site.


J-Lab’s staff edited the site’s content. Reporting and researching J-Learning’s topics were Hop Studios' Susannah Gardner and Travis Smith, partners in the Vancouver Internet consulting firm. Gardner is the author of Buzz Marketing with Blogs for Dummies (, published in March 2005, and co-author of two other Internet-publishing guides: Dreamweaver MX 2004 for Dummies and Teach Yourself Visually: Dreamweaver MX 2004.


Travis F. Smith has been a long-time online journalism lecturer in the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California and previously helped to run and the Los Angeles Times Web site.


J-Learning contributes to J-Lab’s mission, which is to help news organizations and citizens use new information ideas and innovative computer technologies to develop new ways for people to engage in public issues. In addition to supporting community media ventures, J-Lab spotlights interactive news exercises and rewards cutting-edge innovations through its annual Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism. J-Lab is a center of the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism.





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



Society of Professional Journalists Convention & National Journalism Conference

Oct. 16-18, 2005

Las Vegas, USA


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.



The Association for Women in Communications 2005 Professional Conference

October 20-22, 2005

Lubbock, Texas, USA


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.



Citizens Media Summit

October 24, 2005

University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA



2005 Online News Association Conference

October 28-29, 2005-October 29, 2005

New York, New York, USA


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.’



Ifra/WAN/FIPP World Digital Publishing Conference

Beyond the Printed Word

November 10-11, 2005

Madrid, Spain



Southern Newspaper Publishers Association Annual Convention

November 13-16, 2005

Palm Beach, FL, USA


The 2005 SNPA Convention program will focus on important changes in the newspaper industry and enormous opportunities that these changes present. SNPA spotlights newspaper companies that are redefining the news business, competing successfully in the digital world, and seizing new technologies to grow readership and profits.



The Poynter Institute

What’s Next for Online: Seminar for Senior-Level Executives

December 1-3, 2005

St. Petersburg, FL, USA



American Press Institute and J-Lab

Citizen Media: Engaging an Empowered Audience

April 4-5, 2006

Reston, Virginia, USA



Broadcast Education Association

Convergence Shockwave: Change, Challenge and Opportunity

April 27-29, 2006

Las Vegas, USA


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.



World Association of Newspapers

World Editors Forum

June 4-7, 2006

Moscow, Russia





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---------------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.



Jordan Storm



---------------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.



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



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