The Convergence Newsletter

From Newsplex at the University of South Carolina

Vol. III No. 5 (November 2, 2005)


Commenting on 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


We might be taking the wrong approach to teaching convergence. That was the most challenging idea that occurred to me at the conclusion of the Media Convergence Conference at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah last month.


The conference included a wide range of research and technology demonstrations that provided a great number of ideas about the extent of convergence in the media in general and newsrooms in particular. The conference also looked at how some academic programs are preparing their students for converged careers.


As in previous conferences, a number of presenters described their curricula and the process of curriculum development. The underlying theme of these presentations was a realization that individual programs need to address convergence, but each one had a different way of preparing students for careers in reporting across multiple media. One of the most interesting presentations in this regard was made by BYU’s Quint Randle (co-chair of the conference) and Dale Cressman, who discussed the latest revisions in the BYU curriculum. Their presentation made it clear that BYU has retreated from having one of the most converged curricula to having fewer opportunities for students to work across media. (You’ll read more about these changes in the December newsletter.)


Preceding that presentation was a panel of journalists, editors and managers from the Salt Lake City market, who, among other things, requested that schools of journalism do more to prepare students for careers in converged journalism. When pressed by the audience of academics, a few of these practitioners confessed that they almost never hired a new graduate of a journalism school, but rather looked to hire reporters with a degree and a few years experience.


Putting these observations together with a few side comments made in other presentations yielded an interesting conclusion: Perhaps the place for training journalists to work across media is NOT in our undergraduate programs, but rather in post-graduate programs. Options include continuing education courses and workshops, certificate programs and graduate degrees, all of which allow journalists the opportunity to continue to build their skills after earning their bachelor’s degrees in journalism.


A few important hurdles stand in the way of any form of post-graduate education. Journalists must have the time and money to afford the training, and their employers must buy into the idea that the journalists they hire may not be “finished products,” but rather can have increased value through additional training. This hurdle is not easily overcome.


In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that one of the objectives of Ifra’s Kerry Northrup in bringing Newsplex to the University of South Carolina was to provide a place where media organizations could send their employees for this type of mid-career training. One of my personal goals in working with this newsletter, the annual Convergence Conference and the other media convergence activities here at USC has been to learn how we can better teach convergent media skills at all levels of academia, learning lessons from other schools and the media.


That brings us to the theme of the next two issues of The Convergence Newsletter. This issue, as well as December’s, will be dedicated to looking at convergence in academia by examining the good, the bad and the ugly, using both interviews with and articles written by academics. Your thoughts and experiences should be an important part of this discussion, and you are invited to contact the editor of the newsletter, Jordan Storm, at to share your observations.


Past newsletters can be viewed at  



Feature Articles

Indiana University’s Experiences with Teaching Convergence: Snags and Successes


USC Annenberg Students are Learning the Traditional Model and Then Breaking It


CUNY and Convergence



Conference Information

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 Audience0


BEA2006: Convergence Shockwave


Newsplex Summer Seminar Series


World Editors Forum


Convergence and Society: Ethics, Religion and New Media



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


Indiana University’s Experiences with Teaching Convergence: Snags and Successes


By Gena Asher, Convergence Forum Editor, Indiana University


Ten years ago, Indiana University’s School of Journalism began taking steps toward a converged curriculum, but the work is far from complete. True to the very nature of converged media, a converged curriculum must be refined and reexamined as new technology and methods emerge.


But the 10-year mark is a time for reflection and assessment. Associate professor David Boeyink, director of the curriculum reform project, says faculty members learned from the obstacles they stumbled over; he believes sharing this experience may help others attempting to devise a converged curriculum.


“In the end, the problems each of us faces in the academic challenge brought by convergence may the most important things we can discuss,” he writes in an article set to appear in the Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication (ASJMC)’s upcoming Insights magazine.


Boeyink outlines these problems and how faculty dealt with them. First, a list of goals to guide the discussion kept the work on track for more than a decade, but failed to include “critical thinking” as a goal. And, this set of guidelines emphasized changes in curriculum but left out objectives related to traditional skills.


The plan that was ultimately adopted has three goals. Students would continue to be encouraged to develop one area of expertise. At the same time, all students would be exposed to multiple ways of communicating visually (photo, video, graphic design) and verbally (newspapers, magazines, broadcast, online). Finally, in challenging students to think about how shifting audiences can be reached, the focus would be on problem solving (critical thinking) as a way to prepare students for unpredictable changes in the future.


The first to undergo curricular changes were three core courses: two levels of reporting and editing and one visual communications course. The introductory level reporting and editing course was transformed from a newspaper class to a multimedia course in writing for newspaper, magazine and television audiences.


In the second level course, students spend 10 weeks working on a major reporting project that requires multiple sources (library, online and experts) and a human focus. The final story is then edited for a Web magazine, adding online experience to each student’s multimedia training.


Visual communication, the third class, is IU's introduction to visual literacy. Formerly a photography course, it now includes photography, video and graphic design.


Reallocating resources to accommodate these changes was problematic. The plan required a commitment from full-time faculty to teach two basic-level skills courses rather than advanced skills and theory courses. The commitment of full-time faculty to these beginning courses has not been sustained, Boeyink says. Graduate students now staff a majority of these sections.


“Projects like these, particularly when they add to the workload of faculty and staff, can run out of steam. One conclusion: Faculty committed to keeping their major responsive to the changes in communication, commerce and culture may need to consider curricular reform as a perpetual, rather than a periodic, process,” he writes.


As other schools have experienced, faculty often do not feel comfortable teaching out of their areas of expertise. The three core courses altered to include convergence changes now would include reporting and editing in different media, some of which were new to teaching faculty. Through funds from the Knight Foundation, the school conducted workshops to train faculty and instructors. Still, there were snags.


“Faculty can learn the basics, reporting and writing, in other media. But it isn’t clear how competent they are to evaluate student work outside their area of expertise,” Boeyink explains. “Can a person trained in graphic design grade a video assignment? Can a faculty member with professional experience in newspapers judge a student’s broadcast writing? None of IU’s summer workshops provided training on this critical task.” One solution is to have those with experience create grading rubrics for others to use as guides.


For both teachers and students, new technology presented its own issues. As part of the project, IU created a digital lab for all forms of visual communication. Again, there were problems: Broadcast editing was particularly difficult to integrate into the multipurpose digital lab because of its extensive technological requirements.


The key lesson, Boeyink says, is that simpler is better. Using stripped-down versions of robust programs and templates to limit design tasks allows students to learn what is important: how to communicate with an audience.


Students already felt as if they had to master software and technology, sometimes at the expense of good reporting and writing.


“When a new technology is introduced, that camera or software can highjack the course,” Boeyink says. “At IU, we came slowly to the realization that making the technology transparent (i.e., simple) allows students to focus on the best strategies for communicating new, useful information to audiences.”


Technology eats up another precious resource: money. In addition to a digital lab and equipment in classrooms, the school has three full-time technical staff members.


To further examine these issues, the IU School of Journalism produced a CD-Rom detailing the 10-year curricular evolution. Last year, the school launched a Web site, The Convergence Forum (, to offer a place for educators dealing with convergence and curriculum issues to submit materials and ideas, to swap stories of what worked and what didn’t and to get advice.


“If we believe critical thinking and problem solving are at the core of journalism education, we are practicing that in the creation of a converged curriculum,” says Boeyink.


Complete details on Indiana University’s convergence project can be found at A free CD-ROM on IU’s experience is available by e-mailing David Boeyink at Contact Gena Asher at  



USC Annenberg Students are Learning the Traditional Model and Then Breaking It


By Larry Pryor, Associate Professor of Journalism, University of Southern California, Annenberg School for Communication


Our school embraced convergence – at least one form of it – four years ago. With hardly a dissent, we tore up our journalism curriculum and came up with a new vision: a core curriculum for entering journalism students (sophomores) in which all students must study print, broadcast and online, in writing, reporting and production, a total of nine two-unit courses. This has been a costly, disruptive and painful experience for everyone. But has it been worth it? Would we do it again? Absolutely.


With the possible exception of smaller newspaper and TV news outlets, the media scene in the United States is undergoing tectonic change. Anyone who buys into that statement has to take a hard look at what is being taught. As a reality check, ask industry thought-leaders in your market what they want, as we did recently in a survey of 25 of them across the country in varying media. They told us they want J-School graduates who can write well, especially on deadline, who interview skillfully and are able to check a fact. The basics. But not far down their wish list is the ability to craft a story for multiple media – radio, a Web site, TV news, a wire and print. And if a reporter can carry a camera, shoot some video for the Web site, capture sound during an interview and zap it back to the newsroom for use on the Web or radio, so much the better.


But, these editors and broadcast news executives told us, don’t become fixated on “gadgets.” Don’t burn up valuable class time teaching the fine points of a piece of software. What they are looking for are new hires who understand concepts, ways of thinking visually, of understanding what today’s audiences’ want, in addition to being able to report and write news well. They said they want flexible, competent reporters who are both accurate and technically aware. They will do the final training, especially since many newsrooms have idiosyncratic hardware-software combinations.


We feel our core curriculum brings us closer to meeting those industry requirements. Anecdotal reports from our summer interns and most recent graduates indicate high satisfaction with their tactical skills, such as posting to the Web or appreciation for the visual component of communication. They say employers found them more valuable and gave them better assignments. Our core curriculum graduates are just entering the job market and we intend to keep close tabs on them. So far, the convergence curriculum has been largely a leap of faith.


Our uncertainties have been raised to new levels each time we sense the definition of convergence changing. We began planning five years ago with the Orlando-Tampa Bay model, a vision of combining traditional print, TV news and Web sites into one franchise, each organization feeding the other with no set publishing times. Whoever gets the story first in the combined newsroom runs with it. The news cycle runs 24/7. Except that’s not how those converged news operations actually worked. They had subtle variations (Tampa had an NBC affiliate, Orlando had a loosely affiliated 24-hour cable news station), exceptions to news-sharing policy and seemingly no way to sell ads across platforms or to share revenues among the platforms. Other variations of Orlando-Tampa appeared and each seemed, at least to us, to have a unique definition of convergence. Now the term is applied to media mergers, TV sets accepting Internet feeds, “backpack” reporters who seemingly can do it all from the field, write to a news blog, send back compelling video and populate photo galleries.


Where does that leave the journalism educator? What will our sophomores confront this fall when they graduate? No doubt, a lot more demand for both basic and multimedia skills. That should be a given, and we have to prepare them for that. But beyond skills, talent and energy, as reporters and writers they will need something more subtle, an attribute that we are scrambling to provide with little success and great strife among faculty members, particularly as we train journalists to report for today’s autonomous citizens who have access a vast variety of information sources.


Today’s media reality requires new ways for journalists to perceive themselves and leads us to the fundamental questions of who is a journalist and what their role in society should be. Traditionally, we have seen ourselves as educators, fact diggers, information purveyors, aggregators of data, gatekeepers who block the false and the trivial. But once a commitment is made to new media, much of that goes out the window.


Internet users don’t buy into the journalist as authority figure. They want news, when they want it and where they want it. And it had better be conversational and crafted in ways that appeal to their appetites and preferences for engagement. In short, it had better be compelling, both substantive and entertaining. How do we teach that? Obviously, we can’t. The best we can do is create classroom environments where students feel motivated to experiment with the fluidity, speed and “realism” of new forms of storytelling. Video on the Web is turning out to be totally unlike “studio” TV news. By network or local news TV standards, shots on the Web run uncut for an ice age of more than a minute. The camera pans, it jiggles and shakes as the Internet videographer takes us into his or her reality. We see stories from their point of view. They pull us into the scene and we join them, sometimes on a gruesome, even terrifying adventure. We see a roomful of dead bodies. We sit with women who describe how their children were murdered before their eyes. We enter combat in Iraq.


The media thought-leaders we surveyed warned us not to become stodgy. “When you are a traditional journalist,” said one editor, “you think … well, I’m Moses and I’m carrying the tablets down from the mountain.” But instead of creating journalists who feel divinely ordained, the editor said, “I would be alerting students to the media landscape as converged between entertainment and news.”


It is not all bad that we are being asked to come back to Earth and converse with readers and listeners. In many ways, it harks back to a more romantic image of the journalist. Rewrite desks are back in operation and students will have to dictate stories. Superstar reporters who parachute into a disaster and take the next rental car out of town will be passé. Enter the intrepid foreign correspondent that stays, who comes fully primed with research, who is not against asking the audience to provide guidance, background, tips on how to cover a story better. Technology allows the Internet reporter to be in constant contact with the audience, especially through blogs. Maybe this is the true meaning of convergence: the appearance of a new public space, a meeting area between the journalist and the citizen, where they interact in new and experimental ways. Where the audience is invited to be part of the news process and to help define what is relevant.


This concept of a shared responsibility for defining the news doesn’t fit well with the one-way, one-to-many paradigm of commercial mass media. In many ways, they are antithetical. One is occupationally defined. A journalist from a traditional news organization works hard to corroborate information from a stable of reliable sources. And that relationship with informers enjoys First Amendment protections (at least in theory at the federal level and in fact in many states). The journalist is set apart, a specialist at discerning truths. The second view of a journalist is situationally defined. A blogger can be a journalist today and a citizen tomorrow. A reporter or columnist, our media thought-leaders said, would be wise to pay these part-timers close attention. Some of them are very smart and well educated, while others have narrow fields of expertise or deep experience, to a level that no journalist could reach. A bullfighter, for example. Or knowing that an uncle has a tobacco shop in Jakarta that is just around the corner from the reporter in the field. If he or she would link up, he speaks English and knows the territory.


Where does that leave our school and its commitment to convergence? We know that the curriculum can’t be static. It will have to be as susceptible to change as the media landscape. At least some faculty members will have to undergo training, especially in production software and in computer assisted reporting methods. Students are going to have to drop the “marketing silo” approach to preparing for future jobs and recognize that the world doesn’t work that way now. Even a dedicated print investigative reporter has to be prepared to explain a story in 90 or 120 seconds on TV and write a version to the Web site and another version to the radio wire.


There’s no place to hide from technology. We will continue to subject our students to print, broadcast and online courses. But our curriculum revision now under way makes one concession. We are moving our required online instruction for all students into the first semester of the junior year and placing more emphasis on writing and reporting in print and broadcast during the sophomore year. That way, students bring better skills to the online class, which is being condensed from six to three units. Students who are more confident will be better able to experiment with storytelling and make better use of the briefer time. They can learn the traditional mold and then have fun breaking it.



CUNY and Convergence: Dean Stephen Shepard talks about developing a graduate journalism program with convergence and new media in mind.


Editor’s note: In addition to sharing established journalism and mass communications programs’ perspectives of convergence in the classroom, The Convergence Newsletter is including the following piece on a graduate journalism program in the making. Dean Stephen Shepard of the City University of New York’s graduate journalism program, which is set to open its doors to students in 2006, spoke with me on October 24, 2005 about his view of convergence and how CUNY is conceptualizing and incorporating convergence and new media into the development plans of its new program.


Q: In The Chronicle of Higher Education you stated CUNY is starting the Graduate School of Journalism from scratch. Would you share a few words about your plans?


A: It is going to be a three-semester program with summer internships between the second and third semesters. We decided on three semesters because we didn’t think it (the program) could be done in one year and perhaps two years would be too long, so we settled on one and half years.


We are seeking convergent media tracks, blending print and broadcast media with elements of new media. New media will be a required course in the first semester, as well as a separate track in the program. All students will have the opportunity to study new media.


There will be subject concentrations for all students, including business and economics, urban journalism and health and medicine. A year later we will add arts and culture. Each concentration will require a three-course sequence.


We are also building a 40,000-square-foot building in the heart of Times Square in the building that housed the New York Herald Tribune. It will be wireless and [state of the art].


Our school will offer a Master of Arts degree. Like Columbia and Berkeley we will not offer undergraduate courses. 


Q: What is your definition or understanding of convergence?


A: Convergence means that text, audio, video, interactivity and hyper-linking will all come together in news packages. All journalists will have to learn about audio, video, hyper-linking and interactivity.


Q: How are you going to teach or not teach convergence in the department?


A: We have hired one of the leading experts, Jeff Jarvis. He is a leading blogger and founding editor of Entertainment Weekly. He also worked at the Newhouse organization developing Web sites and their newspapers and as a consultant to the New York Times Company. We will figure it out together. As in any field, you hire the best.


Q: What are you looking for in your faculty in regards to convergence?


A: We are looking to hire faculty in traditional journalism but are looking for people who  understand that the world is changing.


Q: Do you think your program will change in the future in response to convergence?


A: Yes, but we don’t know exactly how. There is an advantage to starting now to build in from scratch as much as possible.


Q: What do you think the CUNY graduate journalism program will be known for?


A: The school will be known for new media, traditional journalism, high ethics standards, a community news service, a good internship program and getting students placed in good jobs. And we will attract a diverse group of students.


Q: In regards to convergence, what do you think is the biggest need the academy should address?


A: An understanding of how new media fit in [is needed], what standards there should be for blogging, and anything else that comes along. There is a tendency to throw out the old, but we need to [cover] the best of both worlds. There has to be a synthesis of old and new. We need to teach new skills and old skills.





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 convention


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.



The University of South Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communications

Newsplex Summer Seminar Series

May 18-30, 2006

Columbia, South Carolina, USA


Four separate seminars will be held at Newsplex in May and June 2006, ranging in topic from a broad overview of convergence trends to more specific training in Web publishing and specific software operation. The seminars are:


May 12-18, 2006: Convergence Software Bootcamp

May 22-26, 2006: Teaching and Research in Convergent Journalism

June 12-16, 2006: Web publishing in Convergent Journalism

June 26-30, 2006: Convergence Software Bootcamp


For more information, or to reserve a spot, visit: or e-mail Augie Grant:



World Association of Newspapers

World Editors Forum

June 4-7, 2006

Moscow, Russia



---------------Interesting Blogs


Scott Lunt of Brigham Young University has created a blog (

) and podcast URL ( of the 2005 Convergence Conference in Provo, Utah. If you missed the conference, or if you would like to revisit the sessions, be sure to check them both out.




Publishing a book about Convergence? The Convergence Newsletter regularly publishes information about new and upcoming books on convergent journalism. Send your submissions to +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


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