From Newsplex at the University of South Carolina
Vol. III No. 6 (December 8, 2005)
Commenting on Convergence
By Jordan Storm, editor of The Convergence Newsletter
In this issue, which is part two of the two-part series Convergence in the Classroom, Janet Kolodzy details the opportunities convergent media training has created for Emerson University students, Staci Wolfe talks about convergence and the Stauffer Multimedia Newsroom at Kansas University and Quint Randle discusses how convergence has evolved in BYU’s classrooms. This issue also includes a feature from Charles Bierbauer, Dean of USC’s College of Mass Communications and Information Studies, Media Technology: Opportunity or Conundrum. 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.
A Dispatch from the Convergence Trenches
What Defines Convergence?
BYU and Convergence Continued
Media Technology: Opportunity or Conundrum
Citizen Media: Engaging an Empowered Audience
Ver 1.0: Institute for Analytic Journalism
BEA2006: Convergence Shockwave
Newsplex Summer Seminar Series
World Editors Forum
ICA: Networking Communication Research Conference
Convergence and Society: Ethics, Religion and New Media
A Dispatch from the Convergence Trenches
By Janet Kolodzy, assistant professor of journalism, School of Communication, Emerson College
Emerson College’s Journalism Department has been on the convergence front lines for five years now, and I am one of its battle-tested warriors, serving in curriculum development, classroom implementation and even newsroom research. Along the way, I have learned that convergence is a process, not an end result. There is no exit strategy except in terms of helping our students graduate with enough versatility to meet journalism’s ever-changing needs.
To do that, the journalism department set out with a modest convergence plan. We did not pursue a full-bore assault to create the multimedia journalist who knows everything and can do everything. Instead, we waged war against conventional print vs. broadcast track thinking in hopes of creating journalists willing to try different media in reporting and producing news. And we wanted to incorporate online in that new thinking. We did not aim to create convergent journalists as much as we tried to train journalists with convergent thinking. If reports back from our graduates are any indication, we have made headway in doing just that.
Our undergraduate program includes focused convergence training in the beginning journalism courses, allowing students to develop specialization in the middle and latter part of their college career. This “converge, diverge, emerge” strategy aims to get journalism students to see they all have the same mission – informing the public by producing news – even if they choose and use different skills in their journalistic arsenal.
Convergence courses include the traditional history course, law and ethics course, but also a basic reporting (rather than a basic writing) class called “The Newsgathering Process,” and the team-oriented visual/ethics/tools class, “Images of News: Words, Pictures and Sound.” During their sophomore and junior years, students specialize in print or broadcast writing and reporting sequences, while taking electives, including online courses. Then, in their senior year, they can choose a capstone course in their area of specialization – print or broadcast – or a convergence-oriented capstone such as “Public Affairs Reporting.”
On the graduate level, we created a mega, eight-credit, team-taught “Writing and Reporting Across the News Media” class that is required of every incoming graduate student. The class involves intense broadcast/radio work in the first half (10 hours of in-class work weekly). During the second half, students complete intense print/online work. After this first-semester class, graduate students can specialize in print/multimedia or broadcast but are encouraged to use their electives in their non-specialty areas.
Some undergraduate students, particularly print-focused ones, have complained about the relevancy of the introductory “tools/technology” aspect of the program. (“I’ll never use this outside of Images.”). A few of the print-focused graduate students objected to learning broadcast in their first course. Some faculty, particularly in the broadcast sequence, worried about both graduate and undergraduate students lacking the skills needed to do more advanced television reporting and producing work. (“They still shoot blue video.”).
Yet we’ve discovered that many students are taking advantage of convergence thinking and that is leading them to journalism jobs upon graduation. Two 2005 broadcast graduates got their first jobs at community newspapers. Two print-oriented students found their knowledge of audio got them notice at their newspaper’s online Web sites: one as an intern at the Boston Globe, another as a recent hire at the Lowell Sun.
A December 2004 graduate of the master’s program working in Rome wrote in March, “I have officially converged. The pope's ill state has led to media frenzy. Currently, I am working half-time for the Catholic News Service, writing stories and working in the mornings for Rome Reports, a Vatican-based TV news agency - writing, learning how to do stand-ups, etc.” Two other students who specialized in broadcast are working together to put together a multimedia news Web site aimed at young women in their 20s.
Moreover, print students are taking broadcast courses and vice versa. The mix can be refreshing. The Boston Globe reporter teaching our investigative reporting class likes broadcast students because he says they can find information fast. I like print students in my broadcast classes because they push beyond the superficial. The different students’ strengths raise the bar for all students in the class.
Teamwork is beginning to seep through to the faculty; some print faculty members are consulting broadcast faculty and vice versa in dealing with reporting projects outside their expertise. Convergence is both thinking and doing; adding group problem-solving and team coordination and communication skills to reporting and writing. Or as one colleague noted, convergence involves channeling tensions and differences into positives.
What Defines Convergence?
By Staci Wolfe, journalism graduate student and Multimedia Coordinator for the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Kansas
Integrating multimedia - text, graphics, audio and video - means converging traditional media for a mass audience. However, convergence means more than throwing together a smorgasbord of broadcast and print elements on the Web and declaring them a finished product. Convergence means approaching a story from different angles. Reporters and editors must be able to gather and disseminate information for a variety of platforms, and tomorrow’s journalists must be willing and able to work with all forms of media. The key to successful convergence is not focusing on a specific product, but focusing instead on the process.
Established media companies, as well as university journalism schools, struggle to implement convergence. It’s not easy to facilitate collaboration between broadcast and print journalists. At the University of Kansas William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, the Stan and Madeline Stauffer Multimedia Newsroom serves as the conduit for collaboration. The newsroom was designed as a classroom, news center and training lab with one goal in mind – to create an environment that involves all of the school’s converged curriculum.
Our Multimedia Newsroom provides the mindset necessary to make convergence work. At the KU School of Journalism we have an independent, student-run newspaper, the University Daily Kansan and a weekly magazine, Jayplay. We also have KJHK radio news and KUJH-TV News. To some degree, these media organizations work together in the Multimedia Newsroom. For example, the Kansan often shoots, edits and posts its own video to Kansan.com. And, KUJH-TV posts text stories and graphics alongside audio and video on the tv.ku.edu Web site.
The convergence-centered curriculum emphasizes an education in all aspects of multimedia. We want our graduates to have the skills necessary to work in all media – print, broadcast and online. We strive to prepare every news student in the basic skills of text, video and online reporting before they move on to advanced media classes. The faculty believe our students will have to work with a variety of platforms, no matter what medium they choose as their primary emphasis. Students also need to be prepared to traverse between different media.
However, reality does not always deliver on expectations and opportunities.
Journalists should look at convergence as an opportunity wrapped in challenge. That is, convergence promises the opportunity to unshackle multi-media from traditional constraints and reach new audiences. Nevertheless, in order to utilize a converged medium, it is essential for journalists to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the various media.
Our students take multimedia reporting to learn the basic skills of journalism. In addition, they practice editing video and posting stories to the Web. Beyond basic skills, it is necessary to know how to best tell the story. Some news is better explained in print, some needs video in order to show the story, and some needs the interactivity of an online story. The Multimedia Newsroom provides a facility for students to interact and choose the best platform for telling their news story.
Many academics will argue that teaching convergence “waters down” the curriculum and fails to teach the basics of writing and reporting. However, I have seen many students graduate with a better appreciation for different kinds of news. Flexibility and the ability to accommodate change are prerequisites to survival in today’s changing mediascape. As technology evolves, so must budding journalists in order to thrive in the news and information business of the future.
Today journalists must weed out bad information, organize the good and package content for presentation to a variety of audiences on a variety of platforms. This is the future job for which journalists should be prepared.
The KU Journalism School will continue to progress in response to changes in digital platforms and new content models. Convergence is a fact of life at the William Allen White School of Journalism.
To see our program in action, visit the eHub newsroom blog, found online at http://ehub.journalism.ku.edu. This blog takes a look at some of the challenges facing journalists today and documents daily life in the Stauffer Multimedia Newsroom.
In addition to working with faculty and staff, Wolfe helps students design and manage content for the KUJH-TV Web site and manages student shifts in the Multimedia Newsroom. She also assists with multimedia reporting, online production and TV reporting classes.
BYU and Convergence Continued
Editor’s note: Quint Randle and Dale Cressman spoke about BYU’s successes and failures with convergence at the 2005 Convergence Conference in Provo, Utah. Randle, an assistant professor of print journalism at BYU, continued this conversation with me on Nov. 21, 2005. You can link to Randle and Cressman’s conference PowerPoint and podcast presentation at http://cougarcast.blogspot.com/.
Q: What is your definition or understanding of convergence?
A: Oh, goodness. We have been trying to answer that for years. For me it is using new media to become better story tellers. It is not about what medium is best; it is about using the best channel for the best part of the story.
Q: What student media are on your campus? Do they utilize convergence in any way?
A: We have a daily newspaper with a circulation of 18,000, and we have several newscasts a day on television. And then there is a Web site, which, depending on the time of the year and who is in charge, uses content from both places. Like everyone else, we are trying to make content for multimedia.
Q: What are your thoughts on convergence? How do you utilize or not utilize convergence in your classes?
A: For me, it is about finding a balance between teaching too much software [and not teaching enough]. If it is all about being software geeks, they might as well major in IT. We have to help journalists create a competitive product. That is the challenge. It is the same challenge faced in design classes. How much time should they spend learning software or theory while learning how to execute design concepts? There are many different models, including business and ethical. For me it is the story telling model that I like best.
Q: In what ways do you think your program is strong in regards to using or not using convergence, and subsequently, in what ways do you think your program is weak in regards to using or not using convergence?
A: I think early on in the days of convergence we were on top of things. But back then, the standards were different. Then, if you put pictures and text on the Web together, you were converged. How are we strong? To us, right now, the meeting place for students who want to emphasize print and broadcast video, the Web is the place to do it. The key is to offer the lab opportunities as well as the classroom opportunities – while not pushing it down people’s throats. We need to be forward looking to the future. We can look at our mistakes and move forward. We know what works and what doesn’t work. Our strengths are wisdom and experience. We have a large program. As for our weaknesses, it takes time to implement what we are doing. Plus there are other issues. Convergence is not the end-all answer to newspapers’ problems. It is a matter of who uses it. There are broadcast students who just want to get a job. In our old methods, they don’t see what it is going to do for them. There are a number of people who are shortsighted…but other students think this is their thing. We are going to respond to students’ needs, industry needs and what we see going on theoretically.
Q: Regarding convergence, what do you think is the biggest need the academy should address?
A: Textbooks. What is so frustrating is that by the time someone writes one it is so outdated. I am using the Flash textbook by Mindy McAdams. It’s great. It balances theory with a flash how-to. If there were something like that, a companion, with industry and theoretical [issues] it would be great.
Q: Do you think applicants in the job market need to be trained in convergence? And if so, are there jobs for individuals trained in converged media?
A: Yes. My motto is jack of all trades and master of one and a half. Everybody needs to be a killer writer but you need to find something to set you apart. It might not be that you are going to be a multimedia journalist. I do think (students) need to be trained in convergence in terms of packaging; it shows you can think. But I don’t think people can do everything.
Media Technology: Opportunity or Conundrum
By Charles Bierbauer, Dean of the College of Mass Communications and Information Studies, University of South Carolina
(Originally printed in ASJMC Insights, Fall 2005)
TV, radio, wire, Web, newspaper, magazine, cell phone, PDA, podcasts, blogs and even good old-fashioned billboards carry our messages. Sky writers have fallen out of favor, except at the beach. It’s the range of communications media that creates both opportunity and conundrum for journalism educators.
Do we teach ‘em all? Some? Together? Separately? Is convergence a curriculum in and of itself or just part of the mix?
“The best articles, whether written for print, online or broadcast media—or as advertising or public relations materials—tell stories,” Assistant Professor Cecile Holmes explains to students in the syllabus for her Narrative Journalism course in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications here at the University of South Carolina. The final project for her students is a narrative piece “using digital storytelling techniques including images, words and sound or video.”
In general, I tend to use the term “journalism” ecumenically. Like Professor Holmes, I’d apply much of what we learn about multimedia reporting in journalism courses to the other side of the equation—the public relations or advertising courses that seek to persuade across a spectrum of media.
Note her focus on “storytelling” rather than technology. The course is taught, in part, at the Ifra Newsplex, the multimedia laboratory newsroom the college opened in 2002. Newsplex was designed and built by the German-based Ifra press consortium for our College of Mass Communications and Information Studies and its journalism school. We use Newsplex for teaching, professional training and research.
But even Kerry Northrup, Ifra’s technology guru who inspired Newsplex and was its first director, constantly reminded visitors, “it’s not about technology.” Technology is the facilitator for new ways of looking at newsgathering, story building and dissemination.
Instructor Doug Fisher also uses the Newsplex venue for his course on Legislative Reporting Across Media. In spite of the course title, Fisher notes in his objectives that “the ‘toys’ part of all that comes at the end. The journalism still comes first.”
Do we like the toys? Sure. Are we enamored of them? Well, not all of us.
Fisher’s point is most important. “I am less worried about your production skills and more about your journalistic ones of fairness, truth seeking, completeness, accuracy and ethics,” he tells his students.
We have not created a separate convergence curriculum or major in our journalism program. That does not mean we didn’t consider it. But we’ve concluded that there should be a multimedia current running through our program. Rather than make a distinction between plain vanilla single medium instruction and the multimedia banana split, we’ll take the swirl.
As a result, our multimedia emphasis is not uniform. So be it. It’s not uniform in the professions either. We consider ourselves a strongly professional school, highly successful in placing our students because they graduate with marketable skills.
News directors, managing editors, agency heads almost uniformly tell us multimedia skills are added value for a job candidate. But what they are clamoring for is the graduate with solid, reliable basic skills. They remind us with a wink toward their own interests that we’ve built a reputation on strong reporting and copyediting skills for our print majors; reporting and producing for broadcast.
Two of our faculty, Dr. Andrea Tanner and Dr. Sonya Duhe`, in a current study surveyed television news directors across the country, asking what skills reporters must possess to be hired in their newsrooms. “The most common response,” the two professors report, “was broadcast writing skills (98% of respondents).” An ability to adapt news copy for use by multiple media was cited by 44% of news directors. Only 36% of news directors said they have their own programs in place to provide employees with these skills, Tanner and Duhe` report.
The backpack journalist who reports, shoots, edits and transmits her reports out of a digital backpack of tricks is largely a television compression of four jobs into one. One of our recent graduates, Heidi McGuire, does just that in Greensboro, N.C., and loves the autonomy of handling all those roles. News directors tell us they’d like to have a Heidi or two on staff, but don’t expect that to become the norm. Tanner and Duhe` caution “there may be far fewer job openings than many educators anticipate for a truly ‘converged journalist’ in a traditional television newsroom setting.”
Our job as educators is to hit the primary target, yet keep our eye on new media developments.
“While maintaining our commitment to journalism excellence in focusing on traditional critical thinking, writing, editing and design skill sets, the faculty in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications are also cognizant of the impact of new media technologies,” says school director Dr. Shirley Staples Carter.
Convergence for most news media starts with adding a Web page to either a newscast or newspaper. The school’s capstone courses in print and broadcast journalism each include a Web component. The “broadcast senior semester” is designed as a television newsroom producing a daily half hour newscast for broadcast on campus cable and through a Columbia cable outlet. The “print senior semester” has greater deadline latitude and produces an alternating weekly lab newspaper and Web product. Print students also appear on the daily broadcast, much as in local print/broadcast collaborations, to describe their upcoming edition.
Our newest major—visual communications—takes photojournalism into the digital dimension and expands it into the area of web design. Web is, by its nature, the most convergent medium enveloping words, pictures, streaming video, audio, animation, graphic effects.
Convergence for many news organizations often ends with adding a Web page. That overlooks possibilities that continue to emerge with new technology and new applications for established technology.
Where we’ve hit our fuller stride is in creating student-oriented projects that take advantage of Newsplex’s versatility. Because of a lack of on-campus space, the $2.5 million, 5,700 square foot laboratory was constructed in the production building of South Carolina Educational Television, physically separate from the rest of college. That does not facilitate scheduling regular semester-long courses there. Academic use also has to dovetail with the steady and increasing flow of professional training developed by the Ifra/USC collaboration.
Here’s what’s worked and worked well:
= Professor Holmes’ narrative course unveiled a Newsplex Media Theater of the future to showcase student projects in multimedia form. It’s at: http://newsplex.sc.edu/showcase/index.html
= A total of 86 student journalists from the University of South Carolina and seven other journalism schools covered the 2004 Republican and Democratic national conventions and Election Day as part of the Cingular Wireless Election Connection. In a project overseen by Newsplex director Randy Covington, the students on assignment at the conventions and at the polls used Cingular’s photo phones to post more than 2000 items to a unique Web site. http://www.wec.textamerica.com.
“As I sat in my Boston hotel room and walked around the convention itself, I was struck by how little journalism I was seeing,” Covington noted. “Meanwhile, our student reporters were all over the place, covering the race for the Presidency from the point of view of the homeless, the gay community and the environment.”
The effect was a pointillist painting of the campaign and election scene. One of the “surprise hits of the Weblog coverage,” according to CNN. The 2005 Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism called it a “notable” site for political coverage.
=Students teamed with reporters from Media General’s Florence/Myrtle Beach television station WBTW and its Morning News in Florence, S.C., to cover the annual Biker Week convergence of some 300,000 motorcyclists at the beach resort. In addition to reports for both the paper and television station, the students added the Web dimension to the Media General coverage. http://www.sc.edu/cmcis/news/archive/bikewk.html
=Newsplex has become the home field for Associate Professor Bonnie Drewniany’s annual Super Bowl of Ads class where advertising students evaluate the highly touted and highly priced advertising that debuts during the NFL’s Super Bowl. While not technically a multimedia event, Newsplex technology facilitates conducting the ad analysis without missing a play of the football game.
Later in the semester, the creators and sponsors of the best ad are invited to campus to explain their work and pick up the school’s “Cocky” award. (“Cocky” is USC’s gamecock mascot.)
Ifra also conducts an “Adplex” training program in multimedia advertising. http://www.jour.sc.edu/news/isite/05superbowl.html
Integrated marketing and communications on the ad/pr side are hardly new to us. Yet we believe advertising and public relations are still fertile ground for expansion of multimedia approaches through new media.
It’s hard not to conclude that convergence is a hodgepodge in the marketplace. Nor does a focus on newsrooms that purport to practice convergence provide a clear path for either educators or future journalists.
“Even in those newsrooms in which convergence is taking shape, management is searching for the ideal—reporters and editors facile with the skills and knowledge of traditional journalism yet comfortable with the newest technology and concepts of multiple-media newsgathering,” two South Carolina professors, Dr. Erik Collins and Dr. Lynn Zoch (now at the University of Miami), concluded in a 2003 study.
Collins and Zoch conducted a global survey of news organizations practicing some degree of convergence, asking what type of education they currently look for when hiring reporters and what type of education they would ideally look for.
“While more than a third currently look for those trained in traditional print journalism, in the future only one-tenth will be hiring those trained in that tradition,” they reported. Collins and Zoch suggest that “may be indicative of the need to hire people who are trainable in new ways of thinking and not set in the ways of traditional print journalism.”
That assumes news organizations will invest the time and money in on-the-job or external training. The Tanner/Duhe` research is less optimistic. Our experience on the professional side of Newsplex suggests clear benefits for news organizations that make that investment.
National and international clients have sent teams of reporters, editors and executives to Newsplex for up to week-long, scenario-based training. We’re bringing broadcasters and law enforcement together for training in effective use of the multi-media AMBER Alert program designed to locate and free abducted children under a Department of Justice grant. We’re working with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty to reconfigure its broadcast base in Prague so it can reach audiences in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East via radio, Web and television.
= Since 2002 and the opening of Newsplex, the college has hosted an annual academic conference on convergence. (We co-hosted it this year at Brigham Young University.)
= We publish the online Convergence Newsletter as an “editorially neutral forum for discussion of the theoretical and professional meaning of media convergence.” Link to it at http://www.jour.sc.edu/news/convergence/index.html.
= Newsplex inspired the Cavplex at Richland Northeast High School. The Columbia school believes the program and facility, funded by a federal grant, is the “first high-school-based Convergence Media program in the country.” Visit the site at http://www.richland2.org/rnh/convergence/cavplex/index.
arrival at our doors of a generation of high school graduates already versed in
multi-media journalism will set new challenges and create new opportunities for
educators. These students will arrive with certain expectations and
technological skills. Our mission will be to fuse their nascent talents to the
basics of writing, reporting, critical and ethical thinking in an environment
in which they are already comfortable. As educators, we ought to be able to
Charles Bierbauer has been Dean of the College of Mass Communications and Information Studies at the University of South Carolina since 2002. As a correspondent for CNN for more than 20 years, he reported for television, radio, wire and Web—often all in the same day.
American Press Institute and J-Lab
Citizen Media: Engaging an Empowered Audience
April 4-5, 2006
Reston, Virginia USA
Institute for Analytic Journalism
Ver 1.0 – A Workshop on Public Database Verification for Journalists and Social Scientists
April 9-12, 2006
Santa Fe, New Mexico USA
Participants in the three-day workshop will explore developing statistical and other methodological tools suitable for social scientists, biomedical and behavioral researchers, journalists and other interested investigators to determine the veracity of public records databases.
The deadlines for abstracts and papers is December 15, 2005.
Broadcast Education Association
Convergence Shockwave: Change, Challenge and Opportunity
April 27-29, 2006
Las Vegas, Nevada USA
The BEA2006 Conference aims to create a forum for discussion and research on the issues that face media convergence today. The deadline for pre-registration is March 10, 2006.
The University of South Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communications
Newsplex Summer Seminar Series
May 8 – June 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 08-12: Convergence Software Bootcamp #1
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 #2
World Association of Newspapers
World Editors Forum
June 4-7, 2006
International Communication Association
Networking Communication Research Conference
June 19-23, 2006
Conference pre-registration starts January 15, 2006.
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
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. Submission deadline (postmark) is June 15, 2006.
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