Convergence Newsletter

From Newsplex at the University of South Carolina

Vol. III No. 8 (February 7, 2006)


Commenting on Convergence


By Jordan Storm, editor of The Convergence Newsletter


This issue of The Convergence Newsletter challenges us to think conceptually about convergence, albeit with an injection of humor.  First, Michael Sheerin of Florida International University responds to Douglas Starr’s piece, “Dispatch from the Convergence Trenches,” which was featured in the January Convergence Newsletter supplemental issue. You can access Starr’s piece, as well as other issues of the newsletter at


Sheerin’s article asks Starr, as well as the newsletter’s readers, to recognize convergence goes beyond changes in print media to also include “sound, visuals, something I can write to and interact with, thus altering the communication in some way.”  


On that note (pun intended), I am also excited to share a how-to on convergent audio or podcasting, which Oxford Dictionary named 2005’s word of the year. Scott Lunt of BYU details the fundamentals of podcasting as well as a link to more detailed instructions.


Augie Grant of the University of South Carolina also addresses the question, “What is convergence and more specifically, what is convergence now that non-journalists are adopting the term to define other phenomena?”


As always, I invite you to respond to the ideas highlighted in this issue. This newsletter should be a forum that piques the interest and results in engagement.


View past newsletters at


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


Feature Articles


A Response to “A Dispatch from the Convergence Trenches”


Podcasting: 2005 Word of the Year


What’s in a Name?



Conference Information


Citizen Media: Engaging an Empowered Audience


Ver 1.0: Institute for Analytic Journalism


ASNE Convention


BEA2006: Convergence Shockwave


Newsplex Summer Seminar Series


World Editors Forum


NAHJ in the Old West: El Portal a un Nuevo Mundo


ICA: Networking Communication Research Conference


Asian American Journalists Association National Convention


AEJMC Convention


Native American Journalists Association Convention


SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference


Convergence and Society: Ethics, Religion and New Media



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


A Response to “A Dispatch from the Convergence Trenches”


By Michael Scott Sheerin, Assistant Dean and Assistant Professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Florida International University, Biscayne Bay Campus


Well, this is the first time I read the word “Drat!” in an article about convergence. So that’s new. I agree with much of what Starr writes, as framed by his vision of newspaper convergence. I say newspaper convergence because he obviously knows the ropes of that industry and writes from hard earned experience. However, the lens through which he views convergence is a telephoto lens, focused narrowly on the effects of convergence on the newspaper medium and its mediamorphosis into an online medium. But convergence goes beyond that. It is much more encompassing. 


Starr, like many convergence naysayers, misses the big picture: a picture that has sound, visuals, something I can write to and interact with, thus altering the communication in some way. Even in his thorough dressing down of convergence’s role in the newspaper industry, he fails to mention the interactivity brought about by online news. He may argue that we have always interacted with the writers and news gatherers of yesteryear via letter writing and phone calls.


But the ease by which this happens today has changed the communication process in terms of timing and volume, and this sometimes-instantaneous feedback alters the agenda-setting mindset of the Gatekeeper. An example of this is the myriad “citizen gathered” images and videos sent in after Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of the Gulf coast. I would not have learned as much as I did about the aftermath of this storm if I had only read a newspaper.


Starr seems to point a finger at convergence, blaming it for problems such as the lack of good stories, a result of the News Reporter’s dual role of writer and photographer. I don’t think we can blame convergence (unless we are strictly talking about economic convergence) for management decisions that determine the number of hats News Reporters will wear. Just because the technology allows for this dual function role doesn’t mean we have to embrace it. This organic convergence (defined as the ability of the user to apply multitasking strategies when navigating the new media) has its limitations, and it is up to us, not His Royal Highness Convergence, to define them.


Starr also tries to cut convergence down by stating that web surfing is “just like” flipping the pages of a newspaper. Well, maybe the act is similar, but the end result is incomparable. One newspaper’s information on a story is not even a drop in the bucket when measured against the information you can find surfing. Convergence gives us that and much more. It’s not just about convergence in the newsroom. It’s about getting information when we want it, no matter where we are. It’s about listening (legally) to the world’s library of music, without owning one album or CD. It’s about watching TV and movies on our schedule (and thus forcing the advertising world to adjust on the run). It’s about participating in the making of, the telling of, and the dissemination of the events of our lives.


Starr excludes all of this. By only discussing how news writing has been changed by new technologies (or not), and then dismissing those changes, he is kind of denying other aspects of convergence, as well as the fact that the news writing style of the inverted pyramid was in fact due to a new technology - get the facts delivered STOP before the telegraph machine STOP stops sending type! FULL STOP 



Podcasting: 2005 Word of the Year


By Scott Lunt, Masters Candidate, College of Fine Arts and Communications, Brigham Young University


A few weeks ago my sister called with a quiz. “Guess what the word of the year is?” she asked. After a few wrong guesses she told me that the editors of the Oxford dictionary had declared “podcasting” as the word of the year for 2005. That came as no surprise to me since I have been neck-deep in podcasting for several months as a podcaster, listener and scholar. But, I thought, what makes podcasting such a buzz word to the Oxford dictionary editors that it can edge out “sudoku” and “trans fat”? And, why should anyone care? Well, it turns out that podcasting is a worthy and quite interesting development in new communication methods. Simply speaking, podcasting has changed the paradigm of how people think about broadcasting, especially audio-based broadcasting. It has given a new, inexpensive outlet to any would-be broadcasters and a new delivery method to seasoned broadcasters.


What is podcasting?

Podcasting first emerged in the Fall of 2004 when former MTV VJ Adam Curry and software programmer Dave Winer teamed up to add audio attachments to their daily blogs. Then in June 2005, when Steve Jobs announced podcasting support in Apple’s popular iTunes audio player, podcasting was on the map.


Put most simply, a podcast is a radio show delivered on the Internet. The basic concept is this: podcasters can deliver audio content to an audience that will download the audio files and listen at their leisure rather than at a pre-programmed time. The term “podcast” can refer to two things, either the show in general, or a specific episode of that show. A “podcaster” is a person who puts the show together and delivers it for listening.


The term podcasting gets half of its name from Apple’s ubiquitous iPod, since podcasts can ultimately be listened to on an iPod. But, an iPod is only one of many ways to listen to the shows. Audiences can also listen to downloaded MP3 files on their computers, directly from the Web, or on any number of portable digital audio players.


How does it work?

Each podcast episode is a compressed digital audio file (usually an MP3) that is created using either a computer, a recording studio, a portable recorder, or a combination of those three. Once the audio file is created, it is uploaded to an Internet site and a blog is used to publish each episode for the public. Since a blog can utilize what is called an RSS feed (RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and is essentially a standardized blog format) the podcasts can be retrieved automatically by computer software. (To learn more about how blogs and RSS feeds work, see


Audiences can listen to podcasts by using “podcatching” software (most notably the iTunes audio player by Apple) or by viewing the podcast’s blog/Web site and clicking on a link. Using iTunes has a distinct advantage over the Web, however, since the software will check for new episodes automatically. Once the software detects a new episode, it is downloaded and the user can either listen with their computer or easily copy the file to an iPod or other portable for later listening.


Why should we care?

Creating a podcast is inexpensive, so virtually anyone with Internet access and basic recording tools can create and publish their own show. Recording devices are common (in many cases only a computer is needed); free audio editing software is available; uploading shows and generating the server files necessary to facilitate a podcast can be done with virtually no cost (aside from a minimal monthly hosting fee). And, since there is no station overhead (unlike for television content providers), podcasters need not be concerned with a large audience to help pay for the costs, yet large audiences can easily be served.


What this means, in sum, is that audio broadcasting is available to anyone with Internet access and a microphone. Although podcasting is almost entirely audio-only content today, the infrastructure is available for video podcasts as well. Once a show has been created, it can be listed for free in a podcast directory. Anyone interested can search in the directory or on the Web for that podcast and subscribe.


So, like blogging, Web and desktop publishing, podcasting offers a new method for individuals or organizations to be heard. If you’ve got a microphone and a computer, you too can be a podcaster. If you would like more information or help in creating a podcast, see


Scott Lunt’s research focuses on issues of new communication technologies and community radio with a special interest in the democratization of radio broadcasting. He can be reached at



What’s in a Name?


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


Studying “convergence” has become a great deal more complicated over the past year. In journalism, the term has been applied to the melding of technologies, organizations, individual job functions, and the structure of the media itself. But outside the field of journalism, the term “convergence” has proven to be equally useful to describe phenomena that are only tangentially related to journalistic convergence.


The best example I’ve seen this year comes from the telecommunication industry, which has broadly applied the term “convergence” to describe the transmission of telephone calls, video and data over the same wires. My personal encounter was an invitation to attend a “Convergence Conference” in January. (Note to academics—the registration fee was a clue that this conference may not have been relevant to the study of convergent journalism.)


In the telecommunications industry, the emergence of an IP (Internet Protocol) based network with layers of control protocols has enabled the transmission of virtually any content or message that can be digitized through the same wires, prioritizing data (such as video signals) that are more time-dependent. Convergence is an appropriate term for this process.


The telephone companies — and their competitors — that have this technological capability are now taking the next logical step — figuring out how to take advantage (and profit from) all of the signal flows on their networks. The result is a set of organizational challenges that is, in many ways, quite similar to those that we are facing in convergent journalism. The clash of organizational cultures between telephone companies and cable television is comparable to that between newspapers and broadcasters. As well, both industries are facing the financial challenge of trying to extract additional revenue by offering multiple services without compromising existing revenue streams.


There are two important implications of these similarities. First, if the telecommunication industries can learn lessons regarding the opportunities and challenges of convergence from journalism, we also have the opportunity to learn similar lessons from studying the challenges and solutions of the telecommunication industry.


Perhaps more important, we need to reconsider our use of the term “convergence.”  Like the words “broadband” and “love” (to use two examples that stymie many of us), the word “convergence” means something different to each individual who hears and uses it. Some of the interpretation of the word is a function of the context in which the word is used, but a great deal of the interpretation is a function of a person’s personal history, background, etc.


The alternative to the use of the general term, “convergence,” is to use specific terms that more precisely describe the phenomena we are discussing or exploring. In addition to being more specific, the use of specific terminology also forces us to address each of the dimensions of convergence separately, helping to ensure that we and the ones with whom we communicate share a similar meaning for the terms we are using. As of today, that is certainly not the case with most uses of the term “convergence.”


Instead of “convergence,” we should be asking specifically about co-ownership, producing content for multiple media in the same newsroom, having a reporter generate content for multiple media, selling advertising in multiple media simultaneously, etc. Using precise terms for the different dimensions of convergence will not only ensure that we are focusing on the specific phenomenon in which we are interested, but it also reminds us of the multiple dimensions represented by the term.


The challenge is twofold: identifying specific, precise terminology for the individual dimensions of convergence, and knowing precisely when such a multidimensional term such as “convergence” can be used in communication without uncertainty about its meaning. An example: This newsletter will continue to be known as The Convergence Newsletter.





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.



ASNE Convention

April 25-28, 2006

Seattle, Washington USA +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


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


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



National Association of Hispanic Journalists Convention and Media & Career Expo

NAHJ in the Old West: El Portal a un Nuevo Mundo

June 15-18, 2006

Fort Worth, Texas USA



International Communication Association

Networking Communication Research Conference

June 19-23, 2006

Dresden, Germany


Conference pre-registration starts January 15, 2006.



Asian American Journalists Association National Convention

June 21-24, 2006

Honolulu, HI USA



AEJMC Convention Call for Papers

August 2-5, 2006

San Francisco, CA USA


The programming groups within the Council of Divisions of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication invite submission of original, non-published research papers to be considered for presentation at the AEJMC Convention, postmarked no later than April 1, 2006.



Native American Journalists Association Convention

August 10-13, 2006

Tulsa, Oklahoma USA



SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference

August 24-26, 2006

Chicago, IL USA



University of South Carolina College of Mass Communication and Information Science and Newsplex

Convergence and Society: Ethics, Religion and New Media Conference

October 19-21, 2006

Columbia, SC USA


Since September 11, ethics and religion have emerged as important topics in the study of new media. At this conference, the moral implications of emerging media are addressed at the levels of society, culture, and the media professions. It is a forum for scholars, media professionals and theologians to discuss converging media from the standpoint of competing values. Papers and panels may include institutional, content, audience, cultural, political and technological perspectives on media from the perspective of social responsibility. Abstracts, completed papers and panel proposals for this conference should deal with one or more of the following four themes:


= Ethics: Examination of current approaches to moral reasoning about convergence

= Values: Analysis of values related to converging technologies (i.e., information equity, privacy, diversity, etc.).

= Religiosity: How denominations are contributing to public and policy discussion of convergence and values.

= Media Convergence, including convergent journalism, technological convergence and audience behavior.


The purpose of this conference is to provide a scholarly exploration of these issues individually and of the connections among them. Submission may address theory, history, media practice, social influences, cultural issues, legal implications and effects upon consumers.


Faculty and graduate students are invited to submit in one or more of three categories: completed papers, proposals or abstracts of papers in progress and proposals for panels.


Submissions may address practical, theoretical, phenomenological, critical and/or empirical approaches to any of the subjects listed above. All submissions will be reviewed by a jury that will consider: 1) relevance to the conference theme, 2) the quality of the contribution, and 3) overall contribution to the field.


Submission guidelines:

=Electronic submissions (Word or RTF attachments) are encouraged (send to

=Paper copies may be submitted: five paper copies of the submission should be mailed.

=A detachable cover page should be included with the title of the paper or panel and authors’ names, addresses, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses. For electronic submissions, the cover page should be in a separate file.

=Submissions deadline (postmark) is June 15, 2006. All submissions will be jury-reviewed with notification to authors and organizers on or before July 31, 2006.


For registration and further information about this academic conference, visit the conference Web site at:


Papers, proposals, abstracts and panel proposals should be addressed to:

Augie Grant, Conference Chair

ERNM Conference

College of Mass Communications and Information Studies

Carolina Coliseum

Columbia, SC 29208




---------------Interesting Web Sites and Blogs


For those of you interested in convergent media and academia, or just convergent media, check out the Reinventing College Media Web site at Operated by the College Media Advisers association, the site acts as a forum for new ideas and a log of successes and failures in practice.


Ole Miss, otherwise known as the University of Mississippi, is also blogging the school’s Student Media Center’s new media efforts at The Weblog, called New Media, identifies itself as an experiment and may be of interest to many of you.





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 © 2006 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.





The Convergence Newsletter is optimized for 80 character display; you may need to reset the line length on the preferences menu of your e-mail program.



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



---------------Subscribe/Unsubscribe Information


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