Convergence Newsletter

From Newsplex at the University of South Carolina

Vol. IV No. 10 (May 2007)


Commenting on Convergence


By Melissa McGill, editor of The Convergence Newsletter


Contrary to the popular saying, what happens in Vegas does not always stay there. This issue features briefs of convergence-related papers presented at the 2007 Broadcast Education Association Convention held April 18-21 in Las Vegas.  Tony DeMars addresses visual storytelling on the Web, Steven McClung contributes a piece on viral marketing via blogs, and Sybril Bennett asks if underrepresented voices are being heard in participatory journalism. Finally, Augie Grant invites you to take part in this year's Convergence and Society conference.


We are in the middle of one of our busiest months here at Newsplex. The Newsplex Summer Seminars start next week, running through early June, and the deadline for submissions for the October conference is a week later, June 15. These and other circumstances will postpone the June edition of this newsletter. Look for the newsletter to return the first week of July with our fourth anniversary edition.


View past newsletters at


Melissa McGill is working toward a Master of Mass Communications at the University of South Carolina. Contact her at .



Feature Articles


A Bullet-Points Approach to Visual Storytelling on the Web


Viral Marketing to Valuable Niche Audiences Via Blogs


Participatory Journalism: Are the Voices of Underrepresented Citizens Being Heard?



Conference Information


Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism




Creating Communication: Content, Control and Critique


Info Services Expo 2007


Convergence and Society: Media Ownership, Control, and Consolidation Call for Papers


Online Fundamentals for Newsroom Leaders



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


A Bullet-Points Approach to Visual Storytelling on the Web

By Tony DeMars, University of North Carolina-Pembroke


Over the past ten-plus years, the popular press and researchers suggested those working in news and news-related fields should ‘prepare for change, ‘adapt or die,’ and ‘change now before it’s too late.’ During these transformative years, news convergence efforts emerged between print, broadcast and online news outlets. Changes in the way news content reaches the audience have occurred, but have these changes been the kind that generates consumer interest in news content and adapts to what appears to be a difference in how younger media consumers expect to use media content?


The Broadcast Education Association presentation “A Bullet-Points Approach to Visual Storytelling on the Web” is an attempt to further new thinking regarding how news stories are told. While focused as a pedagogical paper with the goal of encouraging educators to be forward-thinking about educating future journalists, the work also suggests the news industry should recognize a need for adjustments in reporting methods. This research suggests that the assumption made by some in the industry that making TV news more tabloid style or newspaper articles shorter to attract younger readers fails to recognize that a significant change seems to have occurred in how the modern media user expects to get information or entertainment. This sea change requires a new approach to visual storytelling.


What has been the dominant style of presentation of news in the ‘new media’ arena? Television news produces the same type of linear stories for their linear broadcasts, then posts the video of that linear news show or individual linear stories onto a Web site. Newspapers continue to write linear stories, then post those stories as text onto a Web site. When convergence agreements have allowed traditional and broadcast news organizations to work together on news, each type of media has mostly continued to create and distribute the same format of news content as was appropriate for their respective, traditional manner of distribution. This approach does not take advantage of the interactive ability of new media.


The Institute for Interactive Journalism on the J-Lab site lists several sites ( featuring what are described as Interactive Narratives, noting that "these outlets are using interactive techniques to tell stories in new ways." This style of interactive news focuses on an interaction between citizens and professional journalists. This interactive approach means citizens are encouraged to add content to a story, to contribute stories, to respond to elements of a story through activities or surveys, or to select various elements of a story for further understanding. While this form of interactivity is one good use of new media, the potential for the user to ‘read’ the story interactively, in a non-linear fashion, is a mostly untapped.


This is where the ‘Bullet Points’ proposal comes in. One example on J-Lab’s Interactive Narratives site ( ) gets close to what the ‘Bullet-Points Approach’ proposes. This interactive site allows the user to see elements of the story as they developed—to go back and read past content. Users may also select and view interviews from persons related to the story or past reports about the story. In essence, this approach serves the user who wants much more depth, providing non-linear links to serve this purpose. In a similar context, the model proposed in this paper suggests using a multi-media authoring program like Flash or Swishmax to create a "story page." On that page, users would see an outline of the story along with a synopsis. Major elements of the story would then be listed as bullet points, much like a full-sentence outline. Interview clips ("sound bites") would be strategically placed next to each, along with a thumbnail of the speaker. Users could choose to view the sound bite or to view a longer interview related to that segment of the story. Users could select randomly from bullet points of interest to see details of main story points.


This ‘non-linear’ approach to visual storytelling was demonstrated during the BEA presentation. The proposal challenges those teaching print or broadcast news courses to introduce a new multi-media authoring component to those classes in expectation of a need in the future to adjust to a new model of visual storytelling on the Internet and other new digital media.



Viral Marketing to Valuable Niche Audiences Via Blogs

By Steven McClung, Ph.D., Patrick O’Donnell, MA, and Mike Tomaszeski, MA, Florida State University


It’s been said that the overwhelming majority of all blogs have at least one, but not many more than one, reader. In most instances, that’s the case; there are millions of blogs out there spanning a variety of topics from pets to politics.


However, there are some blogs floating around the blogosphere that are managing to gather audiences. And where you find audiences, you’ll find marketers. The research I and my students have been engaged in at Florida State University has examined music blogs and political blogs, their users, their creators, and their marketing efficiency. Music blogs are intended to expose new artists to new audiences in hopes of finding the next big superstar. Political blogs are grassroots watchdog venues that can be intended to catch the next falling star.


Getting the word out


In order for a blog to attract larger audiences, interested Web users have to have heard about the blog and know where to find it. Traditional media is one way the bloggers can get their word out. Stories about, interviews with bloggers on traditional media, radio, television and print, go a long way in exposing unaware, potential blog readers to the source. Many political blogs have seen exponential audience growth as a result of a radio or television interview, mention or citation as a source. Early on, professional journalists who cited blogs turned attention to them. As a result, there seems to have evolved a symbiotic relationship between bloggers and traditional media. As Johnson and Kaye report, reliance on blogs by traditional journalists has led to many media members starting their own blogs and the bloggers seemed to have gained some credibility in mainstream media.


The other way bloggers get their voices heard is by simple grass roots marketing. Viral marketing is what it’s called on the Internet, and some refer to it as simply partnering. Back in the old days, there was a software program called a “webring” that exposed audiences who were interested in a certain topic, to other pages concerning the same topic. That way, fans of the Miami Dolphins could browse all the Dolphins sites easily and quickly. Webrings don’t really exist anymore, but the principal of it does. Many bloggers are more than happy to promote other bloggers on their sites. In fact, that is one of the commonalities of both music and political bloggers. There is plenty of networking.


Delivering a product


The second thing a blog needs to do to be successful, successful at least for marketers to take notice, is deliver a product. Blogs are content driven vehicles. They do deliver content. In the case of political blogs the content delivered is text. Within the text, users find debate, discussion and opinion. Political blogs are not short on content. What makes political blogs viable is the information and influence. In fact, Brooks notes that blogs are important because their audience influences the traditional media and the politically powerful.


Since its inception in 1991, the Web has led to the growth and dissemination of many new ideas and technologies.  Two of these innovations that have independently become popular since the rise of the Web are MP3s and weblogs.  MP3s, which first gained exposure in 1998, are easily downloadable.  Although there are many different types of blogs, blogs that combine the traditional blog format paired with MP3s are becoming more and more popular. MP3 blogs approach online music from a very different angle than Napster and the other free services that followed.  These blogs, like My Old Kentucky Blog, contain music from new artists or hard-to-find songs from the past, and encourage users to purchase albums if they like what they hear.  These blogs may skirt the legality line, but they also offer unique marketing chances for musicians and their record companies.


Blogs must have value to someone.


Finally, the common denominator of any blog is value. The blogs have to be valuable to someone.  Political discourse and debate is undoubtedly a cornerstone of the nations’ watchdog mentality. Entertainment, whether it’s music, movies or sports, is one of the leading revenue generators in this country.


Information concerning both arenas is valuable to most people. That’s what blogs provide: information, opinion, and the actual product.


Are blogs the most efficient vehicle for attracting large audiences? Not yet.


Are blogs efficient in delivering audiences that are interested in a particular subject? Absolutely.


Now, those audiences aren’t large…yet. But in the evolving media landscape of 100 cable channels, 200 satellite radio channels and magazines that are highly targeted toward composite audiences, it could be said that not many media vehicle audiences are getting larger. And as marketers are increasingly becoming aware, bigger is not always better.




Participatory Journalism: Are the Voices of Underrepresented Citizens Being Heard?

By Sybril Bennett, Ph.D., Executive Director, New Century Journalism Program, Belmont University


When Tony DeMars asked me to discuss whether the voices of underrepresented citizens were being heard, my response was an emphatic yes.  After all, this topic was to be presented during a panel at the Broadcast Education Association at the annual convention in Las Vegas, NV.  In addition, as a member of a group that is often labeled, “underrepresented”, the topic was relevant for a plethora of reasons.  At the time, it sounded like an excellent idea. However, several questions posed very formidable challenges. What is participatory journalism?  How does “participatory” journalism differ from mainstream journalism?  As a matter of fact, what is journalism?  How should the word “underrepresented” be defined?  How are the voices of underrepresented population Web sites being quantified or qualified, it at all?


It is extremely difficult to quantify the number of Web sites which serve the public’s interest, convenience and necessity.  Traditional media were able to ignore audience input until the virtual media expanded the landscape for critical analysis, thought and interaction.  Virtually speaking, just because the consumer can respond to or a content producer can post to a Web site does not mean that the site is journalism-based.  Part of the challenge is the incessant nature of people to identify anyone who has a Web site or is a blogger as a journalist. This is a dangerous mistake that needs to be refuted.  Every blogger isn’t a journalist, and every journalist isn’t a blogger.  Every person with a Web site is not a journalist.  Therefore, studying sites and arbitrarily including them in journalistic discussions is shortsighted. 


Ultimately, my presentation entailed setting up a research agenda for academicians. Analytically speaking, someone needs to define journalism, advocacy, citizen’s journalism, participatory journalism and underrepresented populations.  That message then needs to be standardized and widely disseminated to be adopted by the masses.  During the opening session of the National Association of Broadcasters, President David Rehr made a plea to NAB members to “update, reframe and rebrand” the public’s perception of broadcasting.  Journalism professors would be wise to follow suit.


Through purposive, experimental and experiential research methodologies, the role of citizen contributions needs to be examined.  An excellent starting point would be analyzing the New Voices projects which are administered at the University of Maryland through the J-Lab. They are funded by the Knight Foundation. This is a ripe area for research. Other salient areas for future research should include an analysis of the accuracy of the information presented on the sites.  Augie Grant from the University of South Carolina suggested a content analysis of sites believed to be participatory journalism Web sites.  This would include text, video, stills, animation, graphics, etc.  Unitizing these inputs would provide a wealth of data.  Again, identifying those sites is vitally important.  Another possible challenge is the fact that the author of the site may not label him or herself as a journalist. External entities may provide the label. 


In conclusion, with every new innovation, there are early adopters. Typically, members of underrepresented groups are slow to adopt new technology.  On the surface, this appears to be true when examining Internet participation in “citizen’s journalism.”  However, a sweeping generalization cannot be made because we really don’t have a way to track the author of any given Web site. Further, is the Web site for journalism, advocacy, neither or both?  Answering all of these questions is paramount to the journalistic mission as well as academic instruction. Right now, definitions are being assigned primarily by the media and not by researchers.  It is imperative that academicians lead these defining efforts.




June 15 Deadline for Convergence Conference Submissions

By Augie Grant, Executive Editor of The Convergence Newsletter and Associate Professor, University of South Carolina


For me, one of the most exciting things about the end of the Spring Semester is that my email box begins to fill with submissions for the Convergence and Society conference, which will be held October 11-13, here at Newsplex. The special theme of this year's conference is "Media Ownership, Control, and Consolidation," and we are encouraging researchers from a host of different perspectives ranging from critical analysis to empirical research to submit their work for the conference. As always, the theme will generate sessions on this topic, but we also expect a wide variety of submissions dealing with all areas of convergence, ranging from pedagogical and definitional issues to theoretical and empirical research.


In addition to a traditional "Call for Papers," we have also issued a "Call for Showcase Presentations" designed to provide a venue for scholars and professionals experimenting with convergent media technologies to demonstrate their systems, processes, experiments, and innovations.


Links to both the "Call for Papers" and the "Call for Showcase Presentations" can be found on the Newsplex academic home page:



---------------Position Announcement


Multimedia Producer and General Manager

S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications

Syracuse University

Syracuse, NY


The producer/GM will oversee the school’s new Web product, which will feature student work produced for all media platforms in a state-of-the-art media lab. The lab will serve as a collaborative environment for majors in online, print and broadcast, the visual technologies, and persuasive communications.


Minimum qualification: A journalist with substantive experience in a broadcast, print and/or a Web newsroom, with a background in both reporting and editing and with a portfolio that demonstrates a foundation in classic journalism skills and in producing stories in the multiple platforms - interactives, streaming video and still photography, and text. Also required: facility with such emerging communication technologies and trends as podcasting, blogging and citizen journalism.


The primary responsibility will be the day-to-day oversight of the Web site, assuring it is professional-quality. The producer/GM will coordinate closely with professors from all departments to assure the site is supplied with timely, fresh, high-quality content, and also will work directly with student teams from across all disciplines, from product creation through the production process.


The producer/GM must be a strong hands-on editor comfortable working with young and inexperienced reporters/producers. The candidate will be expected to remain current with the industry and technology by forging relationships with work-world professionals, by attending conferences and trainings, by staying up-to-date with the industry literature, and by planning an annual summer experience in the field.


The producer/GM will be expected to promote experimentation and R&D-style initiatives, and to oversee a Web product reflecting Newhouse’s emergence as a leader in multi-platform storytelling and content presentation of all kinds.


Syracuse University offers an excellent benefit package that includes tuition, retirement, comprehensive health care plan, paid vacation, and the opportunity for continued professional development.


For a position description and online application instructions, go to, (#023193). Cover letter, resume and list of professional references must be attached. Priority consideration will be given to applications received by April 27, 2007 and the search will remain open until the position is filled. Syracuse University is an AA/EOE.





57th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association

Creating Communication: Content, Control and Critique

San Francisco, CA, May 24-28, 2007 



Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism

Deadline June 13, 2007

Find out about the Award:



Convergence and Society: Media Ownership, Control, and Consolidation Call for Papers

University of South Carolina October 11-13, 2007

Submission deadline (postmark) is June 15, 2007.



60th World Newspaper Congress/ 14th World Editors Forum

Info Services Expo 2007

June 3-6, 2007, Cape Town, South Africa




Washington, DC, August 9 – 12, 2007



Online Fundamentals for Newsroom Leaders


October 30, 2007 – November 1, 2007

Deadline: August 27, 2007



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



Melissa McGill



---------------Copyright and Redistribution


The Convergence Newsletter is Copyright © 2007 by the University of South Carolina, College of Mass Communications and Information Studies. All rights reserved.


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---------------Submission Guidelines/Deadline Schedule


The Convergence Newsletter provides an editorially neutral forum for discussion of the theoretical and professional meaning of media convergence. We welcome articles of all sorts addressing the subject of convergence in journalism and media. We also accept news briefs, calls for papers and conference announcements. Our audience is both academics and professionals and the publication style is APA 7th edition. Feature articles should be 750 to 1,500 words; other articles should be 250 to 750 words; announcements and conference submissions should be 200 words. All articles should be submitted to The Convergence Newsletter editor at Please include your name, affiliation and contact information with your submission.


If you would like to post a position announcement, include a brief description of the position and a link to the complete information. All announcements should be submitted to The Convergence Newsletter editor at


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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