The Convergence Newsletter
From Newsplex at the University of South Carolina

Vol. V No. 5 (November 2007)

Commenting on Convergence

By Doug Fisher, Executive Editor of The Convergence Newsletter

Golly, I just hate editors. Taskmasters all, like Brad Petit, who not-so-subtly keeps reminding me that if I'm going to be called executive editor of this newsletter, then I really ought to introduce myself.

The problem is that while I spent more than 30 years in "the business” – 18 at the Associated Press and more than nine of those as a news editor — I don't think of myself as an editor anymore. I've embraced the idea, proposed by Newhagen and Levy early in this time of rapid change, that we are becoming more like pathfinders, helping readers and users find useful information and make connections. (If you have not read their seminal 1996 work that became part of The Electronic Grapevine, you should. If you read it a while back, you should read it again to be reminded how prescient some of the early work in this area was.)

So when someone asks, "What do you foresee for The Convergence Newsletter?" my answer is that I foresee only that you, our valuable readers, will have a powerful hand in shaping this effort as we move forward.

I want this to be a place where you can contribute to the conversation of how journalism, media and communications (I don't use the word "mass" much anymore, either) are fusing into new forms morphing before our eyes. And I want you to find something useful in each edition.

I think of last month's excellent issue, for instance, under Brad's strong hand on the tiller, with three solid pieces on the challenges of teaching across media in traditional academic environments. I go back to enlightening reports on what is happening overseas, such as Craig Duff's from Cairo in April's edition. And I hope we will see much follow-up to Sybril Bennett's challenge, from our May issue, to explore more deeply the impact participatory journalism may or may not be having on underrepresented populations.

We have always had strong contributions on teaching and on industry developments. But convergence is about far more than moving bits and bytes around in new ways. I hope we will have many contributions and extended discussions about its effects on people and societies worldwide.

Speaking of "discussions," we need to practice what we preach in this Web 2.0 world. While the newsletter format is useful, it is limiting, so we are doing some things to enhance it. Key to this is creating a blog. We're not turning the newsletter into a blog format, but using the blog as an adjunct publishing system where:

  • We can list monthly summaries of articles and produce an RSS feed for those who prefer notification that way (including some who might have corporate or other restrictions on e-mail). Links in the feed will point to the newsletter Web page.
  • We can create a taxonomy to make previous items easier to find. Instead of building an index, we can use the blog's labeling functions.
  • We can open a forum for discussion on newsletter articles. We're hoping you will comment, and we will feature some of those comments in subsequent editions.
I would rather have fewer editions and stronger articles in each, preferably on a single theme when possible. We are considering a schedule of full articles every other month, with the interstitial editions containing calendar items and a round up of worthy recent blog postings and other items of note.

But maybe that doesn't serve you well. If so, please write me at and tell me. This is your newsletter. We rely on your contributions of material and your other suggestions to make it work.
  • What areas should we cover?
  • What frequency is best for you?
  • Do you see value in having a shorter-form publication like this that is not peer reviewed but that lets you:
    • Get some ideas out there and play with them (especially with the new blog's commenting function)?
    • Have a publication venue for pieces that might not have a home elsewhere?
  • What fascinating people would you recommend as contributors?
  • What can you contribute?
You'll be hearing more from Brad on this, and probably be getting a call asking you to contribute something. After all, he got me to write this. Gee, I just love editors.

Doug Fisher is an instructor in print and electronic journalism in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of South Carolina. Send suggestions, research ideas and challenges to: You can also contact Brad Petit, editor of The Convergence Newsletter, at

View past newsletters at

Feature Articles

Beyond Definitions: The Convergence Trend — Year 6

Studio55 and Studio805: Two Newspaper Vodcasts Designed to Fill a Local Multimedia Void

Teach Them TV: News Directors On New Media, the Internet and Partnerships

Conference Information and Calls for Papers

AEJMC Winter Meeting

International Conference on Information & Communications Technology

AEJMC Midwinter Conference

BEA 2008

61st World Newspaper Congress

15th World Editors Forum

Convergence and Society: The Participatory Web

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

Beyond Definitions: The Convergence Trend — Year 6

By Dr. Augie Grant, University of South Carolina

As the sixth annual USC Convergence Conference was ending on October 13, I had the chance to comment on this year’s presentations. As usual, there was a good assortment of research papers, technology demonstration and discussion of teaching techniques.

But something was different. After six years, almost no one was seeking to define “convergence.” Instead, the research and teaching discussions were focused on applying theory and drawing practical lessons that could be brought back to the classroom. You’ll be able to read a number of articles in this newsletter written by the presenters, summarizing their work, over the next few months. So rather than summarize the conference, I want to draw some meaning from the presentations.

The first thought that occurred to me was that we have moved beyond trying to define convergence, instead exploring the many dimensions of convergence. The second thought was quite unrelated — I thought about the play that was being performed that night in a theater just down the street. Yes, theater is an “old medium,” but it is still practiced, and entire university departments are devoted to teaching the fine arts of theatrical staging, direction and performance.

In my mind, I was contemplating the organizational barriers that limit our ability to teach converged journalism. Perhaps unfairly, I compare faculty who focus exclusively upon one medium with those who devote their lives to the theater — even though it is no longer a dominant medium, there is a place for them in the academy and the industry.

But it is equally clear to me that the audience has converged and that the dominant media organizations over the next few decades will be those that gather news for delivery across multiple platforms. In his keynote speech at this year’s conference, Gannett Chairman, President and CEO Craig Dubow said as much, discussing how Gannett is remaking its entire organization to deliver news to consumers where they expect to find it.

Some might point to recent events such as Belo’s decision to split its television and newspaper properties as an indication convergence is a fad that has passed. I would respond by pointing to the Web sites maintained by all of Belo’s operating units and the steadily increasing consumer attention to online news.

The structure of the news industry is determined in large part by where people turn to get the news. It may be too early to know whether the Internet is going to supplant newspapers or television as a dominant delivery medium for news, but there is no doubt new delivery channels are increasing the public’s ability to access news anytime, anywhere. The only question is whether the content for these emerging media is going to come from established news organizations delivering content to multiple media or from new entrants.

The point is that a number of traditional media organizations are certain to survive, or even thrive, in the evolving media marketplace, and many of these will keep doing things just the way they’ve been doing them, just as the local theater continues to perform plays as it did more than a century ago. But the conclusion I drew from the three days of presentations at this year’s Convergence Conference is that we are past the point of trying to define convergence and asking “if” it exists. Rather, the task at hand is defining the scope and impact of the changes that are under way.

One other theme echoed through many of the presentations at this year’s conference: the increased attention to user-generated content. It is always risky to project too far into the future from a few data points, but the UGC trend is strong enough that we have selected it as the theme for the 2008 Convergence and Society conference: “The Participatory Web,” with a focus on all forms of user-generated content, including blogs, citizen journalism, social networking and a host of applications referred to collectively as Web 2.0.

The Call for Papers has been posted on the USC Newsplex Web site: We hope you’ll be interested in submitting your work to that conference before the June 15, 2008, deadline and that you’ll get as much out of next year’s conference as this year’s attendees got from the conference that just concluded. In the meantime, this newsletter will share a variety of research from this year’s conference as it continues to follow the convergence trend.

One other note: The new editor of this newsletter, in his eagerness to stress the editorial neutrality of this newsletter, invited attendees to submit articles with the title, “What I Hated About the Convergence Conference.” We’ve received a couple of great submissions that provide constructive input on the conference. As a result, we are determined to give the conference a makeover to respond to these suggestions, and we hope you’ll be able to attend to see the results. (With 11 months to plan, I’m looking for even more suggestions — let me know your ideas by e-mailing me:

Dr. Augie Grant is an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of South Carolina. He is also the chairman of the annual Convergence Conference each fall at USC. Contact him at


Studio55 and Studio805: Two Newspaper Vodcasts Designed to Fill a Local Multimedia Void

By Dr. Dennis Jeffers, Central Michigan University

In the days before the digital revolution and the impact of convergence on the mass media world, a popular television commercial pitched products designed to help families cope with modern life, with the slogan, “What’s a mother to do?” Today, in the midst of the convergence revolution, newspaper editors are asking, “What’s a newspaper to do?” as they struggle to find ways to improve the health of the industry.

The actions of two newspapers in the E.W. Scripps chain of papers and TV stations may provide a clue as to how “some” newspapers in “some” markets can find a way to carve out a niche in an otherwise crowded media landscape. Specifically, the Ventura (Calif.) County Star and the Naples (Fla.) Daily News are two sister publications that have identified a void in local multimedia news coverage and are working to fill it by launching local news “vodcasts” on their Web sites. In addition to ownership, the two papers share several other characteristics: a unique geographic location that places their circulation center between major metro areas, the lack of a dedicated local TV station in the community, and a commitment to providing readers with multimedia content.

The Ventura County Star circulates in an area on the California coast between Los Angles to the south and Santa Barbara to the north. The Naples Daily News circulates on the southwest Florida Gulf Coast south of Tampa/Ft. Myers and on the opposite side of the state from the West Palm Beach-Ft. Lauderdale-Miami urban strip. Both papers have a strong Web presence ( and with prominent displays of multimedia content on their home pages.

Most importantly, however, both papers have launched vodcasts that feature local news/weather/sports/feature multimedia content for their geographic region. The Ventura County Star offers Studio805 ( on its dedicated multimedia page and bills it as “The County’s Local Newscast.” It is updated at noon each weekday by producer Gretchen Macchiarella. The Naples Daily News offers Studio55 ( It is updated each weekday afternoon by producer Denise Spidle and, in addition to running on the paper’s Web site, is broadcast at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on a local cable channel. As might be expected, a number of similarities surround the two vodcasts, the type of featured content being the most obvious. But there are some differences as well. For instance, the packaging of Studio55 is much more TV-like than Studio805. This may be due in part to the fact that Studio55 is carried by a local cable channel, as well as the fact that Studio55 has more staff and resources than Studio805. However, the biggest difference between the two vodcasts is that Studio55 emphasizes a “portable” relationship with readers, listeners and viewers: citizens can freely subscribe and have each day’s vodcast downloaded to their iPod or other digital device via iTunes. Studio805 vodcasts are restricted to viewing on the Web site but are fully archived as well.

When newspapers begin offering newscasts, it’s reasonable to expect that a number of questions will arise in the minds of journalists and journalism educators. Some might wonder if vodcasts are evidence that newspapers have “jumped the shark.” Others might look on these vodcasts as intermediate steps in the ongoing convergence process and wonder, “What will come next?” If there is an emerging consensus, it seems to be coalescing around the latter group — newspaper vodcasts may not be the final solution for all that ills daily newspapers, but they are a step in the right direction.

There are a number of reasons for this. First, an examination of these vodcasts shows they are not TV newscasts. While, perhaps by necessity, there is an “anchor,” the similarity to a TV newscast ends there. The multimedia content is more newspaper-like (longer, depth-oriented, etc.) than typical TV news content. Second, audiences (which are small, but dedicated) as well as executives at both newspapers seem committed for the long haul. There is the recognition that these vodcasts are part of an evolving process, and consequently, an equal amount of attention needs to be devoted to the business model underlying vodcasts. In particular, there is agreement that a complementary sales staff is as important as the vodcast production staff.

What do newspaper vodcasts mean for journalism educators? In sum, the lesson to be learned from the development of this form of converged media is much the same as the lesson to be learned from the general convergence movement: The industry needs staff who are proficient in all the traditional journalistic skills (discerning the lead, using AP style, spelling correctly and knowing how to tell a story) as well as being able to discern what aspects of any story best fits the differing platforms (Web page, podcast, video clip and newspaper hardcopy) utilized by newspapers today.

This was adapted from a presentation at the annual Convergence Conference at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, October 2007. For more information contact Dr. Dennis Jeffers at

Teach Them TV: News Directors On New Media, the Internet and Partnerships

By Harvie Nachlinger, University of South Carolina

Convergence — the academic vision of all reporters providing stories for all media (television, print, Internet and new media) — does not exist in television news. While there is an indication that a few reporters do some cross-platform reporting, there’s little indication news directors will be looking for reporters or producers with these skills. The word “convergence” itself isn’t used in television except in some corporate mission statements. A television news director considers “convergence” as having one person report, shoot, write and edit a broadcast story.

Four years ago I left television news for academia. During 35 years in broadcasting, I hired dozens of young journalism graduates and saw hundreds of resumes and audition tapes. I know what news directors are looking for in new graduates and what they are not finding in many applicants.

My plan was to pass along my knowledge and make sure my students had the training and skills they needed to get a job and to thrive in the competitive TV news world. I looked for reports and studies on new and innovative ways of teaching broadcast journalism. Instead I found calls to abandon teaching traditional broadcast journalism altogether because of the imminent death of television news. The prognostication was the need to begin training “backpack journalists” — reporters who could “produce content” for print, broadcast and new media, but who received little in-depth training in traditional reporting skills.

These changes were being demanded by futurists who pointed to corporate shifts toward merged operations by companies like Media General and Belo as proof that journalism was heading toward “convergence.” They held up lists of television news directors who said they “did convergence” to support calls for training backpack journalists to report for print, broadcast and the Internet. They waved stories about print reporters and photographers being taught to use video and to post online stories as the future of journalism.

I pondered these predictions and asked myself if I had been so blind as to not see these were the people I should have been hiring. My stations had newspaper and radio partners, but reporters didn’t write stories for them and their reporters didn’t provide anything to my newscasts. My stations maintained active Web pages delivering stories, streaming video and breaking news bulletins, but I had never considered having reporters and producers handle anything beyond rewriting broadcast stories.

My concerns prompted me to do a population survey of television news directors. They were asked about their partnerships and Internet pages — why they were maintained, what content was involved, and who did the work. They were also asked about what skills they demanded in new journalism graduates.

Just over 600 surveys were sent out and 154 news directors answered, for a response rate of about 26 percent. Responses were fairly equally divided among all market sizes. Their answers were remarkably similar.

I drew several conclusions from the survey results. The most basic was there is a huge difference between how print and broadcast news managers viewed their new media operations. Many newspapers see them as the future delivery system for news and information, and their future source of income. Television news directors, by contrast, see their Internet and new media operations as supporting their traditional newscasts.

Over 98 percent of news directors said the most important function of their Internet operation was as a promotional vehicle to draw viewers to newscasts. They consider their Web pages as a place to put information that won’t fit into those newscasts: the background, context, maps and lists they can provide for viewer reference. They also see Web pages as a way to show the public they are on the cutting edge of news delivery technology.

The second conclusion was that television news managers demand new reporters and producers be fully prepared to do television news, and not much else. Topping the list of skills required are still broadcast writing, story idea generation, critical thinking to consider context and consequences of a story, and good presentation/voice skills. Many news directors, especially in smaller markets, also want reporters who can write Web page summaries of the stories they first produce for broadcast. Nowhere was there a call to train broadcast journalists to report for other media.

While news directors want new reporters to know about new media delivery platforms like podcasts, RSS and streaming video, virtually none require new journalists to have the technical skills to actually produce them. Not a single respondent said they wanted new reporters and producers to be able to design Web pages, know how to create Internet graphics, or have in-depth knowledge of the technical aspects of new delivery systems. Nor did any indicate a need to know how to write for print.

The third conclusion I reached was that more and more stations are hiring one or two people whose main job is to repackage broadcast stories for the Internet and to post breaking news to their Web pages. These Internet producers sometimes also repurpose broadcast stories or transfer short weather forecasts and news headlines as streaming video. They are assisted by interns, desk assistants and associate producers. They may also work on promotions and with sales departments to produce Web advertising. Most news directors, however, say specialists in the promotions or graphics departments, not news, handle these technical jobs. These technicians also handle the non-journalistic duties of maintaining databases, “citizen journalism” and “viewer contribution” pages.

News directors do realize there are people who do not watch TV news, and most see their Web page as a way to supply this audience with news and information. But most of that content is repurposed from broadcasts. Breaking news, weather bulletins and sports scores are provided to subscribers for mobile phone, PDA and e-mail delivery. Much of it, however, is automated or repurposed by non-journalist technicians. News directors see this all as technology, not journalism, and the people stations hire to “do” new media are computer and graphics specialists, not reporters. Just as they don’t have reporters direct shows, produce graphics, sell advertising or repair trucks, they have other people to do those jobs.

Likewise, over three-fourths of all television station Web pages are designed and maintained by outside services, either corporate divisions or by local or national companies. News people are rarely involved in design or maintenance even when the station’s computer or promotion people do the work.

A few stations, mostly in large markets, are hiring one “mobile journalist” to produce stories first or exclusively for their new media platforms, sometimes posting from the scene. In many cases they are also required to repurpose the story for broadcast.

The final conclusion I reached was there is little, if any, converged journalism, as defined in academic circles, being done at respondents’ stations. The overwhelming broadcast-print partnership activity is confined to three areas: desks sharing story ideas, cross-promotion of stories, and providing weather forecasts for print partners. This is the case even at the heavily publicized “converged” operations where the newspaper and television station are both owned by one parent, even when the operations are under the same roof. Recent reviews of the highly publicized Belo and Media General operation show virtually no interaction between the print and broadcast segments. Almost none of the news directors said their reporters ever wrote a story for a print or radio partner. Those partnerships exist, they say, for the same reason stations have news pages: to promote newscasts.

Most respondents also said their departments received no content from newspaper reporters. Those who did said it was mainly a specialty print reporter — entertainment or food critics for example — talking about their newspaper columns. A few respondents said a newspaper reporter might, occasionally, be asked to do a question-and-answer session about a story he or she is covering.

In summary: The television newscast is still the bread and butter of local broadcast news operations. The main job of the news director is to draw and keep an audience, and news directors hire people with the skills to contribute to those newscasts. Partnerships, the news Web page and new media are considered vehicles to support and promote the broadcast news operation.

More stations are hiring one or two Internet producers who concentrate on Internet news content. They gather information from reporters and write Web stories, sometimes posting them before they are aired on TV, freeing reporters to produce stories for broadcast.

The academic “backpack journalist” does not exist now, and probably won’t exist in the foreseeable future in local television news. To news directors, journalism is what goes on the air. The rest is just “technology,” and they hire or contract that work out to specialists.

This was adapted from a presentation at the annual Convergence Conference at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, October 2007. For more information contact Harvie Nachlinger at


---------------Conferences and Calls for Papers

AEJMC Winter Meeting
St. Louis, Missouri
November 29 – December 2, 2007


International Conference on Information & Communications Technology
“Media Convergence: Moving to the Next Generation"
Information Technology Institute
Cairo, Egypt
December 16-18, 2007

AEJMC Midwinter Conference
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
February 29 – March 1, 2008
Graduate students are encouraged to submit.
Call for Papers deadline: December 7, 2007

BEA 2008: The New Communications Frontiers
Las Vegas, Nevada
April 16-19, 2008
Call for Papers deadline: December 3, 2007

61st World Newspaper Congress
Goteborg, Sweden
June 1-4, 2008

15th World Editors Forum
Goteborg, Sweden
June 1-4, 2008

Convergence and Society: The Participatory Web
University of South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina
October 9-11, 2008
Call for Papers deadline: June 15, 2008

---------------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
Doug Fisher

Brad Petit


Visit The Convergence Newsletter blog at, where you can comment on recent articles and keep up with the latest in convergence news. There is also an RSS feed option for those who want alternative access.

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

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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, book reviews, calls for papers and conference announcements. Our audience is both academics and professionals; the publication style is AP for copy and APA for citations. Feature articles should be 750 to 1,200 words. Other articles should be 250 to 750 words; announcements and conference submissions should be 200 words. Please send all articles to The Convergence Newsletter editor at along with your name, affiliation, and contact information.

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 or second week of each month except January and July. Articles should be submitted by the 15th of the month to be considered for the next month’s issue. Any questions should be sent to


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