The Convergence Newsletter

From Newsplex at the University of South Carolina

Vol. VI No. 13 (December 2009)

Paying convergence only lip service

By Matt McColl, Editor

It’s a familiar refrain, the constant need for traditional news organizations need to retool to a form that embraces convergence. But some Virginia Commonwealth University students learned that this idea still has little traction on the front lines of news organizations. Marcus Messner and Tim Bajkiewicz of VCU expounds on the research they delivered at the Convergence and Society Conference in Reno, Nev., in which their students questioned the heads of major news organizations.

We here at The Convergence Newsletter welcome articles and feedback from all our readers. You can e-mail us at and you can comment on all articles at The Convergence Newsletter blog,

View past newsletters at Visit The Convergence Newsletter blog at


Featured Articles

News organizations don’t practice what they preach


Quick Glance Calendar (details)

January 19: New Media Theory: How Far Have we Traveled? -- Call for Abstracts

February 12: National Newspapers Association: Newspapers and Community-Building Symposium XVI -- Call for Abstracts

March 11-13: AEJMC Southeast Colloquium 2010 Chapel Hill, NC

April 22 – 25: 68th MPSA Political Science Conference, Chicago

May 6 - 7: 4th International Conference on eDemocracy Danube University Krems Austria

May 4 - 8: 2009 Newsplex Summer Seminars Series - Convergence Software Bootcamp Columbia, SC

June 22 - 26: 2009 Newsplex Summer Seminars Series - Teaching and Research in Convergent Media Columbia, SC


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

News Organizations don’t practice what they preach By Tim Bajkiewicz and Marcus Messner, Virginia Commonwealth University

When we noticed that Augie Grant and Larry Dailey had put our presentation as the first for the November convergence conference, we were a little concerned. We weren’t nervous. We just knew that our presentation, “Engaging the future: An analysis of multimedia strategies of traditional news organizations,” didn’t paint the most hopeful picture. After many of the conference participants had traveled many hours to reach Reno, you would like to start off with something more positive than, “At the end of the day, it seems too many news organizations aren’t doing enough.”

Our graduate students – part of our Multimedia Journalism master’s program -- conducted 30-minute in-depth interviews with a senior manager from each of nine mostly national (also a few regional) traditional news organizations, including Cox, Tribune, and Gannett. The interviews were an assignment for “The Business of Media” class, which also incorporated the students’ researching their chosen company. During our analysis, it was gratifying to hear the full, raw interviews in which the students asked straightforward questions about the tangled mess of today's news industry of those with the power to untangle it.

It’s one thing to read about it, but it’s quite another to hear the people and thoughts behind journalism’s struggle for survival and relevance. You could hear some of the confusion, bewilderment, and even frustration that have come to define the news-financial complex.

Our qualitative, inductive, grounded theory analysis found 11 overarching categories for the news organization managers’ responses. One must always consider the factor that with this kind of analysis, it is all about the respondent’s perception. It would be safe to assume these managers know their companies — what we want to know is how they see the current media world. For starters, it seems the industry, just as we in the academy, still doesn’t know what to call this new media reality.

As one manager said: “You know, new media is one of those words like ‘convergence’ or ‘multimedia.’ What does it actually mean?” Some took a more platform-independent view of the industry: “We see our business not as putting ink on paper, but as providing news, information and advertising to our communities.”

Many also emphasized their economic ties to the printed newspaper, with one respondent saying it is “always our product.” This hits upon one of the quandaries of researching new media. We keep wondering when and how more brick-and-mortar news shops will prepare themselves for the future, but it would be foolish to ignore recent studies suggest each print reader must be replaced by at least 10 online readers to sustain the same economic viability.

We heard this tension in the interviews. One said, “Journalism isn’t cheap.” In discussing the future of newspapers one manager said, “I don’t think the Internet is going to wipe out print newspapers.” It’s a bit surprising to hear this in 2009, since a handful of industry pundits have said it since the mid-1980s. Is it good that this still hasn’t come to pass, or naïve to think it may not?

Almost all the senior managers in these traditional news organizations spoke about their efforts online, with only a handful saying they have any strategy about integrating social media such as Twitter and Facebook into their newsroom practices. And while several mentioned the explosion of mobile technologies, fewer discussed efforts in those areas, with those who did describing what equates to little more than quasi-experimental efforts. One manager put new media – described as the “cool tools” of convergence journalism – in a broader cultural and sociological context, saying that organization is looking into “building communities around news.” This suggests an evolution of the convergence conversation that’s less about the tools and more about the task.

We understand the role quality news and information (which is generated by top-notch journalism) plays in the lives of our community members and fellow citizens — our audiences. Managers also mentioned how multiplatform skill sets are now part of the job description, including “that they understand the expectations that we’re about growing our audience, not about a specific platform.” Overall, the traditional news organization managers we heard from echoed the contemporary view of the future, that these companies should “not worry about where we push our content out to, but worry about getting out the most usable, relevant content.”

But saying is different than doing, and they essentially said they aren’t doing much when it comes to multimedia strategies. We understand that implementing new policies and procedures in a large organization is challenging, but we were a bit surprised that so few multimedia strategies are in place or in the works.

This led us to conclude that many of these organizations really don’t have a plan for the next generation of news content and delivery. It seems they know what they need to do. That’s not to say some don’t have any plan – as one news manager told us, “We’re planning to keep on doing what we’re doing.”

Dr. Tim Bajkiewicz is an associate professor of broadcast journalism in School of Mass Communication at Virginia Commonwealth University who previously spent seven years on faculty in the School of Mass Communications at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Tim can be reached at

Dr. Marcus Messner is an assistant professor at the School of Mass Communications, teaching journalism and mass communications classes. He joined VCU in the fall of 2007. Marcus can be reached at


---------------Conferences, Training and Calls for Papers

AEJMC: New Media Theory: How Far Have we Traveled?

Call for Abstracts

January 19,2010 Deadline


National Newspaper Association: Newspapers and Community-Building Symposium XVI

Call for Abstracts

February 12, 2010 Deadline


AEJMC Southeast Colloquium 2010

Chapel Hill, N.C.

March 11-13


68th MPSA Political Science Conference


April 22-25


4th International Conference on eDemocracy Danube University

Krems, Austria

May 6-7


2010 Newsplex Summer Seminars

Convergence Software Bootcamp

Columbia, S.C.

May 4-8


2010 Newsplex Summer Seminars

Teaching and Research in Convergent Media

Columbia, S.C.

June 21-25

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


Matt McColl



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.

View past and current issues of The Convergence Newsletter at


---------------Licensing and Redistribution

Creative Commons License

The Convergence Newsletter is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

This newsletter may be redistributed in any form — print or electronic — without edits or deletion of any content.


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

The Convergence Newsletter provides an editorially neutral forum for discussion of the theoretical and professional meaning of media convergence in all forms including technological, organizational, operational, psychological, and sociological. We welcome articles of all sorts and encourage those addressing the subject in new ways and with new perspectives. We also accept news briefs, book reviews, calls for papers and conference announcements. Our audience is both academic and professional; the publication style is AP for copy and APA for citations. Feature articles should be 600 to 1,200 words. Other articles should be 450 to 600 words; announcements and conference submissions should be no more than 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 (we prefer 200 words or less) and a link to the complete information. All announcements should be submitted to The Convergence Newsletter editor at

The Convergence Newsletter is published 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



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