From Newsplex at the University of South Carolina
Vol. VI No. 5 (December 2008-February 2009)
Commenting on Convergence
By Brad Petit, Editor of The Convergence Newsletter
In November, we shared with you some of the great research and discussion presented at October’s Convergence Conference here at USC. The conference always presents a fantastic opportunity to learn about and discuss the latest trends in the study, teaching, and application of convergent journalism.
We’re pleased to offer three more perspectives from the conference in this month’s issue of The Convergence Newsletter.
Early in this decade, much of the research on convergence focused on the expected combination of television and newspaper newsrooms and the wide cultural gulf that had to be overcome. As the decade draws to a close, Drs. Susan Keith of Rutgers University and Leslie-Jean Thornton of Arizona State have new research that revisits the idea and prevalence of partnerships between print and broadcast operations. Their findings are likely to cause us to rethink what exactly “media convergence” has become.
Last year’s U.S. presidential campaign saw the candidates, and voters, plugged in as never before. But Laurel Gleason of Ohio State University examines whether the rise in online political engagement has really translated to an increase in actual political empowerment.
Finally, Dr. John Cokley of Queensland University in Australia notes the historical lack of journalism studies for journalists (as opposed to simply studies of journalists) and suggests it is time for everyday practitioners to come to the forefront of saving journalism.
In the coming months we will be presenting more highlights from the Convergence Conference as well as special issues dedicated to convergence internationally and the impact of convergence on communities. And as always, we encourage you to continue sharing your thoughts and impressions – and most of all your writings – with us.
Contact Brad Petit, editor of The Convergence Newsletter, at email@example.com.
View past newsletters at http://www.jour.sc.edu/news/convergence/.
Visit The Convergence Newsletter blog at http://convergencenl.blogspot.com.
A Note from the Executive Editor
You might have noticed your newsletter went missing in December, didn’t appear, instead, in January and is just now getting to your inbox. Some staff rearranging, the holidays, teaching schedules, and then a bout with seasonal illness have all conspired to put us behind. But we’re back and pressing forward. My apology as, ultimately, the buck stops here.
As we press forward, however, we find the larder a little bare. We are constantly scouring the landscape for good work that can inform the discussion about convergence in its many forms. In a classic 2003 article and book chapter, Rich Gordon of Northwestern University laid out six ways to think of convergence: technology, organization, ownership, structure, information gathering, and presentation. In discussions we at the University of South Carolina have been having about our curriculum – and I can’t imagine any faculty not finding itself having these ongoing discussions these days – I have proposed a six-part model: physical, technological, pedagogical, operational, philosophical, and financial.
In short, the depths of “convergence” are far from being plumbed and the nuances far from being explored. While we are based in a journalism school and much early work has revolved around journalism and its future, as John Cokley so ably discusses in this issue, the research studies and the practical examples from which we can all learn are myriad. Laurel Gleason’s work in considering whether convergence translates to the political arena is a case in point. And, as Leslie-Jean Thorton and Susan Keith show us, we can hardly rest on what seemed so clear not so long ago – the study of convergence, however we want to define it, is morphological.
Thus, the bottom line: Why is the larder getting a little bare? We’re not sure. We know we straddle the valley – some might say crevasse – between a peer-reviewed journal and a large-run professional periodical. But we think that special niche needs to be filled. You may often have heard me say we are a “journal of first impressions”: the perfect place to begin forming the kernel of an idea that might go on to be a full research project or to take research that might not immediately qualify for a full paper and still share the knowledge gleaned. It is the perfect place for graduate student work that might not quite be ready for peer review but is definitely valuable.
Likewise, just look around. We are swimming in an age of innovation and struggle. Both need to be documented because practical examples teach us so much, and we want to remember that not all – in fact maybe not even the majority – of such innovations are being carried out in major media or major markets, or in the Western World.
In other words, we hope to be a conversation starter.
But ultimately, this is your newsletter, whether you are in San Francisco or Sofia, Gaborone or Goteborg, Cordoba or Calgary. We need your articles, reviews, and other writings. We need you to tell us not only about your work, but also about other good work you see so that we might solicit the author or innovator, or pursue our own reporting, such as some of the good question-and-answer sessions that have been in these pages.
We are especially looking for work in the international arena and in detailing how convergence is affecting, and perhaps reshaping, communities physical and social.
So please think of us. Better yet, write something for us. We don’t want to miss any more issues.
Goodbye Convergence, Hello “Webvergence”: The Decline of Broadcast-Print Partnerships in an Increasingly Online Media World
The Root of “Empowerment” is Power: An Examination of Political Engagement and the Web
Taking the Future of Journalism into Our Own Hands
Conferences, Training, and Calls for Papers
March 6-8: AEJMC Midwinter Conference, University of Oklahoma
March 19-21: AEJMC Southeast Colloquium, Oxford, Miss.
April 16-19: Health Journalism 2009, Seattle
April 22-25: BEA annual meeting, Las Vegas
April 24-26: Media in Transition 6, MIT, Cambridge, Mass.
May 4-8: Convergence Software Bootcamp, Newsplex @ USC
June 22-26: Teaching & Research in Convergent Journalism, Newsplex @ USC
Aug. 5-8: AEJMC annual conference, Boston
Goodbye Convergence, Hello ‘Webvergence’: The Decline of Broadcast-Print Partnerships in an Increasingly Online Media World
By Dr. Susan M. Keith, Rutgers University, and Dr. Leslie-Jean Thornton, Arizona State University
At the turn of the 21st century, news organizations and academics began trumpeting a version of newsroom convergence that focused heavily on partnerships between television stations and newspapers. One goal of these collaborations – which were driven by both advances in technology and declines in audience numbers – was to attract newspaper readers to television newscasts and TV audiences to newspapers.
Academic research soon began to suggest that newspaper-TV partnerships were neither as integrated nor as profitable as their early proponents had hoped they might be. Some scholars even reported that news organizations that had been convergence leaders were pulling back from print-broadcast partnerships, usually in favor of a greater focus on disseminating content online. How often that was happening, however, remained unclear. By early 2008, it had been three years since collection of the most recent published data on the diffusion of convergence – data that had reflected a growth in partnerships.
To get a fresher picture, we surveyed newspaper editors and television news directors in summer and fall 2008 about their multimedia newsgathering and dissemination practices. With help from a grant from the National Association of Broadcasters, we contacted the 354 television stations in the top 100 markets with English-language local news broadcasts and the 340 daily newspapers with average weekday circulations of 25,000 or more. Thirty-eight percent of the news organizations responded, providing data that suggests the importance of print-broadcast partnerships has waned.
Just over 50 percent of the newspaper journalists surveyed and nearly 49 percent of the broadcast journalists said their newsrooms had a cross-platform partnership. It is difficult to compare diffusion-of-convergence data because studies have tracked multimedia practices among different populations and used different definitions of convergence. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that the percentages of partnerships we found were markedly lower than the 70 percent of newspaper respondents and 56 percent of broadcast respondents who reported having a partner from the other medium in a 2004-05 survey by Southern Methodist University assistant professor Camille Kraeplin and former SMU professor Carrie Criado.
Our respondents provided even more compelling evidence for a drop-off in cross-organization collaborations. Nearly 22 percent of those from newspapers and just over 16 percent of those from television stations reported their news organizations once had a partnership with a news outlet from the other medium but had ended or severely curtailed the arrangement. Nearly 23 percent of the newspaper respondents and nearly 28 percent of the TV respondents said their newsrooms had never had a partnership and were not planning one.
Reasons for eliminating or avoiding print-broadcast collaborations varied, but several newspaper respondents questioned the value of having a TV partner. “There’s no need to,” an editor at a newspaper with a circulation between 25,001 and 50,000 wrote. “No one knows our local market like we do and we have the capability to produce anything a TV station could – often better – regarding video and audio.”
The idea of newspaper and TV staffers working together has not taken hold, either. Asked how often newspaper and TV reporters collaborated on teams or beats, 89 percent of the respondents said “not at all.” Slightly more than 1 percent reported such teamwork took place “a few times a week,” and 0.7 percent reported daily involvement.
Responses suggest newspapers and local TV news operations are forgoing partnerships with each other to focus, separately, on their own Web sites. Less than 11 percent of the television respondents and 13 percent of the newspaper respondents reported their Web sites were what one might call “fully integrated,” containing material from the parent medium, material produced especially for the Web site, and material from a convergence partner.
News outlets are going it alone in their Web efforts, even when that encroaches on another medium’s traditional turf. Almost 89 percent of the newspaper respondents said video – traditionally television’s bailiwick – was produced for their sites by print and Web staffs with no broadcast involvement. Eighty-two percent of the newspapers using newscasts on their sites report producing them with no broadcast involvement. Ninety percent of the TV respondents who said they used text stories from other than wire services on their Web sites wrote them without newspaper involvement.
Other data support evidence that print news outlets are nudging in on television’s traditional role as a producer of moving pictures. Almost 66 percent of the newspaper respondents said photographers for their newspaper shot video, more than 60 percent said reporters shot video, and 41 percent reported their papers employed videographers.
Finally, at least for this summary, it is interesting to note how broadcast and print journalists regarded the relationship between the work they do for the parent organization – the newspaper or station – and that organization’s Web site. Most respondents said they did work for both publication platforms. Print journalists, however, were nearly 10 times more likely than broadcast respondents to support the most pro-Web vision of journalistic work, which held that “essentially the whole staff is focused on the Web first.”
Multiple types of evidence showed that broadcast-print convergence had reached its apogee and was on the decline by mid-2008 as U.S. daily newspapers and local TV operations refocused their attentions on the Web. Many of the current cross-platform media partnerships are not very intense, relying on “weak trade agreement(s),” as one respondent termed them – headlines read on the air in exchange for a meteorologist’s report in the paper, for example – and practicing convergence less than daily, sometimes only a few times a month. This was true not just for TV-print partnerships, but for TV-print-Web alliances as well. Instead, our study suggests, local television stations and newspapers are approaching the Web and other new media individually. This, in turn, suggests that academic journalism programs might best focus on online journalism, making multiple courses incorporating new-media practices available to students with both print and broadcast interests.
This article is adapted from a presentation given at the 2008 Convergence and Society conference in Columbia, S.C., October 2008. Dr. Leslie-Jean Thornton is an assistant professor in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. Contact Thornton at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dr. Susan Keith is an assistant professor in the School of Communication, Information and Library Studies at Rutgers University. Contact Keith at email@example.com.
The Root of ‘Empowerment’ is Power: An Examination of Political Engagement and the Web
By Laurel S. Gleason, J.D., The Ohio State University
I have always been interested in academic debates. Whether the argument centers on choice of method, ontological or epistemological a prioris, or concerns about “whose interests are served,” I frequently return to the idea that dialogue is the key to breaking stalemates. By “dialogue” I am referring not simply to conversing with one another, but to a form of metacommunication – talking about how we talk about issues, disclosing our assumptions, and creating a framework for integration of our respective views.
With this idea in mind, I offer the following comments about the ongoing “debate” regarding the political impact of the Internet, specifically in the United States.
To speak of literature addressing the political impact of the Internet as forming a “debate” is somewhat misleading. In reality, it is more a juxtaposition of competing monologues. Study after study proceeds from a recitation of the schism between cyber-utopians and -dystopians, frequently with the agenda of adding support to one or another side of the divide. As is often the case with complex questions, it seems the period of “it’s too soon to tell who’s right” will persist into the foreseeable future. It is not, however, too soon to tell whether we are headed in the right direction. Are we poised to advance our understanding of the Internet as a means by which the practice of democracy may be made more congruent with the ideals of democracy? Are we asking the right questions?
This is a more oblique question than it may appear. Implicit is an assumption that change could be beneficial to the functioning of our political system. What follows from this assumption is another question – what kind of change? How we answer depends on how each of us conceptualizes democracy, views the current state of affairs, and defines the areas for “improvement” within which change is desirable. It is unlikely, of course, that complete consensus can be reached on any of these issues. However, it is important to identify common ground. As suggested above, in the absence of any shared horizon, it is not only difficult to for us to speak to and learn from one another, it is difficult for us to evaluate the substantive significance of the research to date.
To this end, I offer the idea of power as an organizing principle, within which questions of empowerment can be considered. Although it is true there are disagreements as to how power should be allocated in a democracy, it is reasonable to assert it is not until one understands how power is allocated that he or she can begin to identify successes and failures of democracy in practice; that is, areas for improvement. This is true whether one subscribes to a model of strong – or even direct – democracy, deliberative democracy, or some variant of “elitism with accountability.” All imply a particular allocation of power. Consider, for example, some of the typical lamentations about our political system: (1) the public is apathetic, (2) the public is uninformed, (3) lobbyists and “special interests” wield disproportionate influence, (4) partisanship eclipses rational deliberation. Within each of these purported ailments is a claim about the allocation of power; either the public has too little “effective” influence, or lobbyists and party elites have too much unfettered influence.
The overriding question then becomes to what extent has the Internet effected a reallocation of power? While it is not the norm to address this question directly, it is incorrect to say it has been overlooked. Rather, it has often been tacitly raised in studies seeking to identify changes in the political system brought about by this new technology. However, these studies frequently address the question of power – or more specifically, empowerment – in a rather narrow and potentially misleading way.
Empowerment, as conceptualized by psychologists, is a multidimensional construct involving not only a sense of psychological empowerment (or efficacy) but also sociopolitical (or material) empowerment. One may “feel” empowered, and have a kind of “can-do” spirit, without actually having any real power in the sociopolitical sphere (for example, having influence over the allocation of resources). Unfortunately, much of the extant research does not recognize this dimensionality and focuses solely on psychological empowerment as if were not only a necessary but a sufficient condition for political reform.
To demonstrate this point, I reviewed articles that appeared in three communication journals over the past five years: Journal of Communication, Political Communication, and Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics. In the articles dealing with politics and the Internet in the United States, the pattern that emerged was one centered on intrapersonal development –whether the Internet may, or may not, provide the means for individuals to become more informed, more efficacious, and more inclined to discuss politics. While the importance of these studies should not be understated, it is critical to recognize that by focusing on the psychological dimensions of empowerment, they overlook whether the changes they identify have resulted in any material (as opposed to symbolic or illusory) reallocation of power in the political system.
The implications of this approach are two-fold. First, as noted above, it suggests psychological empowerment is synonymous with sociopolitical empowerment. Second, it implies psychological empowerment is an unqualified normative good, without addressing the possibility that individuals who “feel” empowered may not recognize their own lack of “real” power. More specifically, if reading The Daily Kos, signing online petitions, and hosting our own blogs gives us the sense we are really (and perhaps, finally) engaged citizens, will we be motivated to do more? Is it not important to know whether policy makers are reading our blogs, attending to our petitions, and paying attention to the political blogosphere? Is it not important to know whether lobbyists and special interests have been “empowered” by this technology as well? Finally, is it not important to ask whether the online “public sphere” has changed the tenor of the debate in Washington and in our state governments?
Our investigation of the reformative power of the Internet up to this point has been fruitful, but incomplete. If we are truly to understand the “empowering” potential of this new technology, there is much more work to be done.
This article is adapted from a presentation given at the 2008 Convergence and Society conference in Columbia, S.C., October 2008. Laurel Gleason, J.D., is a doctoral student at The Ohio State University. Contact Gleason at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taking the Future of Journalism into Our Own Hands
By Dr. John Cokley, University of Queensland, Australia
The “Big Issues” in convergence for journalists currently involve answering some big questions (think of the old who-what-when-where-why-how):
Much of this is being investigated in contemporary journalism studies under the growing umbrella of “convergence.” This term has been used to describe our new ways of operating: convergence is “the practice of producing and reporting news across two or more media simultaneously” (Wilkinson et al., 2009, p. 2), “a revolutionary and evolutionary form of journalism that is emerging in many parts of the world” (Quinn & Filak, 2005, p. 3), and “journalists working in different media coming together to provide different content for different audiences” (Kolodzy, 2006, p. 5).
- “What is happening to journalism?” This question invites study of practices.
- “Where and how is journalism happening?” This invites study of technologies and processes.
- “Who is making journalism happen?” This invites study of the people in journalism: full-time employed producers, reporters and editors; freelancers; and citizen journalists.
It has been used to describe the site for these practices: convergence entails the “flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behavior of media audiences” (Jenkins, 2006, p. 2-3) and “an ongoing process or series of intersections between different media systems, not a fixed relationship” (Jenkins, 2006, p. 282).
“Convergence” has also been rolled out to describe the relationship between practice, site, and practitioners: “a student graduating from a journalism program in the early 21st century … (needs) to know about convergence because it is likely to influence the way (his or her) career evolves” (Quinn & Filak, 2005, p. 3).
Existing methodologies have examined all three – practices, sites, and practitioners – using “choice literature,” which suggests that news workers should understand the uses and gratifications tradition and their own and their audience members’ behavioral intentions (Vishwanath, 2008, p. 8-12), as well as come to grips with the mechanisms of user customization and polarization (Hollander, 2008, p. 24-26).
Behavioral choices and intentions have been attributed to uses and gratifications among audience members; the need for surveillance – deviance (Hyuk, 2008) and evolutionary determinism (Shoemaker, 1996); communicatory-utility theories; audience activity (Vishwanath, 2008) such as instrumental and ritual; and customization and polarization (Hollander, 2008), identifying a drain from news to entertainment.
The values and decision-making processes (as described by Sylvie & Huang, 2008) of reporters, producers, and editors have been categorized as journalistic or social, and the spotlight has fallen at various times on newsroom practices (McCluskey, 2008) such as rostering and beats, and cooperation among competing reporters, as well as journalists’ education (McCluskey, 2008) and diversity (Wu & Izard, 2008).
The vast majority of studies reported in Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly over the past 24 years have concentrated on choices by audiences and journalists.
Citizen journalism studies have begun to investigate choices by audiences (as participants) and for audiences (as receivers) (Tilley & Cokley, 2008), and “Long Tail” theory looks at choice per se as a vehicle to empower audiences (Anderson, 2008) and begins to look at participants more generally.
But these studies are of journalists and journalism; there is precious little happening in studies for journalists and journalism.
So I propose a new way of seeing, one that will help us navigate the turbulent waters of the present series of shutdowns and layoffs that characterize the change to converged journalism. This involves turning the lens of study to show the journalist’s point of view. For instance, we should not ask only “How can journalism be improved?” or “How can journalists be improved?” but “How can things be improved for journalists?”
Classical journalism and communications research examines audience needs and gratifications, but plainly journalists have needs and gratifications too. These should be addressed through professional development for journalists. Professional development is well known in many other industries, but in nearly 30 years in this business I have seen precious little of it for journalists. The odd course in new technologies is not professional development, by the way.
We need to find and apply to ourselves – especially mid-career professionals negotiating the biggest changes since the invention of television – the processes of change management. Others regard this as elementary forward planning, but journalists seem to think we are immune from such needs. In fact, it’s this forward planning that is essential for us as journalism individuals, not only for the manufacturers.
We are capable of developing – or at the very least, buying in – professional development and forward-planning skills for us and more importantly, for the future generations of journalists. We who work with the product daily ought to be the leaders in new-product development, both to assist us in our work and to help audiences receive and understand our work. We should also be at the forefront of journalism innovation, finding new and better ways of reporting, producing, and distributing our products – every other profession, industry, and craft has done this. Can’t we?
This is one reason Dr. Robert Bergland, professor of journalism and integrated media at Missouri Western State University, is leading the formation of the new peer-reviewed journal Journalism Innovation: So we can lead, instead of follow, what happens in the company owners’ offices.
In the present dramatic times, when reporters and editors face layoffs across North America, Australia, and Europe, it’s too easy for us in the industry (and some in academia) to lay back and squeal “Why me?” and “Who’s going to pay me?” But that’s certainly what’s happening in union offices and lunchrooms around the world.
At one of the many “Future of Journalism” conferences held during 2008-2009, this time in Sydney, Australia, I offered the proposition that journalists should look around and find a better business model than wage earning to get through this, perhaps taking a leaf out of the public relations and advertising business models.
“After all, our PR and advertising colleagues are the ones driving the best cars and working in the best offices, aren’t they?” I said. “We don’t need to become a PR or an advertising agent – we’re journalists – but we can find out why their business model works so well and learn from it.”
But delegates – nearly all employed in Big Media – resisted, sticking to the conventional story that “journalists need publishers to pay them” and that it’s impossible for us to survive in business without the industrialists who made journalism production possible in the 19th and 20th centuries.
I realize this sounds suspiciously like a clarion call, but it’s true: The future of journalism rests with journalists, not with the owners and managers of the processes of capital designed to deliver journalism.
Anderson, C. (2008). The Long Tail (2nd ed.). New York: Hyperion.
Hollander, B. (2008) Tuning out or tuning elsewhere? Partisanship, polarization and media migration from 1998 to 2006. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 85(1), 23-40
Hyuk, L.J. (2008). Effects of news deviance and personal involvement on audience story selection: A web-tracking analysis. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 85(1), 41-60.
Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence Culture. New York: NYU Press.
Kolodzy, J. (2006). Convergence Journalism. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.
McCluskey, M. (2008). Reporter beat and content differences in environmental stories. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 85(1), 83-98.
Quinn, S., & Filak, V. (2005). Convergent Journalism. Amsterdam: Focal Press.
Shoemaker, P. (1996). Hard-wired for news: Using biological and cultural evolution to explain the news. Journal of Communication, 46, 32-47.
Sylvie, G., & Huang, S. (2008). Value systems and decision-making styles of newspaper front-line editors. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 85(1), 61-82.
Tilley, E., & Cokley, J. (2007). Mapping the public sphere discourse on ‘citizen journalist’: Participants, constructs, and ideological investments. The future for the mainstream: The changing demands on journalists and the challenge for journalism educators, refereed proceedings of the 2007 conference of the Journalism Education Association of New Zealand (JEANZ), online at http://communication.massey.ac.nz/programme.html.
Vishwanath, A. (2008). The 360deg news experience: Audience connections with the ubiquitous news organization. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 85(1), 7-22.
Wilkinson, J., Grant, A., & Fisher, D. (2009). Principles of Convergent Journalism. New York: Oxford University Press.
This article is adapted from a presentation given at the 2008 Convergence and Society conference in Columbia, S.C., October 2008. Dr. John Cokley is a lecturer in the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Queensland, Australia. Contact Cokley at email@example.com.
Links referenced in this article:
Dr. Robert Bergland: http://staff.missouriwestern.edu/users/bergland/
>>>>Conferences, Training, and Calls for Papers<<<<
AEJMC Midwinter Conference
AEJMC Southeast Colloquium
Health Journalism 2009
Association of Health Care Journalists Annual Conference
Media in Transition 6
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Newsplex Summer Seminar: Convergence Software Bootcamp
University of South Carolina
Newsplex Summer Seminar: Teaching & Research in Convergent Journalism
University of South Carolina
AEJMC Annual Conference 2009
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