The Convergence Newsletter
From Newsplex at the University of South Carolina

Vol. VI No. 6 (April 2009)

Commenting on Convergence

By Brad Petit, Co-editor of The Convergence Newsletter

The study of convergence invariably, it seems, ends up a study of change, and this month we have three articles that articulate some of the big changes sweeping over the media landscape.

Veteran journalist Wendy Parker is one of thousands who have left newspapers recently, but her optimistic story of embracing the challenge laid before her deserves special note and may serve as a model for those in Parker’s shoes.

Another big change in media isn’t so much about who’s no longer providing the content, but who is. Bartosz Wojdynski and Jessica Smith of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill share research that explains who is most likely to create content online and suggest where the research should go from here.

Perhaps no industry has been hit as hard by change as the newspaper business, but Tom Griscom, publisher and editor of  the Chattanooga Times Free Press in Tennessee, says this could be the year newspapers get a firm grip on some of the big changes that have shaken their traditional business model. But for that to happen, Griscom says, papers may need to change the way they think of audiences, channels, and handling content. Some of his observations from the field parallel those in the research by Susan Keith and Leslie-Jean Thornton presented in our February newsletter.

In our next issue, we’ll focus once again on the impact of convergence on communities. Also coming up are special theme issues on international convergence and teaching. As always, we appreciate your submissions and encourage you to approach us with any ideas you may have.

Contact Brad Petit, co-editor of The Convergence Newsletter, at

View past newsletters at
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Feature Articles

Reinventing a Journalism Career in the Digital Age

Modeling Demographic Predictors of Content Creation

Be Careful what You Wish For in 2009

Book Announcement – Understanding Media Convergence: The State of the Field

USC Convergence Conference Goes West

Conferences, Training and Calls for Papers

April 16-19: Health Journalism 2009, Seattle
April 22-25: BEA annual meeting, Las Vegas
April 24-26: Media in Transition 6, MIT
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
Nov. 5-6: Convergence and Society Conference 2009, University of Nevada, Reno

>>>>Feature Articles<<<<

Reinventing a Journalism Career in the Digital Age

By Wendy Parker

As one of an estimated 15,000 people to leave American newspapers last year, I still feel fortunate. And I say that as the timing of my departure coincided with the onset of a nightmarish recession that's the worst since before my parents were born.

Unlike many journalists, pressroom operators, advertising sales reps, and circulation workers who have been laid off, some unceremoniously, I accepted a generous buyout from my former newspaper. The decision to leave a place I loved, and where I had worked for nearly 19 years, was excruciatingly difficult. But I didn't experience the trauma of being tapped on my shoulder and called into a room with a human resources officer waiting to hand me a pink slip and a box of Kleenex.

I was able to pack up my own belongings and put them in my car at my leisure, rather than have someone else box them up in a rush and ship them to me. I closed out all the files and bookmarks on my work computer, rather than be escorted out the door as a technician erased all digital traces of my ever having been there. At a reception in my final week, I was given a finely done CD featuring all 73 of us in our buyout group. A very nice honor indeed as 1,200 combined years of experience filtered out of an institution with a rich, illustrious history. I was privileged to have been part of it.

When I finally turned in my company badge and walked out of the building for the last time, there was a terrific farewell party waiting at a favorite journalists' watering hole. Tears turned into laughs, with the retelling of happy memories chased by cold, refreshing sips of draught. Few other professions I know have sendoffs like this, and it eased the initial transition into a post-newsroom world. (So did a visit to a day spa a few days later – highly recommended!)

Leaving my newspaper was the hardest thing I've ever done as a journalist. It's also the best thing I've ever done as a journalist.

And yet, nearly six months later, there are occasional tears that flow (as they do now while I compose this essay). I miss former colleagues and the shared camaraderie of many years, the banter of the newsroom, and how we kept each other sane during some very rough times in recent years.

But I'm not looking back with any regrets. I left newspapers to some degree because they will never be the same, and because I faced the threat of being laid off. But mainly I came to understand that my career really hasn't been about just working at a newspaper. It's been about being a journalist.

So I chose to take control of that career, instead of letting someone else play Russian roulette with it, and try to carve new paths in journalism. After working for the last four years on my newspaper's Web site, I gained a larger perspective about the prospects for the profession and have been excited by the possibilities of Web journalism.

Almost instantly, people offered me work. A friend who runs a basketball camp and tournament business has me blogging on his site. A fellow sports freelancer with sites of his own has me blogging too. My father has me proofreading the manuscript of a historical novel he wants to get published. I started my own blog on online journalism. And most recently I've been writing for a new online news venture that includes a number of my former colleagues.

The work has been plentiful, but the compensation has not. This is the most troubling aspect of life after newspapers, but I'm taking the long view. Instead of merely trying to get another job – especially when thousands of workers are getting laid off every week – I'm creating the career I've always wanted. I can't say exactly what that might be, but it's most likely a combination of sports and Web journalism, primarily via freelance and contract work.

Some of the people who took the buyout with me are starting their own sites and freelancing. A number of them want to start their own businesses or work in smaller settings, in journalism or outside it. The writing and editing skills and news judgment gained during a long career have so much value in the rest of the work force, and that's not something we know while in a newsroom.

A former reporter at my paper who has gone the public relations route told some of us not long ago, and I quote her verbatim, "the worst writer in a newsroom is still better than the best writer in a P.R. agency." Think about that!

A personal friend who's a veteran of the marketing profession reads my blog and marvels at the writing. I've never regarded myself as a distinctive stylist, but she's had to read more than two decades' worth of memos, e-mails, and presentations by and for marketers. Keep that in perspective.

Moving beyond what newspaper people have been comfortable with has been the most gratifying and energizing step I've ever taken. Like many journalists profiled recently by the American Journalism Review, these experiences have been invigorating – and sometimes bittersweet.

For journalists who've left their newsrooms but want to stay in the profession, acquiring digital and entrepreneurial skills is an absolute must. I've taken multimedia training at the Poynter Institute and am taking other self-directed online Web courses. I'm also building my own site thanks to a former newspaper reporter who's helping others in the "diaspora" go into business.

Not having a blog is unforgivable, in my opinion. So many displaced reporters are venturing into territory surrendered by mainstream media outlets pulling back on coverage. Since the Web is a niche medium, the opportunities to deepen reporting and develop interaction with citizens and communities have never been greater. A great resource for "beat blogging,",  contains tips from working journalists, both inside and outside of newsrooms.

These are daunting but hopeful times. I'm bullish on the future of journalism because I embrace it and because I realize the rest of my career is going to be spent on career reinvention. Our profession is undergoing massive transformation, and we have to adapt to that.

Newspapers have given me a great professional life over the last 25 years, and I want to take the best of that world and blend it into what I believe will be an even better 25 years to come. Yes, I feel very fortunate indeed.

Wendy Parker is a sportswriter and Web producer, editor, and project manager who left the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in September 2008. She blogs about online journalism at her own site, Ink-Drained Kvetch, and freelances for Blue Star Basketball and Basketball State. She also writes about sports and other topics for the Georgia Online News Service, which launched in January and is devoted to examining government, public policy and other issues in Georgia. Contact Parker at

Modeling Demographic Predictors of Content Creation

By Bartosz Wojdynski and Jessica Smith, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

User-generated content on the World Wide Web has become more popular in the last few years. Eight of the 28 most-visited Web sites in the world are services that connect users and allow them to share thoughts, journals, photos, videos, and files (Alexa, 2009). These sites include four social networking sites (MySpace, Facebook, Hi5, and V Kontakte), a video-sharing site (YouTube), two blog-hosting services (Blogger and WordPress), and a file-transfer site (Rapidshare).

These sites fall under the colloquial umbrella term “Web 2.0,” implying a second-generation Web that focuses on the wisdom of crowds, not corporations. That these sites receive such high traffic indicates many Web users are creating content and have found avenues other users can browse. While plenty of Web sites incorporate user-generated content, many of the most popular places online specifically dedicate themselves to this type of content.

Previous data indicate an inverse relationship between age and Internet use: As age increases, Internet use decreases. Teenagers are known to be active in content creation for the Web (Livingstone, Bober, & Helsper, 2005) and populate venues such as social networking sites, which thrive on content creation. It seemed reasonable to expect that older users will create less content to post online than younger users do, since earlier studies found that younger users are the “power creators” (Lenhart, Fallows, & Horrigan, 2004).

To explore trends in the body of users responsible for the rise in user-generated content, we conducted a secondary analysis of a survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project to examine characteristics of Americans who are creating content to share online. The data used were from a December 2005 national phone survey (N=3,011) about online news and user-generated content. Pew reported a sampling error of plus or minus 2 percent for the survey, which was conducted by random digit sampling of telephone numbers in the continental United States and achieved a response rate of 29 percent. We used several regression techniques as well as path analysis to examine demographic characteristics of people who are creating online content, including age, income, education, gender, and race.

The main dependent variable was content creation, measured via an index created by adding responses to four questions in the data set. The four questions measured whether participants ever work on their own Web log, work on their own Web page, work on Web pages or blogs for others, or share artwork, photos, stories, or videos online. A “yes” response to any of the four questions earned a quarter of a point, so the index ranged from 0 (no content creation) to 1 (all four types of content creation). The number of respondents who answered yes or no to these four questions was 1,925, which became the effective sample for this study. The mean value of all participants on the index was 0.14, which equals less than one type of content-creating behavior per person.

The first model we used, a linear regression, found significant results for the effect of age on content creation, but did not provide the best fit to the data, because it did not reflect the steep drop in content creation that exists in people older than about 30. A nonlinear regression with one turn (see Figure 1) provided a better fit, while perhaps exaggerating the slight increase that occurred in users age 60 and above.

Figure 1. Content Creation by Age

In addition to examining the role of age, we also analyzed the impact of income, education, and gender, on content creation. Tested independently, both income and education were statistically significant correlates of content creation. However, as can be expected, income and education were highly correlated with each other. Controlling for the effect of education on income greatly diminishes the effect size of income, and income loses statistical significance. These findings suggested the path model illustrated in Figure 2.

Figure 2: The Role of Income and Education on the Effect of Age on Content Creation

*: p<0.05; **: p<.01; ***: p<.001

The path model compared all variables from minimum to maximum levels. Accordingly, the model shows that an average 75-year-old creates 30 percent less content than an 18-year-old, and someone with a college degree produced 6.7 percent more content than a person without a high school diploma.

The means for content creation by race showed significantly less content creation for white respondents than for respondents of all other races. A regression model for content creation, with age, education, race, income, and gender as predictors maintains the consistent 0.3 percent decrease in content per year of age found in the other regressions. Women create 4 percent less content per person than men. The average black respondent creates 9.5 percent more content than whites, and individuals of other racial groups create 6.3 percent more content per person than whites. These results suggest that young nonwhite Americans are taking greater advantage of opportunities to express themselves online. Nearly 85 percent of the Pew sample was white, so getting larger samples of other racial groups in the future will be important so we can see whether this result holds true.

The data we examined were entirely descriptive and confirmed what many people intuitively assume: young people create more content online. But the steep drop in content creation through the 20s suggests that we should look for cohort effects in the future. People who grow up creating content may maintain those behaviors later in life, so the age distribution of content creators may change over time. People who grow up creating content may maintain those behaviors later in life, so the age distribution of content creators may change over time. In our models, age and education were the most substantial predictors of content creation. However, other demographic factors seem to also play a role in predicting content creation, including an unexpected pattern based on race. 

As more Web content is created by individuals rather than established organizations, the proliferation of distinct voices and ideas available for mass consumption grows. While this decentralizes the power held by the gatekeepers of traditional mass media, it creates a need to research in greater depth what gaps exist between individuals who are creating and sharing content and those whose voices are not represented in the Web’s marketplace of ideas. We also may find it interesting to examine whether individuals’ personal content creation affects their perception of the credibility of other user-generated content for the Web.

Discovering why people share content online will ultimately be more interesting than simply discovering patterns of use. Age, education, income, and race affect online content creation, and these demographic predictors should be paired with future research. Asking people about frequency, methods, and goals of content creation will offer a more comprehensive picture of the Web as a truly participatory medium.


Alexa. (2008). Top Sites. Retrieved Jan 7, 2009, from

Lenhart, A., Fallows, D., & Horrigan, J. (2004). Content creation online. Pew Internet and American Life Project. Retrieved October 30,
2007, from

Livingstone, S., Bober, M., & Helsper, E. J. (2005). Active participation or just more
information? Young people's take-up of opportunities to act and interact on the Internet.
Information, Communication & Society, 8(3), 287-314.

Bartosz Wojdynski and Jessica Smith are doctoral students at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. They may be reached at and, respectively.

Be Careful what You Wish For in 2009

By Tom Griscom, Chattanooga Times Free Press

(Editor's note: The following article was published in the January, 2009 issue of the Tennessee newspaper trade publication The Tennessee Press.)

The calendar has turned once more on a year. For some there will be little to miss from 2008. There were grim reminders of the need to change as newspapers downsized in content, people, and print.

The turn downward in the economy only highlighted the search for new approaches or revision to time-tested routines to maintain and hopefully to grow audience.

Many of us ventured into territory that in the past would be unheard of: video. The adage that people worked at newspapers because they did not sound or look right for the television world has been tossed on the scrap heap of the old-line journalism course curriculum. We may have produced video in 2008, but we are still experimenting with how to blend and promote it in our overall media presentation.

There are reasons to look forward in 2009.

This is not a pronouncement or a crystal ball reading on an immediate upswing in the economy. But we as journalists have made strides to better understand our customers and audiences and what they want and when.

We have demonstrated the meaning of convergence to the point that the word is no more used. Some four or five years ago media moguls trampled through buildings to see online, television, and newspaper journalists in the same room at the same time. It was somewhat analogous to viewing animals in a cageless zoo.

Many marveled that media competitors from three different spheres could share information and not worry about who went first. Well, things evolved.

Now it is a single media company touching all three media or platforms. We evolved from three separate work forces to a blended team that looked at content through a broader prism.

For some, gone is the battle over whether an item first appears in print or online. The answer resides somewhere in both worlds and in the audience being accessed. Either/or propositions do not fit the 2009 and beyond timeframe.

The path ahead should identify audiences to be reached. These range from older, established print readers, boomers, working moms, sports enthusiasts, young professionals, and those who are working through school at various levels.

The next step is to identify all of the means to reach the audiences: print, online, handheld devices, multi-media, social networks, text messages, and more. The key is not being afraid to try them out and being opened-minded enough to know there are more channels on the horizon.

These are but two suggestions as we enter the new year. Be willing to question why. Look at those silos and figure out ways to dismantle them. Work across sections and platforms.

You may be surprised at what you learn: ways to be more efficient with time and material. As an added benefit, you might gain a few more readers and eyeballs.

Tom Griscom is publisher and editor of the Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times Free Press. This column originally appeared in the January 2009 issue of the trade publication The Tennessee Press and has been republished with permission.

Book Announcement – Understanding Media Convergence: The State of the Field

By Dr. Augie Grant, University of South Carolina

For three years, Jeff Wilkinson and I have been compiling research and theory on convergent journalism. That compilation, Understanding Media Convergence: The State of the Field, is now available from Oxford University Press.

The goal of the book is to provide a theoretical and epistemological foundation for the next generation of studies of convergence. To that end, we have solicited contributions from those whose work has led convergence research and commentary so far: Janet Kolodzy, Bob Papper, Vincent Filak, George Daniels, Michel Dupagne, Bruce Garrison, Tony DeMars, Susan Keith, Bill Silcock, Ken Killebrew, Timothy Bajkiewicz, and Charles Bierbauer, as well as a few “newcomers” to the study of convergent journalism: Jennifer Meadows, Van Kornegay, Michael Holmes, Mark Popovich, Steve McClung, Varsha Sherring, and Bryan Murley. Two former editors of The Convergence Newsletter, Jordan Storm and Holly Fisher, have also made contributions. (Click here for the complete Table of Contents.)

Instead of attempting to define “convergence” in a single manner, the book approaches it as a multidimensional construct, exploring the roots of convergence from changes in technology, organizational structure, ownership, and multiple-media content. In addition to exploring the dimensions of convergence, individual chapters apply theoretical perspectives, from management theory to feminist theory, as well as report a wide range of descriptive studies. The book also explores user-generated content, global aspects, the history of convergent journalism education, and the future of media convergence.

I’ll confess that we had a small fight with the publisher over the subtitle of the book. Oxford’s concern was that the words “The State of the Field” put too much of a time stamp on the book, limiting its sales a few years from now. We agreed, but argued that the research reported should inspire other research and books that will advance the field, opening the door for more books addressing conceptual and theoretical dimensions of convergence.

Our publisher also asked that we make sure to differentiate Understanding Media Convergence from our other book, Principles of Convergent Journalism. The latter is a textbook with hands-on instruction on the basics of convergent journalism. We hope the two books complement each other, bridging the conceptual and practical dimensions of convergent journalism.

Dr. August E. Grant is an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of South Carolina. Contact him at

Links referenced in this article:
Understanding Media Convergence table of contents:

USC Convergence Conference Goes West

By Dr. Augie Grant, University of South Carolina

The University of South Carolina’s annual Convergence and Society conference is moving west for the second time in eight years. This year’s conference will be hosted and co-sponsored by the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, Nov. 5-6.

The theme is “The Changing Media Landscape.” As always, submissions are encouraged exploring all aspects of convergent journalism teaching, practices, and consumption, but the special emphasis this year is on the changes in the media landscape that have been accelerated by economic conditions.

We know travel budgets may be tighter this year because of these conditions, so we’re using some of the technologies explored at past conferences to try something new: a “virtual poster session.” This session, Friday, Nov. 6, will allow those who aren’t able to travel to the conference to present and discuss their research with other conference attendees.

For those who have the funds to travel, the conference is scheduled for Thursday and Friday, leaving Saturday open for anyone who feels compelled to visit the slopes at Lake Tahoe. Conference co-chair Larry Dailey and I are choosing a keynote speaker and putting together the schedule – if you have any suggestions, please e-mail me:

You can submit abstracts, complete papers, and panel proposals by June 15. The complete Call for Papers for the conference and the Call for Papers for the Virtual Poster Session are available online at

Dr. August E. Grant is an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of South Carolina. Contact him at

>>>>Conferences, Training and Calls for Papers<<<<

Health Journalism 2009
Association of Health Care Journalists Annual Conference
April 16-19

Las Vegas
April 22-25

Media in Transition 6
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Mass.
April 24-26

Newsplex Summer Seminar: Convergence Software Bootcamp
University of South Carolina
May 4-8

Newsplex Summer Seminar: Teaching & Research in Convergent Journalism
University of South Carolina
June 22-26

AEJMC Annual Conference 2009
Aug. 5-8

Convergence and Society: The Changing Media Landscape
University of Nevada, Reno
Nov. 5-6
Call for Papers deadline: June 15

>>>>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
Robert Pyle


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>>>>Licensing and Redistribution<<<<

Creative Commons License

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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. 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 or less. 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 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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