The Convergence Newsletter

From Newsplex at the University of South Carolina

Vol. VI No. 9 (August 2009)

Commenting on Convergence

By Doug Fisher, Executive Editor of The Convergence Newsletter

It’s September, you say, so why does my Convergence Newsletter say August?

No, we haven’t put time on hold, though we wish we could. It’s simply been a time of more changes here at TCN. Combined with some technical glitches and then the inevitable rush at the start of classes, and we found ourselves staring at a calendar that had moved on.

We will be following this in a week or two with the actual September issue, led by Edgar Huang’s article detailing his important work researching effective video streaming technology. But to keep things in synch, we decided to put out the “August” issue instead of a more confusing “August-September” issue.

One change you will notice is a new editor for the newsletter. Matt McColl joins us both as a graduate student and as the new day-to-day whip-cracker, bottle-washer and keeper of the passwords. Please feel free to contact him at with your thoughts and article proposals. And, of course, you can always contact me.

This is our back-to-the-classroom issue, and we have three insightful pieces I think you’ll enjoy.

Holly Fisher, a former TCN editor, takes a look at some of the things she learned, and some of those she wished she had learned, as her career has veered into the thick of becoming a multimedia freelancer. She issues a clarion call for educators “to incorporate all new media into their curriculum to ensure their students leave the classroom well equipped for a multimedia world.”

So how do we heed that call? David Weintraub, a faculty member at the University of South Carolina, has some suggestions. He outlines his experimental course designed to help our students and future media professionals navigate an increasingly fractured business that will demand more entrepreneurial skills. Much of David’s career in photography has been spent honing those skills.

Finally, Nicole White has some suggestions for responsible journalism in the social media age and a warning that it is becoming increasingly difficult to figure out which stories “take liberties.”

We are still looking for articles for October’s international issue. Please, we can’t do this without you. With the annual Convergence and Society conference coming up Nov. 5 and 6 in Reno, Nev., (this year’s theme is “The Changing Media Landscape”), we hope to have some of those papers ready for you in the November and definitely the December issues.

Contact Matt McColl, editor of The Convergence Newsletter, at

View past newsletters at

Visit The Convergence Newsletter blog at


Feature Articles

Preparing for a Future in the Convergence Journalism World

Preparing Students for an Increasingly Freelance Journalism Career

Responsible Journalism in a Social Media World


Conferences, Training and Calls for Papers

Oct. 1-3: Online News Association annual conference, San Francisco

Oct. 2: Submissions due for Central States Communication Association meeting, Cincinnati, April 14-18.

Oct. 15: Deadline for panel proposals for World Journalism Education Conference

Oct. 15: Deadline for AEJMC 2009-10 Scholars Program

Nov. 5-6: Convergence and Society conference, University of Nevada, Reno.

Dec. 1: Deadline for abstract proposals for World Journalism Education Conference

Dec. 3-5: AEJMC Winter Meeting, Jacksonville, Fla.

Dec. 4: Paper deadline for AEJMC Southeast Colloquium, Chapel Hill, N.C., March 11-13

April 15-17: Broadcast Education Association, Las Vegas


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

Preparing for a future in the convergence journalism world

By Holly Fisher

In my home office hang two richly framed diplomas: one a bachelor’s degree in journalism from an esteemed journalism school, the other, a Master of Mass Communications from the very school that publishes The Convergence Newsletter.

I am proud of both those diplomas. They represent years of hard work, dedication and a passion for the journalism profession. But last fall, I considered contacting both schools to ask for a refund – or at least forgiveness on the loans.

I have spent more than a decade honing my craft as a newspaper reporter and editor, giving early mornings, late nights and Sunday afternoons to review police reports, attend council meetings, travel with politicians, walk about county fairs, meet with CEOs and tour construction sites. I loved all of it.

I had dreamed of being a newspaper reporter ever since I was a high school freshman, working on the Battle Cry, the school’s monthly newspaper. Yet for those of us who had plans for print journalism careers, 2008 hit us hard. Near the year’s end, I joined a legion of colleagues holding pink slips and half-used reporters’ notebooks.

Digital media and online news had taken over almost before we knew what was happening, and I was left with experience in the newspaper business but few skills in social media, video editing, podcasting or photography. I studied convergence while earning my master’s degree, but much of my education was theoretical in nature. I wrote about how print, broadcast and online media were colliding, but I didn’t learn all the technical skills needed to create that collision.

So what would I have done differently? Nothing, and everything. Even had I known that 10 years after I got the bachelor’s degree, the newspaper business would take a downward slide, I would still have gone to journalism school. I would still have taken jobs in the newspaper business because there is nothing like the smell of newsprint, seeing your byline in black and white, and making a difference.

But I would have taken a photography course, learned how to work a video camera and enrolled in that first HTML course when it was offered. And as my career advanced, I would have reserved the time to learn more about video and photo editing, how to conduct a good audio interview or how to effectively use a digital camera.

A few years ago, it would have been difficult for many of us to have anticipated the powerful influence of blogs, Twitter, or YouTube or the idea people would read the daily news instantly on their Blackberries and iPhones. But now that is reality, and it is time to embrace the changes and learn the new technology before us.

I urge educators to incorporate all new media into their curriculum to ensure their students leave the classroom well equipped for a multimedia world. The basic tenets of journalism remain critical - good writing, good reporting, solid interview and research skills are vital, but students also need to understand how to tell those stories on the Web, in print, through video and, often, via Twitter or text message in 140 characters or less.

I would never discourage a student from studying journalism, but I would encourage – in fact, I would insist on – being diverse. Don’t think just because you want to be a television reporter, you shouldn’t know a thing or two about how to write a news story for the Web site. College is the perfect place to soak up all the knowledge, experience and critical thinking you can. Journalism schools must make convergence more than theory and futuristic thinking; it must be a way of life.

This is also a perfect time for colleges to tap professionals who can offer perspective about how the news business is changing and just what students need to know. Offer some continuing education courses in exchange for professionals doing a guest lecture. What a great mentoring opportunity to put mid-career professionals in the classroom to both teach and learn.

I’m saddened it took a layoff to force my hand and help me learn those video editing skills and social media techniques I never had time to explore. But I’m hopeful this new generation of journalists will be more forward-thinking and prepare for an ever-changing profession that needs good reporters who are not afraid to learn – and who are not afraid to change with the times.

Holly Fisher is a freelance writer and editor in Charleston, S.C. She also does part-time public relations and marketing work. She previously spent more than 10 years working for newspapers in South Carolina, Texas, Ohio, Indiana, and West Virginia. She has a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University and an MMC from the University of South Carolina and is a former editor of The Convergence Newsletter. Read more about her at


Preparing Students for an Increasingly Freelance Journalism Career

By David Weintraub

We who teach journalism and mass communications are sometimes compelled to predict the future. What professional skills will our students need to master by the time they graduate? What is the best method to help them achieve this mastery?

Because we have no journalistic crystal ball, we are sometimes forced to wrestle with vexing questions: Is traditional print journalism dead? Will video and multimedia replace still photography? Are blogs and tweets the news media of the future? Are we spending too much time teaching software and not enough time teaching content? What is the best way to blend theory and practice in our curriculum?

It seems journalism and mass communications perfectly illustrate the maxim of Heraclitus that change is the only constant. But there is one additional constant: the need for our students to acquire solid business skills. In other words, they need to understand that the theory and practice of entrepreneurship will never go out of fashion.

For those students planning a freelance career, acquiring solid business skills is essential. And those who plan to become media employees also need to understand that entrepreneurship will help them succeed in an ever-more-demanding corporate environment. So how will our students acquire these skills? Amid the studies in graphic design, advertising, public relations, and broadcasting, where will students learn marketing, self-promotion, negotiating, financial planning, copyright, contracts, and all the other necessities of running a business?

Freelancing for Creative Professionals

At the University of South Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications, we are offering an experimental course, Freelancing for Creative Professionals. The focus is on how to start and operate your own successful freelance business. I taught a similar course in San Francisco that concentrated on the business practices of photography. For this course, I am expanding the field to include not only photographers, but also videographers, multimedia producers, Web designers, and graphic designers, along with those wanting to start their own advertising and public relations firms. Over the course of the semester, I will explain the theory and practice of entrepreneurship and provide students a solid footing on which to stand when they leave the university.

Course Topics

During our 28 class meetings, we will discuss the nature of small business and self-employment and determine the characteristics of the successful entrepreneur. Students will also learn about the types of small businesses, including sole proprietorships, partnerships, and corporations. We will examine sources of capitalization for starting a small business.

Students will learn the importance of creating a written business plan; a professional portfolio and resume; and detailed marketing, self-promotion, advertising, and sales strategies. We will study various sales techniques and methods for getting and retaining clients. Students will learn to set fees, negotiate with clients, and determine fixed costs, billable expenses, and realistic markups.

We will then cover the legal and ethical aspects of running a small business, including copyright and trademark, along with issues such as time management, scheduling, taxes, business licenses, insurance, and employees. For their final project, students will prepare a detailed written business plan for their proposed creative professional business.

So Many Books, So Little Time

Type the keyword “freelancing” on and you get more than 6,000 results. Clearly, there are many books to choose from if you are looking for a textbook to use in a course on freelancing.

As it turns out, a Nolo Press book by media and communications consultant Peri Pakroo, The Small Business Start-Up Kit, perfectly fits the bill. Subtitled A Step-by-Step Legal Guide, this book has chapters on choosing a legal structure for your business; picking the right business name and location; writing a winning business plan; pricing, bidding, and billing projects; federal, state, and local startup requirements; risk management; taxes; running a business from home; contracts and agreements; bookkeeping, accounting, and financial management; marketing; Web sites and e-commerce; change-of-ownership issues; employees; and using professionals such as lawyers and accountants.


I am devising assignments that will both develop understanding of the course material and provide information students can actually use as they plan and start their own business. Here are some I have used before:

• Answering a questionnaire to help determine whether the student is suited for self employment.

• Preparing a detailed monthly budget to determine the student’s current income and expenses.

• Creating a break-even analysis, based on projected income and expenses, to gauge the possibility of profitability.

• Developing a preliminary client list.

• Writing an estimate of start up costs and capital expenses needed to launch the business.

• And, for the final project, submitting a completed business plan.

Students are sometimes surprised at how much writing and math are involved in starting a business — welcome to the entrepreneurial environment!

Obviously, the business world is in flux, given the current economy. For some of my students, this must be a scary time to contemplate leaving the relative security of college and embarking on a career. Other natural entrepreneurs will see great opportunity lurking in the recession and will be eager to test their talents.

Fortunately, many resources are available to the up-and-coming entrepreneur, including trade associations:

• For writers

• For photographers,,

• For graphic designers,

• For advertising professionals

Part of my mission as an educator is to encourage students to join professional organizations so they can network with colleagues and continue their education after graduation.

Whether our students plan to go it alone or connect with like-minded creative professionals, I believe a solid foundation in the theory and practice of entrepreneurship will serve them well.

David Weintraub is a writer, editor, photographer, and educator based in Aiken, S.C. He is the author of eight travel books and many articles for publications such as Photo District News, Outdoor Photographer, and Hemispheres. David has a master's degree in journalism and mass communications from the University of South Carolina, where he is a full-time instructor teaching visual communications and writing. David writes two columns each month on teaching visual communications and the business of image making for Black Star Rising,


Responsible Journalism in a Social Media World

By Nicole White

First it was blogs. Then came the rise of social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and mySpace. Now, “lifestreaming” is taking hold with sites like Tumblr and Posterous that allow easy posting of an almost stream of consciousness mélange of facts, observations, pictures, videos, etc.

With this seemingly exponential rise in news sources, it becomes increasingly difficult to determine which stories have responsible journalistic coverage and which were fabricated or embellished to provide more excitement. While newspapers and news anchors have been delivering sensational headlines for years, with the advent of Internet news it becomes ever more difficult to figure out where the news coverage takes liberties.

Blogging took news coverage to a new level with the 2003 start of the Iraq War and the 2004 presidential campaign. Many reporters deemed news coverage to be fallible when reporting back about the war and so provided their perspective with on-the-ground accounts of the war through their blogs. Although blogs had existed for almost a decade [1], it was a relatively new forum for the public and helped provide richer, more nuanced news accounts (albeit sometimes biased) of the fighting. Today, many news Web sites contain at least some way for pundits to voice their opinions on a slew of issues. But this is where the journalism becomes tricky: We, as the public, are left questioning which reports are accurate, what is being left out, and how biased the report is.

One antidote to this has been the proposition of “transparency” where an author makes clear his or her affiliations and biases and leaves it up to the consumer to assess credibility and believability. This is a different form of journalism, however – less “delivering” the news and more a conversation that traditional journalists still struggle with. [2]. Accessed June 29, 2009.

From blogging have now come other social media outlets through which news coverage has become less formal and more about voicing your opinion in addition to covering the story. Networks such as Fox, Internet sites such as The Huffington Post, and others have become more identified with “left” and “right” on the political spectrum, attracting their own followings. There also remains the tension between “serious” news and entertainment at a time when the number of clicks on each story, photo, or video can be measured. Newsrooms have had to revamp their coverage to attract viewers who might not normally be interested in that staple of the newspaper and network newscast – current events – even as they produce more interactive content to attract eyeballs and online clicks.

Coverage has been brought closer to entertainment in the competition to attract viewers and online users. This has been reinforced by the social media world of sites like Twitter and Facebook, which, in turn, reinforce the emotional aspect of news, as Clay Shirky has noted. [3]

Many newsrooms use Twitter to post frequent 140-character updates relating to breaking stories. This may lead to a more simplistic media-consumption lifestyle for many avid Internet users who want to be informed of updates without having to read a full article.

So far, this has primarily proved to be a way to attract some new followers to news sites. But it becomes valid to question whether the integrity of the media will be jeopardized by this increased use of social media.

[1] Blood, Rebecca. (September 2000) "Weblogs: A History and Perspective", Rebecca's Pocket. (Updated October 2006). Accessed June 29, 2009.

[2] Smolkin, Rachel. (April/May 2006). Too transparent? American Journalism Review. Accessed June 29, 2009.

[3] Shirky, Clay. (May 25, 2009). Social media enhances the emotional dimension of news. Accessed June 29, 2009.

Nicole White writes the Online College blog at Contact her at

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

Online News Association annual conference

Hilton, San Francisco

Oct. 1-3


Convergence and Society: The Changing Media Landscape

University of Nevada, Reno

Nov. 5-6


AEJMC Winter Meeting

Hyatt Regency Riverfront, Jacksonville, Fla.

Dec. 3-5


AEJMC Southeast Colloquium

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, N.C.

March 11-13. Paper deadline Dec. 4.


Central States Communication Association

Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza

April 14-18


Broadcast Education Association annual conference

Las Vegas

April 15-17


World Journalism Education Conference

Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa

July 5-7

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


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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 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 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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