The Convergence Newsletter

From The Newsplex at the University of South Carolina

Vol. VII No. 4 (May 2010)

Adjusting to Convergence

By Matt McColl, Editor

From backpack journalist, to video blogs, convergence has pushed not only the media to its limits, but also the audience and its means of interacting with journalists and the stories and information they produce.

In this issue, Joe Marren of Buffalo State College looks at how social media require media workers to rethink their traditional gatekeeper roles, not just in the newsroom but in the advertising office as well.

Wartburg College's Cliff Brockman analyzes one newsroom's attempt to embrace convergence by moving from the idea of selling one product to a world of "multiple products."

We here at The Convergence Newsletter welcome articles and feedback from all our readers.

We are especially seeking articles for the upcoming year, starting with our classroom issue in August, our two international editions, and our issue on communities and convergence.

Please e-mail articles or suggestions to us at You can comment on all articles at The Convergence Newsletter blog.

Contact Matt McColl, editor of The Convergence Newsletter,

View past newsletters at Visit The Convergence Newsletter blog at


Featured Articles

Citizen Journalism in the Newsroom and Ad Office

Cedar Rapids Newsrooms' 'Grand Experiment' in Convergence


Quick Glance Calendar(details)

June 21-25: 2010 Newsplex Summer Seminar I, Columbia, S.C.

June 28-July 2: 2010 Newsplex Summer Seminar II, Columbia, S.C.

August 4-7: 21st Annual Asian American Journalist Convention, Los Angeles

October 11-12: 2010 Convergence and Society: Health & New Dimensions of Communication, Columbia, S.C.


Feature Articles

Citizen Journalism in the Newsroom and Ad Office

By Joe Marren, Buffalo State College

In a world where everyone's a journalist, social media can help people understand and cope with everything from the mundane to emergencies that unfold on deadline. Coverage by those other than professional journalists via tweets, Facebook posts, and pictures on blogs can help ease fears, create dialogue, and maybe offer a communal sense of humor or hope.

According to the March issue of American Journalism Review, Facebook has more than 400 million active users, and the number of unique visitors to Twitter is up 300 percent.[1] The Associated Press can recognize a trend. In January it hired Lauren McCullough as the AP's first social media editor.

Numbers tell the story about why she was hired. A Nielsen Wire trend post from March 19 said that in February, global Web users in 10 countries spent more than five hours on social network sites. Facebook had the largest active unique audience, and its users spent more time per session, roughly six hours apiece.[2]

AP now has what it calls "1-2-3-4 filing." First comes a Tweetable headline, then a brief synopsis of the story being filed, then the complete story, and then an analytical and forward-looking piece.[3] In its efforts to "socialize" news, the AP also is using Facebook and Twitter to ask questions and point out the back stories.

After the passage of the health care reform measures in March, AP used its Facebook account to ask: "The House has passed a historic health care bill with a 219-212 vote. Do you think it will help or hurt Democrats in upcoming elections?"[4]

Another story posted by AP on Twitter said "Watch Tiger Woods talk with ESPN in 1st interview since November crash. Did he answer your q's?"[5]

Technology will change traditional journalistic practices. Don't misunderstand, inverted pyramid ledes with all their who, what, why, when, where and how questions will still be around, but more newspapers will use text and video blogs (vlogs) to connect with readers, and yes, mostly younger readers. It can also mean that some papers will allow citizen journalists to do some of the work.[6]

If so, that means publishers, editors and reporters should think differently in terms of the traditional gatekeeper role. The poignancy of Hurricane Katrina came through in the blogs and cell phone chatter as people connected with each other without editors. It took that disaster to point out the truth in Mark Deuze's (professor at the University of Indian Bloomington) online journalism model that says journalists interacting with people outside the profession blurs the line between producers and consumers. After the hurricane, almost everyone in the affected area was a "prosumer."[7] Now, with Facebook posts and Twitter tweets, technology has opened even more avenues to connect.

Other points of interaction with the community can be found by using vlogs and podcasting. A community news site can set a goal of having a unique view. Many newspapers already do this with short videos that focus on one-subject stories to get viewers interested. The Pocono Record (Pennsylvania) is an example of a newspaper that sees the advantage to using video. And an advantage to seeing video on a newspaper site is that newspaper reporters let their subjects tell a story.[8]

Since someone has to pay the bills, the keys for the tech-savvy ad rep are to make sure the copy is persuasive enough to provoke a response and, in these convergent times, make sure ads are unique. In other words, banish the "one size fits all" mentality.

The challenge is huge. About 141 million adult Americans use the Internet.[9] A J.P. Morgan report from early in 2010 said adults spend 29 percent of their day online, yet advertisers put just 8 percent of their time into online ads. The same survey said newspapers get 8 percent of an average adult's attention during a day, yet advertisers still invest 20 percent of their ad dollars in the ink-and-paper product, according to an article on the Nieman Journalism Lab website.[10]

Most reports say 2009 online ad spending in the United States totaled about $23 billion, according to the Nieman article. However, the top 10 websites (mostly aggregators such as Yahoo, Google, AOL, etc.), get 72 percent of that business. That means local newspapers fare poorly and that local ad reps need to sell the uniqueness of the local site. So Centro, a digital advertising company, unveiled a program called Transis at the American Association of Advertising Agencies conference in March. Transis is designed to streamline the digital ad process for Centro's 2,000 community news organization clients and possibly lead to more ad revenue for smaller sites.

Current theory is to make ads more targeted and simple. For example, the option to click on a simple Google text ad is a proven revenue maker and envy of its competitors.[11] A news organization doesn't need Google's technology, just the expertise and the ethical savvy to know how and when to match stories with simple text ads. The key is the ethics, and it is where advertising and the newsroom meet. Ad reps must understand reporters and editors take their independence and mission seriously. And the newsroom must understand the advertising department isn't out to ruin the franchise for a used car dealer's ads.

Since most ads on a news site fall into broad categories (usually transportation and parts, clothing and accessories, foods and groceries, travel and leisure, and entertainment), daily ethical dilemmas may not crop up because the themes are familiar. But when potential ethical lapses do surface, it will take teamwork and respect by all involved to reach a satisfactory and mediated conclusion. If a formula on a simple text ad placement can be worked out, then all departments may well benefit and news sites won't have to worry as much about potential advertisers (e.g., car dealers) setting up their own websites. [12]

Innovation is a key to survival, and the biggest innovation is to get editorial and advertising to think in new ways to provide dependable journalism and make sure the balance sheet balances.

Perhaps the biggest change will be found in the ubiquitous cell phone. Surveys say most cell phone users upgrade every 18 months, and as technology changes, the ability to multitask via a cell phone will be increasingly common. According to a recent survey from Nielsen Wire, 45 percent of respondents said their next mobile phone would be a smartphone. By the end of 2011, Nielsen said to expect more smartphones in the U.S. market than feature phones.[13]

This is where the future of news and advertising may be. The newsroom and the ad reps at news sites must be adaptable and interested in the potential.

[1] Gleason, S. (2010, March). "Harnessing Social Media." Retrieved March 30, 2010 from

[2] Nielsen Wire blog. (2010, March 19). "Global Audience Spends Two Hours More a Month on Social Networks than Last Year." Accessed March 30, 2010, at

[3] Langeveld, M. (2010, March 26). "AP's ethnographic studies look for solutions to news and ad 'fatigue.'" Accessed March 30, 2010,

[4] Langeveld.

[5] Langeveld.

[6] Fisher, D. (2006, April). "Blogging (and citizen journalism) for editors." Presentation at the American Copy Editors Society national convention, Cleveland, Ohio.

[7] Robinson, S. (2005, Oct.)"Technology and Katrina: How Gatekeepers are Becoming Gateways," The Convergence Newsletter, Vol. III, No. 4, October 6, 2005.

[8] Mulvany, C. (2005, Oct.) "Making the Transition from Photojournalist to Vlogger: Convergence in Practice," The Convergence Newsletter, Vol. III, No. 4, October 6, 2005.

[9], "The State of the News Media 2007; An Annual Report on American Journalism. Project for Excellence in Journalism," retrieved May 1, 2008, from

[10] Doctor, K. (2010, March 25). "The Nieman Journalism Lab is a collaborative attempt to figure out how quality journalism can survive and thrive in the Internet age." Accessed March 30, 2010 at

[11] LaMonica, P.. (2004, Jan. 31) "Google ad machine steamrolls on," retrieved July 2, 2008, from

[12] P.Q. Media Global Product Placement Forecast 2006-2010, retrieved June 2006 from

[13] Entner, R. Nielsen Wire blog (2010, 26 March). "Smartphones to Overtake Feature Phones in U.S. by 2011." Accessed March 30, 2010 from

Joe Marren is an assistant journalism professor at Buffalo State College and has worked at various newspapers and radio stations throughout the Buffalo area. He can be contacted at


Cedar Rapids Newsrooms' Grand Experiment in Convergence

By Cliff Brockman, Wartburg College

Almost a year into the convergence of KCRG-TV and the Gazette newspaper in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, there's been a big adjustment in the atmosphere of both newsrooms, says Becky Lutgen Gardner, senior director of information content.

"Our new world," she says, "is preparing news for multiple products."

After a furry of such convergence experiments a decade ago in places such as Tampa, Fla., and Phoenix, Ariz., the ardor for bringing broadcast and print newsrooms together cooled. Studies such as that by Silcock and Keith (2006) [1] showed the difficulty of merging cultures.

But the idea has never vanished, and the economic troubles roiling both print and broadcast operations have produced a revival of sorts in some markets where companies co-own broadcast stations and newspapers. Media General, for instance, has injected new urgency into its Tampa operation's merger as it has gone through round after round of buyouts and layoffs.

And last spring KCRG-TV and the Gazette, both owned by The Gazette Co., merged their news and information-gathering efforts into what one manager termed a "grand experiment." They have also combined their marketing and product development efforts. The newspaper and TV station Web sites are now under one management team. The sales staffs remain separate, although there is one sales manager for both.

The changes happened quickly. Planning started in March 2009, shortly after the company cut about 100 jobs, and took effect in late May. At the same time, Steve Buttry, who had been the paper's editor, was named the company's new "C3 innovation coach," responsible for figuring out how to engage the community through a wide range of potential products, not just the traditional journalism. [2] The "C3" stands for "complete community connection."

Buttry wrote at the time: "We have decided that we can best meet the challenges of the future by changing our company completely. We will have an independent organization which I lead focused exclusively on developing content from our professional journalists as well as from the community. We will publish this content digitally without editing and without the limitations of products. Another organization will plan and edit products, such as The Gazette and GazetteOnline, using content from my organization as well as others." [3]

(Buttry, who later was named editor of the year by Editor & Publisher, has since left to join Albritton Communications' new local digital news venture in Washington, D.C. [4])

The reorganization should provide better news coverage and more efficiency, Gardner said. The continued decline in TV news viewership and newspaper readership led the company's leaders to emphasize a mindset of preparedness for several years, said Shannon Booth, director of online products.

"I remember them saying you have to be ready when the bus comes screeching by. You have to be ready to jump on; otherwise you're going to get left sitting on the curb. And boy, did it screech by," she said.

The combined news staffs are broken into six areas with supervisors for each area who answer to Gardner:

- "Breaking News/General Assignment," with seven TV reporters, three print "mojos" (print reporters who shoot video tape) and six interns. There are also TV anchors, producers, and video editors.

- "Watch Dog/Enterprise/Life & Culture/Business," with 17 print reporters, all assigned to specific beats.

- "Visual," with 11 TV and newspaper photographers and one intern.

- "Sports," a combination of nine TV and newspaper reporters.

- "Weather," with four TV meteorologists.

- "Data/Digital development," with 11 full- and part-time employees who, for example, gather election data, or data on public salaries, and then put that information into searchable online databases for both the reporters and public.

An example of the staff working together, Gardner said, was the coverage of the one-year anniversary of the fatal Parkersburg, Iowa, tornado last May. The storm killed eight people in Parkersburg, and nearby New Hartford and most of the southern half of Parkersburg was destroyed. Gardner said everyone shared information to provide stories for TV, print, and online coverage that didn't duplicate each other.

Gardner says both organizations working together should provide better coverage in other ways. For example, a print and TV reporter may both cover a football game. But, she said, the TV reporter may have to leave before the game is over to get video back to the station for the 10 p.m. news. The print reporter can stay longer and phone in the remainder of the details for the TV sportscast.

Mike Wagner, managing editor of KCGR, thinks the content sharing is already paying off.

"We recently had a huge news day, and there would have been no way to cover it without the newspaper," he said.

Sometimes a TV photographer will shoot video and a newspaper reporter will supply the information for the TV story, Wagner said. On other occasions, a TV reporter will produce a TV package, write an online version and then write a print story to appear in the next morning's paper.

But the merged operation is definitely a work in progress, Wagner said. "We're in the messy stage right now... Once we get into the groove, it will go a lot easier."

Chuck Peters, CEO of The Gazette Co., wrote on his blog in January that the separation of content creation from product creation was critical. The experiment had gone well, he said, "but our experience has shown that we did not get it completely right."

"The daily tensions between the two groups are not creative tensions, leading to a better system, but are the result of flawed expectations and processes," he wrote. "The products have not redefined their role in the local information system and content creation has not defined the core local information they will curate." [5]

So Peters said he was asking his staff "to go back to the drawing board and create a better system."

[1] B. William Silcock and Susan Keith. (2006, Aug.). Translating the tower of Babel? Issues of definition, language and culture in converged newsrooms. Journalism Studies 7:4, 610-627.

[2] Steve Buttry. (2009, April 27). A blueprint for the complete community connection. Pursuing the complete community connection. 2009/04/27/a-blueprint-for-the-complete-community-connection. Accessed March 18, 2010.

[3] Steve Buttry. (2009, March 9). Roles change as The Gazette changes. Pursuing the complete community connection. roles-change-as-the-gazette-changes. Accessed March 18, 2010.

[4] Steve Buttry named E&P's editor of the year. (2010, Feb. 25). Accessed March 18, 2010.

[5] Chuck Peters. (2010, Jan. 29). Exploration to execution. C3-complete community connection. Accessed March 18, 2010.

Cliff Brockman is an assistant journalism professor at Wartburg College and has a worked for more than 30 years in the television and radio industries. He can be contacted at


Conferences, Training and Calls for Papers

2010 Newsplex Summer Seminars

Teaching and Research in Convergent Media

Columbia, S.C.

June 21 - 25


2010 Newsplex Summer Seminars

Convergence Software Bootcamp

Columbia, S.C.

June 28 - July 2


AAJA 21st Annual National Convention

Los Angeles

August 4 - 7


Convergence and Society: Science, Health and New Dimensions of Communication

University of South Carolina, Columbia

Oct. 11 - 12

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

Editor 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

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.

Creative Commons License


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 750 to 1,200 words. Other articles should be 250 to 750 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 and a link to the complete information. All announcements should be submitted to The Convergence Newsletter editor at

The Convergence Newsletter is published monthly 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 or write to The Convergence Newsletter c/o School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208.