The Convergence Newsletter

From The Newsplex at the University of South Carolina

Vol. VII No. 6 (August 2010)

Convergence In The Classroom

By Matt McColl, Editor

The introduction of convergence into the setting of a classroom has always been an issue that is fraught with great highs and many pitfalls. Although the world of professional journalism is still grappling with the meaning and usefulness of convergence, the process has yet to achieve familiar parameters of implementation within the classroom.

In this issue, Texas Christian University’s Aaron Chimbel gives an inside look at the school’s introduction of a renovated journalism school that places a direct emphasis on convergence and its application within the classroom.

Clyde Bently continues his Research for the Newsroom excerpts this month, with an interesting look at a theory that posits that mass media as we know it is simply an anomaly and is anything but perpetual.

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 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

The Successes and Challenges of Converging On Campus

Research for the Newsroom


Quick Glance Calendar(details)

November 14-17: National Communication Association Conference, San Francisco

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

November 7-9: National Association of Broadcasters Futures Summit, Rancho Palos Verdes, California

April 1-2: AEJMC Convention Papers Due


Feature Articles

The Successes and Challenges of Converging On Campus

By Aaron Chimbel, Texas Christian University

The first time students or anyone else for that matter, walk off the elevator on the second floor of the Moudy Building at Texas Christian University, the reaction is predictable.

And it’s usually one word: Wow!

That’s because what they see is the new 2,300 square foot Convergence Center, the centerpiece of a $5.6 million renovation of the facilities for the Schieffer School of Journalism.

“I knew it was going to be a big change, but I didn't realize how accessible everything was once construction was completed,” said student Patty Espinosa, the fall 2009 executive producer and spring 2010 news director for the school’s television broadcast. “Everything I needed as a student journalist was in one central location.”

“For any prospective student, this is definitely the nicest newsroom in the country,” said David Hall, the fall 2009 editor-in-chief of the TCU Daily Skiff student newspaper,

A newsroom is only one piece of it. Yes, the facility is home to the Skiff, the TCU News Now broadcast, and Image Magazine, but it is also an open lab for any student from the school, including more than 400 students studying strategic communication.

“Unlike the silo-like layout of the past,” John Lumpkin, the director of the Schieffer School proclaimed before the Convergence Center’s opening in August 2009, “our new facilities will be available for all of our educational endeavors.”

Every one of the 36 Mac computers in the center is loaded with Adobe Creative Suite (including Photoshop, InDesign, Flash and Dreamweaver), Final Cut Express, and each computer is networked, so any student can save a project on any computer and open it on another one. Also networked are three additional teaching labs on the same floor for 84 total Macs.

For Justin Yee, a strategic communication student, the new facility, and especially the wide-range of computer programs, makes doing his class assignments more convenient.

“Overall, it is a great addition to the school and gives [Strategic Communication] students who do not have the software easy access,” Yee said.

An advertising office is located in an adjacent room. The center has a high-definition video camera and teleprompter that are connected to a new studio on the first floor, where students produce daily webcasts, in addition to the weekly broadcast. Broadcast students also produce daily radio newscasts, but have been forced to go downstairs to the campus radio station, KTCU-FM. However, an audio booth in the center is being connected to allow for live reports without leaving the room.

It all makes for physical media convergence.

“As a print journalism student, just being close to the broadcast students made sharing content much easier,” Hall said. “We'd constantly bounce ideas off of each other and share news content, and sometimes students would do a print and multimedia element to their story. Something [that was] unheard of back in the day of separate newsrooms.”

Before the renovation, the Skiff student newspaper was housed in a cozy room with 16 computers. The student magazine, Image, had a narrow row of desks hidden in a separate adjoining room and the student newscast, News Now, was in a former conference room down the hall and around a corner. They were definitely three separate entities. This is no longer the case.

“Prior to this new facility, I felt that student media were very disjointed. They did not share information or work together. Instead, they had a mindset of ‘competition’ with the other outlets,” said Christina Durano, the News Now news director in fall 2009 and convergence producer the following semester. “Now, not only do student media staff share information and work together on stories, they also produce content for multiple platforms.”

Student leaders from the Skiff and News Now began holding story budget meetings together, sharing ideas and pooling resources. Text versions of broadcast stories run in the Skiff, video is shot for both web and broadcast and information is shared between both organizations.

“Because News Now and Skiff staffers were working in the same newsroom, we were much more aware of what the other one was doing than we were before,” said Julieta Chiquillo, the Skiff’s managing editor in fall 2009 and editor-in-chief the following semester.

But that doesn’t mean it was all easy - or even seamless.

“Even then, we had to establish a system to better communicate,” Chiquillo said.

Being physically close was the first step. As it turns out, the nearly four months of construction was the easy part. Incorporating the traditionally separate outlets was harder, a work still in progress.

“While moving to the convergence center undoubtedly helped the Skiff and News Now feel more comfortable with each other, both outlets need to improve on communicating their expectations of each other if they are to successfully converge,” Chiquillo said.

Chiquillo says the move to the bigger venue made privacy “nonexistent.”

“I had to watch myself when I wanted to talk about a sensitive story with editors or reporters while in the newsroom,” she said.

Chiquillo recalls discussing with a reporter a story about a disputed policy decision made by the student government’s elections committee chairman, and about an hour or two later, the reporter approached Chiquillo to tell her the chairman was in the newsroom working on a class project and to be careful in discussing the subject since he was now in the room.

“As a result of this concern,” she said, “I had to remind my staff several times to be extra careful when discussing stories in the newsroom, even though it's our workplace.”

And then there are the students not working for the media outlets who had frustrations, too.

“The journalism students think that they run the Convergence Center,” said Yee, the strategic communication student.

“I felt that the Convergence Center was a bit congested and overrun with all of the editorial and broadcast journalism students,” he said. “I understand that it is everybody's workspace, but [I] found that these students were very loud and sometimes found myself getting frustrated from the distractions.”

For the student journalists, achieving true convergence - there are plans to develop an overarching news website, efforts to increase the number text versions of broadcast stories in the newspaper and hope to better integrate the magazine - takes more than knocking down walls. It takes knocking down the traditional way of doing things.

“I think the biggest challenge was changing the mindset of reporters and developing a system through which to converge,” Durano said. “Convergence is a process - and we certainly aren't finished yet - but we are a thousand times more converged than we were.”

Nobody said convergence would be easy.

Aaron Chimbel is an assistant professor of professional practice at TCU’s Schieffer School of Journalism. He also advises TCU News Now. Before this TCU grad returned to campus in 2009 he worked for television stations in Texas, most recently WFAA-TV in Dallas. There he won five Emmy Awards and a national Edward R. Murrow Award.


Research for the Newsroom

By Clyde Bentley, University of Missouri

Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute

Editor’s note: As a new feature for readers, The Convergence Newsletter in cooperation with Professor Bentley and the Reynolds Journalism Institute will periodically run excerpts from “Research for the Newsroom,” Bentley’s look at current research of potential benefit to media professionals. We encourage you to read the entire work at

Some of the most intriguing media research dwell less on what we do than on, simply, what we are.

Parenthetically speaking: Is the mass media as we know it just a passing anomaly? Perhaps, if you subscribe to The Gutenberg Parenthesis. This unnerving-but-plausible theory says that human knowledge was formed orally until Johannes Gutenberg came along with his printing press. Now, the print era is marked with a closed parenthesis as we use the Internet for "secondary orality" to create the ideas that move society along the timeline.

Tom Pettitt, an associate professor of English at the University of Southern Denmark, recently gave a fascinating explanation of the theory at Harvard that was captured on the Niemen Journalism Lab site.

The implications for the news media are huge. If the Gutenberg Parenthesis holds water, then the decline of newspapers and other print media is simply an inevitable return to the natural order. That in turn, Pettitt said, means that many of the assumptions upon which the Forth Estate are built, no longer form a firm foundation:

"Print is no longer a guarantee of truth. And speech no longer undermines truth. And so newspapers, or the press, will need to find some other signals — it’s got to find a way though this."

Pettitt suggested that journalists take a look at how people sorted out the truth before print media made their relatively brief appearance in human history. When we depended upon the spoken word for communications, creating knowledge required sampling and remixing; borrowing and reshaping; appropriating and recontextualizing - terms that Pettitt Harvard hosts say are reappearing in Web 2.0. I would argue that those tasks survived better in the daily miracle of newspapers better than elsewhere in the print world - until the late 20th century. In our zeal to provide comment-free, purely observational and "professional" journalism, my generation of editors wandered so far from this pre-press norm that it is little wonder the digital revolution developed outside our ranks.

Does print = paper? The Gutenberg Parenthesis challenges the status of the written word, but it is increasingly hard to determine what is "print." For 123 million Americans, news (paper) is a routine "parenthetical" part of life. ComScore reported that 57 percent of the U.S. Internet audiences clicked to the digital versions of newspapers. ComScore said the "news" part of the name seems as popular as ever - it is just being consumed across more media. Where Pettitt ‘s argument held firm is in the ad count, where social networks topped the list.

That said, read monthly tallies such as this report with great care. Remember that they count the number of readers who came to a site at least once in an entire month, which is not comparable to daily circulation. Also, a truism in research is that the percentage on the positive side and the percentage on the negative side are equally important — so 34 percent of the Internet audience did not go to newspaper sites, social networks missed 72 percent of the ads, etc. That is often a better indicator of the targeting potential for a new audience.

The customer counts: Researchers of all stripes continue to remind us that the news business is indeed that, a business. And even in the marketplace of ideas, keeping your customers is the key to survival. American Express reported in its Global Customer Service Barometer that 61 percent of Americans say customer service is key to their contentment and that they will spend an average of 9 percent more when they believe a company provides good service. More than a quarter (28 percent) of the respondents also said that companies are paying less attention to good service. Consumers have blasted journalists for arrogance for years, but those of us who have served on the business side know that maintaining even a minimal reputation for customer service is a challenge in the newspaper industry. The logistics of mass daily delivery work against us, but it is our air of professional detachment that simply galls many readers.

But as the American Express report demonstrates, seemingly small civilities at all levels of customer contact make a difference. We've all seen (and often been bewildered by) how a carrier's porch-throwing accuracy, a reporter's friendly tone of voice or a rep's honest concern for an advertiser's business will produce more public engagement than a six-part political analysis.

Responding to demand: To make matters worse, there is some evidence that computers are doing a better job heeding the desires of readers than are human journalists. Although there has been little academic research on the phenomenon, the incredible success of Demand Media and Associated Content has made a mockery of one of the most cherished "secret skills" of journalism: The news nose. These new "content farms" eschew human editors and instead turn to computer programs to create story assignments. They collect the current popular Web search terms, match them with the most advertiser-desired keywords, then churn them through algorithms that produce story lines that Demand Media CEO Richard Rosenblatt discovered generate 4.9 times the revenue of stories assigned by human editors. Production costs are low: The story leads are posted on the Web and picked up by writers who get about $15 an article. My freelancing daughter found she could kick out five or six articles a day for Demand's e-How site. We used to call it "quick and dirty." She called it an auxiliary income.

I'm sure the academic researchers will be all over the content farm phenomenon this year, but in the meantime Mediashift this month produced an excellent package of stories and links that puts algorithm-driven content into a journalism perspective.

Follow the audience: What's a publisher to do when both technology and our own history seem against us? The smart money keeps an increasingly keen eye on audience characteristics. Last February Rupert Murdoch declared, "Content is not just king, it’s the emperor of all things electronic." But it only retains the crown if it is relevant. Short of depending on those algorithms, ensuring relevance depends on understanding the needs of the audience. It's always good to keep an ear out at the corner coffee shop, but here are some of the latest tips from researchers;

Remember the Boomers: While media companies have frantically searched for ways to reach the elusive 18-34-year-old audience, Nielsen Research recently warned that they should pay better attention to the 78 million Baby Boomers in the U.S. Nielsen said that only 5 percent of advertising dollars are now targeted to Boomers and about half the demographic is ignored entirely. Americans born between 1946 and 1964 still represent the largest single group of consumers, make up a third of all TV viewers, are the most likely to have broadband access at home and dominate 94 percent of the 1,083 key categories of consumer goods.

Battle of brains: There is some truth to the old adage "It's all in your head." Dr. A.K. Pradeep, of NeuroFocus, Inc says that knowing the key differences in the ways demographic groups process information is critical to reaching them. Women, he wrote, have four times more neurons connecting the halves of their brains than men. That means they are more adept at combining both rational and emotional factors deciphering a message. The brains of 50-something Baby Boomers, on the other hand, are becoming less capable of screening out distractions and tend to overlook the "not" in negative statements. Pradeep's book Buying the Brain was summarized this week on Nielsenwire.

Look Mom, no wires: Our key audiences are not only migrating to the

Internet, but they are going there in comfort. A Pew study showed 59 percent of American adults go online wirelessly - either via Wi-Fi or cell phone. One implication of that is that they are now more likely to consume the Web in much the same relaxing way they do magazines and newspapers: kicking back in their favorite chair (with a laptop) or browsing the morning news at the breakfast table (with a smartphone).

This could change the perception that the Web is best for fast-paced bits of urgent information people scan through at their desks.

Clyde Bentley is a professor at the University of Missouri Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute and can be reached by e-mail at


Conferences, Training and Calls for Papers

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

Columbia, S.C.

Oct. 11-12


National Association of Broadcasters Futures Summit,

Rancho Palos Verdes, California

Nov. 7-9


National Communication Association Conference

San Francisco

Nov. 14-17


AEJMC Convention Papers Due

April 1-2, 2011


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

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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.

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