The Convergence Newsletter
The Convergence Newsletter

From The Newsplex at the University of South Carolina

Vol. VII No. 7 (September 2010)

Executive editor's note: Amanda Johnson joins us this month as the new editor of The Convergence Newsletter, taking over for Matt McColl, who is finishing his graduate studies. Welcome, Amanda, and we wish Matt all the best. - Doug Fisher

Embracing Convergence

By Amanda Johnson, Editor

As newsrooms incorporate convergent technologies with traditional newsgathering to find the best model for delivering information, individual journalists are embracing convergent techniques as complementary elements to their articles.

In this issue, Dr. Chris Roberts of the University of Alabama highlights the findings of his and fellow researcher Dr. John Besley's interviews with journalists for whom a large part of the job is covering government and other civic meetings, noting three ways journalists find convergent techniques especially useful.

As an undergraduate at Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C. and as I continue my graduate studies in integrated marketing communication, I've witnessed convergence in student newsrooms, while job shadowing and during internships. While journalists are adapting to new technologies in the name of convergence, the best model for delivering accurate information in a way users are satisfied has yet to be found.

There is no better time to explore issues in convergence than the present. I hope you will take a moment to read some of the fine work presented and I encourage you to contribute articles because we can all learn something from each others' experiences or findings.

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

We are especially seeking articles for the upcoming year. Our topics issues are Newsrooms - February, International - April and October, Convergence and Communities - June, and Convergence in the Classroom - August. In other months we publish various submissions.

The newsletter does not exist without your articles. We call ourselves a publication of first impression that bridges academic research and professional practice, a perfect place for a description of front-line issues or for those ideas that are gestating but have not advanced to being ready for peer review. It also is perfect for those aspects of research that are compelling but that, for whatever reason, do not make it into your journal article or had to be so abbreviated that they deserve fuller treatment.

We are especially interested in work by graduate students.

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

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


Featured Article

Convergence can save jobs, level playing field for print journalists


Quick Glance Calendar (Details)

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

October 28-30: Online News Association Conference and Online Journalism Awards Banquet, Washington, D.C.

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

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

March 4-5: AEJMC Midwinter Academic Meeting, Norman, O.K.

March 17-19: AEJMC Southeast Colloquium, Columbia, S.C. (paper deadline Dec. 13)

March 18-19: Media & Civil Rights History Symposium, Columbia, S.C. (paper deadline Nov. 1)

April 1: AEJMC Convention Papers Due


Featured Article

Convergence can save jobs, level playing field for print journalists

By Chris Roberts, Ph.D.

University of Alabama

If the last person who leaves the newsroom has to turn off the lights, the reporter who covers city hall likely will be the one to flip the switch - but only after tweeting and filing a blog post about it.

University of South Carolina researcher John Besley and I interviewed nearly a score of Southeastern daily newspaper reporters last year whose beats include covering public meetings. The Highlights of our findings ("Journalists Describe Changing Nature of Covering Local Public Meetings," Newspaper Research Journal, summer 2010) showed that, despite staffing cuts at every newspaper whose journalists we interviewed, the remaining reporters who cover civic beats still must attend and write about civic meetings.

As staffing shrinks, many newsrooms are changing how they cover meetings. Some papers simply can't cover as many meetings, especially those of outlying areas, as they used to, and some journalists said their newsrooms are discussing how to be more "strategic." Others still cover meetings as much as ever because of a desire to be seen as a "paper of record," to be watchdogs who represent the public at meetings, or, as one journalist told us, because reporters "know meetings are an easy byline."

While our academic paper did not focus specifically on convergence, it's not surprising that talk of convergent reporting techniques showed up throughout our interviews. All the reporters we talked with said they use blogs, Twitter, or other online or social media to immediately publish what is happening in the meetings or to provide information deemed not newsworthy enough to make the print edition. A few said they shoot video or record audio to post online.

We did not set out to interview only journalists using these convergent reportorial techniques, but it is not surprising that all of them said they use such techniques. None, however, said the online work was more important than the printed work.

Their comments showed that "meetings-based" journalists use convergent techniques in three ways:

Beat the competition: Nearly every journalist we interviewed worked for a morning newspaper, which in pre-convergence days meant radio and television competitors had plenty of opportunities to break the news. (In pre-Web days I covered county commission for an afternoon newspaper, which meant my stories were published more than 24 hours after the meeting. The paper required meeting stories in order to be the "paper of record," but editors buried them inside and didn't want much coverage. It was no fun to be what I called "being last with the least.")

Today's newspaper reporters who post news in real time said they find a special satisfaction in beating television reporters at their own game. By going online, newspapers have reduced the "immediacy" edge typically owned by broadcast journalists.

One newspaper reporter, whose full-time job is covering the city government of a large Southeastern town, said he took special pride in having pre-written stories that needed little more than a vote tally to be complete. As the metro area's only journalist covering City Hall full time, he can quickly file online stories complete with vote counts and background information while his competitors, who cover only the meetings, can report only the vote counts and don't have the background details for readers.

One challenging aspect was deciding how much information to give out at a time. At times we had recorded two to three videos but found it difficult to choose whether to upload them together or at different times. We eventually concluded that we didn't want to oversaturate fans with information and that spacing out each video would give audiences something to look forward to.

Another print reporter mentioned that his superior writing skills more than made up for his marginal videography skills when competing with TV stations in meeting coverage. The paper and TV websites showed similar video, but he noted that the quality of video from meetings doesn't matter much on the Web. The advantage, he said, was that his online stories were much better than the writings of TV reporters.

Go deep for readers: Journalists said their print stories highlighted the outcomes of meetings, the "what this means for you, dear reader" angle. Rarely did reporters file print stories about "the process, personalities or scene-setting." Many reporters we interviewed said they used blogs and other online extras to provide information about meeting procedures and other "inside baseball." In some ways, their online work is of the "shake-out-the-notebook" variety, where tidbits not considered worthy of print found a home.

Some of the reporters we interviewed said those online-only posts allowed them to perform a watchdog service, even if the information didn't make it into the print product. They also said the few readers who cared deeply about the organization being covered appreciated the blog postings.

Stay employed: It may be that the jobs of reporters who cover local government - and have convergence skills - are more likely safer than those of other journalists when it comes to staying employed.

Dr. Chris Roberts is an assistant professor at the University of Alabama. Four of the five county commissioners he covered in the 1990s while at The Birmingham News ended up facing federal charges. Roberts earned his doctoral degree and served on faculty at the University of South Carolina before returning to his alma mater and joining the Alabama faculty in 2008. He can be reached at


Conferences, Training and Calls for Papers

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

Columbia, S.C.

Oct. 11-12


Online News Association Conference and Online Journalism Awards Banquet

Washington, D.C.

Oct. 28-30


National Association of Broadcasters Futures Summit

Rancho Palos Verdes, California

Nov. 7-9


National Communication Association Conference

San Francisco

Nov. 14-17


AEJMC Mid-Winter Academic Meeting

University of Oklahoma, Norman

March 4-5


AEJMC Southeast Colloquium

Columbia, S.C.

March 17-19


Media and Civil Rights History Symposium

Columbia, S.C.

March 18-19


AEJMC Convention Papers Due

April 1, 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: Amanda Johnson

Visit The Convergence Newsletter blog at, where you can comment on recent articles and keep up with the latest in convergence news.

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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.

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Submission Guidelines

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



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