The Convergence Newsletter
The Convergence Newsletter

From The Newsplex at the University of South Carolina

Vol. VIII No. 5 (August 2011)

Lessons in convergence from two perspectives

By Jack Karlis, Editor

It falls to us as educators to help students discover the best ways to tell a story, but what happens when we are not sure of the best way to do that? What if the curriculum is entrenched in the status quo?

The theme of this month's newsletter is convergence in the classroom. Sometimes, rigid credit-hour guidelines limit what we can do to integrate convergence on both the program and classroom level. Even as the 10th Convergence and Society conference approaches (agenda now available), we still are looking for new ideas to prepare the journalists of tomorrow.

In this issue, Annemarie Franczyk looks at things from a program perspective while Jennifer Cox offers some insight at the classroom level. Also in this issue, Convergence and Society conference chair Augie Grant briefs us on the upcoming conference.

The Convergence Newsletter welcomes articles and feedback from all our readers.

Our topics issues are Convergence in Newsrooms - March, Convergence and Communities - June, and Convergence in the Classroom - August. In other months we publish various submissions. We are especially interested in international perspectives.

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. View past newsletters at


Featured Articles

Buffalo State converges curriculum with minimal changes

Embracing online courses: Teaching beat reporting using multimedia platforms

Participants in current events study needed

Convergence and Society Conference Agenda Available


Quick Glance Calendar (Details)

October 27-28: 10th Annual Convergence and Society Conference: Sustainability, Journalism and Media Regeneration

Oct. 28-29: Journalism Interactive 2011, College Park, Md.

Nov. 17-20: National Communication Association Convention, New Orleans


Featured articles

Buffalo State converges curriculum with minimal changes

By Annemarie Franczyk,
Assistant Professor, Buffalo State College

A little retooling has moved Buffalo State College's journalism curriculum more toward convergence as it aims to better prepare students for successful employment in an industry placing value on professionals who can deliver content on multiple platforms.

Beginning this fall, all students will study both print and broadcast newsgathering and reporting skills while continuing to emphasize critical thinking and the journalistic foundations of ethics, law, and theory.

Beginning this fall, all students will study both print and broadcast newsgathering and reporting skills while continuing to emphasize critical thinking and the journalistic foundations of ethics, law, and theory.

Unlike the major changes at some other schools, there was no dramatic reinvention. The revision, which provides more consistency across courses in order to teach and reinforce skills, was done using existing courses. The communication department believed the curriculum had long had an appropriate and comprehensive array of courses encompassing skills development, technology use, and theory application.

The most significant change was elimination of the conventional sequences that for decades required students to select a three-course concentration in either print or broadcast journalism. The changes were made while keeping within the requirements of the Accrediting Council for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

Much about the curriculum, in fact, remains unchanged. The four preliminary classes, the 100- and 200-level communication core, are still expected to be completed during the first and second years. They are Media Literacy, Introduction to Visual Communication, Introduction to Oral Communication, and the introductory Converged Media Writing, a course name changed recently to reflect the breadth of writing styles taught in the class.

Similarly, the four 300- and 400-level major requirements remain the same and can be taken only with upperclass status. Principles of Journalism, an overview of journalism history, ethics, and practice, is usually taken in the third year. The remaining three, Communication Law, News Reporting, and Communication and Society, continue to be typical fourth-year courses.

The department, however, quashed the decades-old specialty silos and reordered the courses in the third and fourth years, countering long-held beliefs that students needed to master a discipline within the study of journalism. All journalism majors now must take Print Reporting, Basic Media Production, and Introduction to Electronic News. Students then will be able to further develop their personal interests in either broadcast or print by choosing to take either Feature Writing or Advanced Electronic News.

Beginning this fall, all students will study both print and broadcast newsgathering and reporting skills while continuing to emphasize critical thinking and the journalistic foundations of ethics, law, and theory.

To stay within the 42 credit hours allowed for the major, electives were reduced from three to two, and the print editing course was eliminated as a stand-alone class and was incorporated into the news reporting course. For several semesters, the instructor who taught both editing and reporting already had combined the courses into a single classroom to replicate a newsroom environment of copy editors and reporters working in a converged-media environment. The official merger of the two represents a natural evolution.

Early challenges included the logistics of making available enough sections of courses newly required of all journalism students. Other challenges cropped up during advisement. Some students were eager because they recognize the shift in the industry and want to be ready for the job when the time comes. Others feared being wrenched from their journalistic inclinations by having to learn other platforms: "You mean, you're making us take broadcast classes?"

The bigger question, "Will the students become jacks-of-all-trades, masters of none?" is more difficult to answer. It appears that a professional media producing content on multiple platforms on tight budgets need generalists, at least those competent in reporting, writing and photography and video. Students taught to become specialists could well lack such flexibility to contribute other forms of journalism when needed.

Franczyk is an assistant professor of journalism at Buffalo State College. She can be reached at


Embracing online courses: Teaching beat reporting using multimedia platforms

By Jennifer Cox,
Assistant Professor, Salisbury University

It is no secret our students spend much of their time on laptops, smart phones, tablets, and other devices gathering information, interacting with one another, and being entertained

Yet, students seem to be ambivalent about online college courses. While they enjoy the flexibility of customizing their work schedule at home, students have lamented the loss of face-to-face interaction with instructors [1].

As more universities continue expanding their online class offerings to grant easier access to students and increase enrollment without overloading classrooms, it is vital that professors think about creating online courses that stimulate students' independent learning without causing them to feel abandoned. Journalism programs could lead the way as a field in which the most successful students draw from both classroom and real world experiences in preparation for their careers.

During the 2010 Convergence & Society Conference at the University of South Carolina, I presented a proposal for an online beat reporting course designed to grant students the autonomy they crave without sacrificing the guidance they need. The course would be intended for students who have completed basic and intermediate reporting classes and want to continue to build clips and gain exposure to different kinds of journalism techniques.

Each week, students would learn about a different news beat by watching and listening to three multimedia teaching components: a podcast, a video, and an audio slideshow. They then find a story on that beat to report and write, which is emailed to the instructor. Students would also maintain a blog through which they convey their experiences with each of the beats on which they are reporting.

For example, the crime/police beat is challenging for any aspiring journalist. In this course, students would listen to a podcast containing advice from crime reporters, watch a video detailing a day on the beat with a crime reporter, and view/listen to a slideshow explaining the technical points of reporting a police beat, including legal information, safety tips, and even AP Style hints.

From there, students would report a story on a crime or police issue that would be suitable for publication. At the same time, they would reflect, on their blog, on their experience tracking down and reporting the crime story, which could be referenced on students' resumes.

Several attributes to this multimedia style of teaching could make this course a success. First, students who learn in different ways will have the opportunity to learn by means that work best for them. Audio learners may benefit more from the podcast and narration of the slideshow, while visual learners may prefer the video and written portion of the slideshow.

In practicing each beat and blogging, students will also gain the hands-on experience needed to be a journalist. This exposure to real reporting outside the classroom will help them gain confidence in their reporting abilities, strengthen their skills, and home in on the type of beat they would eventually like to pursue.

This course is also designed to give students the best of both worlds through unprecedented access to journalism professionals without sacrificing the coaching abilities of their professors. Students will receive the professional advice and expertise they desire in each multimedia component along with the step-by-step instruction they need to learn from professors through grading and feedback.

Making this an online course will prompt students to be self-motivated and self-reliant, just as they should be when working in a newsroom. While students will have access to the instructor via e-mail or in-person during office hours, they will be encouraged to seek information and answers for themselves, which is an important step for a fledgling journalist.

For some lessons, there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction between students and professors. But if we attempt to reach students in new ways that enhance learning online, we have a chance to facilitate their delicate transition from college to a professional environment, making them strong candidates for any job they desire.

[1] Tamashiro, R. (2004). Pros and cons of online learning: Conflicting perceptions among teacher education students. Conference Papers - Hawaii International Conference on Education, 1-4.

Jennifer Brannock Cox is an assistant professor at Salisbury University specializing in online journalism. She has worked as a reporter at newspapers throughout Florida and as an intern at She plans to graduate from the University of Florida with a doctorate in mass communication this fall. She can be reached at



Participants in current events study needed

If you teach an introductory media writing class, we would like to invite you to participate in a study involving current events tests that will take place during the fall 2011 semester. We need classes from public and private institutions for the study. For 10 consecutive weeks, the project will provide your class with an online current event test specific to your community each week. Students will be asked to complete a pre- and posttest as well. Instructors of record will be asked to allot 10 minutes of class time once a week for the current events test, and you will receive weekly grades for each student based upon their responses. If you are interested in participating in this study, please contact Jack Karlis at before Aug. 25.

Convergence and Society Conference Agenda Available

The agenda for USC's 2011 Convergence and Society conference, Oct. 26-28, is now available on the conference website ( This year's theme is Journalism, Sustainability, and Media Regeneration.

We are celebrating the 10th conference with a subtheme that relates media convergence to organizational and environmental sustainability. The conference goal is to present a wide range of papers that address convergent journalism, sustainability, and media evolution alone and in combination with one another as well as searching for theoretical and practical intersections among these dimensions.

The preliminary agenda includes studies regarding convergent journalism teaching, practices, and consumption, as well as theoretical and practical issues related to both environmental and organizational sustainability. The keynote speaker for the conference will be Steve Outing, director of the Digital Media Test Kitchen in the School of Journalism at the University of Colorado, and former senior editor at the Poynter Institute and columnist for Editor & Publisher. Outing's talk will address the three intertwined themes of the conference: Convergent journalism, media sustainability, and environmental sustainability.

The registration form and hotel information are also available on the conference website. If you have any questions about the conference, please contact chair Augie Grant,


Conferences, Training and Calls for Papers


10th Annual Convergence and Society Conference: Sustainability, Journalism and Media Regeneration

Oct. 27-28,

Columbia, S.C.


Journalism Interactive 2011 (How social media tools are being used in news and teaching)

Oct. 28-29,

University of Maryland Inn and Conference Center, College Park, Md.


National Communication Association Convention

New Orleans

Nov. 17-20


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

Editors: Jack Karlis and Chris Frear

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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 and reviews 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.The newsletter is published monthly except January and July. Please submit all articles by the 15th of the month to be considered for the next month's issue.

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