The Convergence Newsletter
The Convergence Newsletter

From The Newsplex at the University of South Carolina

Vol. VIII No. 6 (September 2011)

Executive Editor's Note: With this issue, Chris Frear takes over as front-line editor. Chris is an experienced journalist with a fine editor's touch, and I know contributors will enjoy working with him. Our thanks go to Amanda Johnson, who as editor during the past year steadfastly and ably shepherded each issue to you, and to Jack Karlis, who filled in during the summer while Amanda was doing her master's practicum.

When students take the lead: Two case studies of converging journalism school newsrooms

By Chris Frear, Editor

To learn news convergence, students eventually must take the lead and experience the challenges of working in a converged newsroom. In the process, they figure out how to overcome technical obstacles, negotiate through staff conflicts, and provide readers rich, multimedia content on deadline.

This month, Aaron Chimbel explains how his students at Texas Christian University's Schieffer School of Journalism have managed the practical aspects of merging newspaper, magazine and broadcast operations into a single news site,, and he reports on the early results.

Kimberley Mangun and Daren Brabham analyze the lessons they and their students at the University of Utah learned from a collaborative project with reporting and Web design classes.

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

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 The Convergence Newsletter Archive.


Featured Articles

Starting a Converged Campus News Website

Converging Beat Reporting, Diversity and Multimedia: An Experiment in Team Teaching


Quick Glance Calendar (Details)

Oct. 27-28: Tenth Annual Convergence and Society Conference: Sustainability, Journalism and Media Regeneration, Columbia, S.C.

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

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

Feb. 22-23: Digital Age and Society: Issues, Challenges and Opportunities Conference, Muscat, Oman


Featured Articles

Starting a Converged Campus News Website

By Aaron Chimbel,
Texas Christian University

David Stein has been asked to do something rare for any student at any university in the country: Develop a converged news website that includes content from a daily newspaper, weekly television broadcast, daily webcasts, biannual magazine and as much real-time original content as he and his eager staff can muster.

On July 1, the Schieffer School of Journalism at Texas Christian University launched, a converged news site the school built itself and will have total control over, including advertising.

"It will be interesting to see how creative the students will get now that, for the first time, they have something that is essentially for them to create," said Stein, a senior broadcast journalism major and the site's editor.

It's an effort faculty, staff and students have been working toward for two years. The previous Web platform was the school newspaper's website hosed by College Publisher, which was suitable for a single newspaper site but did not allow for a truly converged operation. It had limited options for multimedia. College Publisher also retained many of the key ad placements.

"On the old platform, we didn't really control the ads that went on the site," Stein said. "Now our ad people have a new challenge to design ads for (the) Web with really no limits."

The move to this converged platform and changes in how student media operate coincide with a dramatic overhaul of facilities.

As I detailed in the August 2010 edition of The Convergence Newsletter, the Schieffer School opened the Convergence Center, the centerpiece of a $5.6 million renovation and expansion of the program's facilities, in August 2009 [1].

The 2,300-square-foot Mac lab is home to the TCU Daily Skiff newspaper, the TCU News Now television broadcast, Image magazine and now the converged website. The three legacy media outlets had operated out of separate newsrooms, and each had its own website. The term silo was used liberally.

The move to a converged online and mobile platform happened in two phases. In fall 2010 the sites for the Skiff, Image, and News Now were converged on the Skiff site, with the mindset that there would eventually be one new site.

"The website has had a bigger impact than the Convergence Center," said Chris Blake, News Now's executive producer in spring 2011 and sports director in fall 2010. "It puts all of our content in the same place, which is a major step because no one wants to go to a news website and only see text or only see video; they want both."

Andrea Drusch, who was the website editor in spring 2011 and a Skiff news editor in fall 2010, and who worked with Stein over the summer to launch, said bringing the content together has helped make student editors aware of inefficiencies in how content is produced.

"It's very easy to see where two stories about the same thing were done by different reporters when searching a topic like Greg Mortenson," the now controversial Three Cups of Tea author who visited campus in 2011, Drusch said. "A viewer goes in looking for a specific story but comes up with a Skiff print story, a News Now package and a News Now print story."

Content from separate outlets merging on a single website created some tensions. It was not initially clear which editor would have the final say over stories online. Since the original converged website carried the name of the newspaper, the paper's editor felt any complaints or criticism of what was on the website would be directed to her. She also had hired the Web editor.

"It's been very difficult for the editor of the Daily Skiff to be hands-off about News Now content," Drusch said. "Because the site was called, the Daily Skiff (editor) had good reason to believe that all content was attached to her name."

Eventually, the student media advisers decided that the top leader for the assigning organization would have the final say about content produced from that outlet for the website. The news director for News Now and editors for Skiff and Image all still have the final say on what is broadcast or published by their respective outlets, regardless of where the story originated. The TCU360 editor decides placement of all of the stories on the site and oversees original web content.

"With three different student media leaders in charge of their publications, sometimes converging can be difficult," said Courtney Jay, the spring 2011 news director for News Now and the Skiff projects editor in spring 2010. "We tried to outline who would have editorial control over which facets of student media so there will not be as much difficulty or confusion."

A year ago, student leaders from the Skiff and News Now began holding joint budget meetings to coordinate coverage, but with more than 50 students working across the publications, it also has meant the logistics are as much of a challenge as crafting the perfect lede, selecting the most compelling picture, or editing a gripping video.

"The new website has the chance to merge the mediums more effectively, but that is what the converged website created last summer was supposed to accomplish," said Madison Pelletier, News Now news director for fall 2011, sports director for spring 2011 and Skiff sports editor in fall 2010. "If there are now three sources fighting for the same story, there needs to be better communication between the reporters to find a different angle on the stories. Sports coverage, for example, in the past has always been instantly loaded to the Internet. These are stories done by reporters, not specifically online reporters."

From the beginning, that sports coverage, which often happens on weekends outside the regular production schedules of the traditional media, has been a point of pride among students. It illustrates, for students, how they can use all of the media content produced and for the benefit of their audience.

"The successes have been on the Web," Blake said. "Covering football games on the Web was a success when our Web editors decided to post things with the combination of a game story and a video recap."

The last year of working on a converged website has helped illustrate the benefits and challenges of joining content and organizations.

"I don't think our publications are completely converged, but we're getting close," Jay said, adding that as the new website is implemented "the convergence process will move at a quicker pace."

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

[1] Chimbel, Aaron. "The successes and challenges of converging on campus." The Convergence Newsletter. Vol. VII No. 6. 2010.


Converging Beat Reporting, Diversity and Multimedia: An Experiment in Team Teaching

By Kimberley Mangun, University of Utah
and Daren C. Brabham, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Journalism instructors often note that the "diversity chapter," if a textbook contains one, is relegated to the end, as if covering one's community accurately and fairly is an afterthought in the day-to-day routines of news gathering and reporting [1]. Meanwhile, demographics in cities and states are changing rapidly. Journalism students who hope to secure an internship or entry-level position in a shrinking media market must understand how to cover people and issues fairly, accurately and with sensitivity.

To address this, we collaborated on an experiential-learning project during 2007-2008 that involved students in Intermediate Reporting and Introduction to Web Design [2]. The classes worked together as reporters, designers, and content managers might in a converged newsroom, with reporting students supplying the content for a site created by the Web-design students. Our goal was to incorporate diversity and multimedia storytelling into beat reporting in ways that would be challenging and meaningful for the students and beneficial for the community at large.

Prior to the collaboration, the Web-design class discussed new media studies and learned Adobe Dreamweaver so the students could apply the basics of HTML and good design to create simple websites later in the semester. In previous semesters, the final project typically involved small groups of students creating simple sites for community organizations or businesses. But for the class collaboration, instead of the small-group approach, the entire class worked collectively to develop a website to showcase the student-journalists' content in a usable, interesting, professional way.

Reporting students, meanwhile, focused on specific beats – the LGBTQ community in the fall and the Hispanic/Latino(a) community in the spring – and researched issues, culture, commerce, media, and organizations. Students were required to take digital photos to illustrate their stories; additional multimedia components were subsequently required as applications were added to lab computers and dedicated equipment was purchased.

Students in the Web-design class met with their clients, the student-journalists, who set parameters for the site the same way real clients might contract professional Web services. The reporters specified the categories for their stories (education, politics, sports, religion, etc.) and worked with the designers on common themes, colors, and styles.

Web students then divided the work among themselves, with groups taking responsibility for stories within a particular category [3]. Journalism students uploaded their completed stories to a WebCT site shared by both classes. Web-design students retrieved from this virtual drop box the stories and photos and journalists' biographies, headshots, and blogs [4]. Content was inserted into the pages and published online.

Outcomes: Web-design course

Web-design students gained three major benefits from working with the student journalists on what became known as Voices of Utah (a collaboration while author Brabham was a graduate student at the University of Utah). First, this experience provided them the opportunity to work with each other and with a client. Before this collaboration, Web-design students were expected to generate sites and content largely on their own. But the life of a professional Web designer is rarely this independent; designers must interact with clients and meet their needs by producing a site that seems like an appropriate representation of their product or service. It is also valuable to learn how to work in teams with other web designers. Site design, especially at the larger, enterprise level, is a collective, coordinated effort between graphic artists, product managers, and engineers.

Second, students had a higher level of accountability since they worked as a large group and their site was scheduled to go live at the end of the semester. As one student wrote in her course evaluation, "I … liked the VOU project because it gave us a real-life situation to apply what we learned."

Finally, professional Web designers rarely create content and develop the look and structure of a website. This collaboration mimicked that reality by allowing students to focus on the user experience on the site and not on the words therein.

Outcomes: intermediate reporting

Reporting students also gained at least three major benefits from the collaboration. First, many felt that the focus on diversity was meaningful. One woman wrote about the LGBTQ beat: "I'm reminded that one can't make assumptions based on the way one looks and that people are more similar than they are different. Being informed is the first line of defense against ignorance, hate, and fear." Publishing their work about marginalized groups was crucial to their development as informed, sensitive journalists. They knew their stories were intended for public consumption, so they were more accountable for the accuracy and tones. Students also took seriously their role as educators and felt that the breadth of their stories not only represented their beat well, but also helped to inform the public about issues missed by mainstream media.

Second, beat reporting enabled students to test their journalistic skills. One woman was surprised by how nervous she was covering the campus Pride Week: "I realized that this would be the first time that I would be required to approach absolute strangers, possibly catching them off guard, and ask them questions." Students also needed to think about ways to tell their stories using multimedia elements and had to keep members of the Web-design class informed about when stories and photos would be posted to WebCT.

The third benefit was the overall collaboration with the designers. Just as the designers learned how to interact with the student-journalists, the reporters learned to trust the design team to produce a public site both visually pleasing and navigable and then publish items on that site. Student-journalists also worked with the designers to add public-service elements, such as lists of organizations with contact information. Further, the collaboration aimed to introduce student-journalists to a media environment that might entail working with graphic artists, editors, online content managers, and other team members.

Limitations and lessons learned

Collaboration with a colleague is time-consuming, so it is important to work with someone who is committed to the project's overall success.

Scheduling the classes at the same time would have made the collaboration more realistic and meaningful for students. In fall 2007, the classes overlapped by only 20 minutes; they were held on different days during spring 2008. This did not allow the groups to meet easily, and most interaction was done by email.

Computing assistance should be available for the inevitable problems associated with multimedia storytelling. Also, dedicated equipment and instructor training are requisite for supporting the multimedia components. The first time the redesigned reporting class was offered, student-journalists were required to take digital photos and encouraged to add video or audio. Some students had insufficient equipment or training, time was not built into the syllabus for in-class work, and lab computers did not have appropriate software. By the second year, the journalism professor had acquired some training, a $5,000 grant was obtained to purchase digital equipment, and class sessions were devoted to hands-on work with Audacity and SoundSlides Plus.

Site hosting and media storage remain a problem. Initially, Go Daddy was used for hosting; currently, Voices of Utah is hosted on, a free, user-friendly blog. Videos, slideshows, and other student-created multimedia elements are published on sites such as YouTube and the link is embedded in the Voices site.

The courses have evolved in other ways too. After collaborating for a year, we were forced to discontinue the partnership because of other teaching obligations. Voices of Utah is now a stand-alone project for intermediate-reporting students who continue to cover a different beat each semester. In 2009, it was designated a service-learning course, which formalized the experiential teaching and learning experience [5].

This evolution has been a good thing: News organizations have moved away from static HTML and toward content-management systems and blogs. So moving to a blog for publishing content has mirrored industry realities. At the same time, the Web-design course at Utah has shifted toward an emphasis on usability, design, and project management and away from mastery of any single application (e.g., Dreamweaver). Students who hope to become Web designers are finding the technical courses they need in other departments.

Whether as a stand-alone course or collaboration between skills classes, the emphasis on multimedia storytelling, diversity, beat reporting, and community journalism is important for entry-level reporters. We offer this case study as one model for departments of communication and journalism schools seeking to better prepare their students for careers in communication.

[1] One study of diversity and disability content in textbooks found that only 10 books (of 21 studied) "yielded substantial material addressing issues of diversity. Of those 10, only eight (five textbooks and three word usage manuals) yielded material that could be interpreted as addressing disability" (p. 48). Hardin, M., & Preston, A. (2001). Inclusion of disability issues in news reporting textbooks. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, 56(2), 43-54.

An exception to the problem with textbooks is Yopp and Haller's, which is now out of print. Chapter Five addressed "covering diverse communities." Yopp, J. J., & Haller, B. A. (2005). An introduction to news reporting: A beginning journalist's guide. Boston: Pearson Education.

Bender, Davenport, Drager, and Fedler do not discuss diversity, except to note in chapter 22 that "the industry needs more women and minorities." Bender, J. R., Davenport, L. D., Drager, M. W., & Fedler, F. (2008). Reporting for the media (9th ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. Rich addresses "multicultural sensitivity" in chapter 17 of her 24 chapter book. Rich, C. (2010). Writing and reporting news: A coaching method (6th ed.). Boston: Wadsworth. Mencher addresses "Hunches, Feelings and Stereotypes" in Chapter 17 of 27. Mencher, M. (2008). Melvin Mencher's news reporting and writing (11th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. Similarly, "Multicultural Reporting" is discussed in chapter 19 (of 27) of Itule, B. D., & Anderson, D. A. (2006). News writing and reporting for today's media (7th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. Books that overlook diversity include Harrower, T. (2009). Inside reporting (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill; Richardson, B. (2007). The process of writing news from information to story. Boston: Pearson Education; Stovall, J. G. (2005). Journalism: Who, what, when, where, why and how. Boston: Allyn and Bacon; Ferguson, D. L., Patten, J., & Wilson, B. (2005). Journalism today (7th ed.). New York: Glencoe/McGraw-Hill.

[2] Experiential learning, or service learning, emphasizes real-life educational experiences as a way to encourage learning and critical thinking. For a good discussion of this, see Rhodes, L., & Roessner, A. (2009). Teaching magazine publishing through experiential learning. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, 63(4), 304-316.

[3] Managing workflow was not easy for the Web-design class. Two students took on important leadership roles: One emerged as the graphic design guru; another came forward as the controller of the template. These students coordinated updates to the common files and led the creation of a common look and feel for the website. Coordinating the flow of this raw content, making sure students were not duplicating each other's efforts, and accounting for apathetic or absent students were difficult. The woman who controlled the template eventually developed a system to track the status of stories. Clear procedures were instituted early the following semester for how students would "check in" and "check out" files from WebCT in order to build Web pages. Allowing students to self-organize does not always work well with the hierarchical product management structure required of a coordinated Web-design project. Instructor intervention in the management and equitable distribution of labor among students in the class is necessary to avoid shifting the focus away from design and toward organizational dynamics.

[4] Reflections are a part of service learning and are opportunities for students to recount their experiences within the community. Reporting students must write a blog that is published on the website and addresses the following questions: What did you learn from your beat? How did your reporting increase your understanding of this community? What epiphanies have you had about your career? How has this beat resonated with your political awareness or religious beliefs? How has it helped your professional development? Do you think you have become more aware of social-justice issues? If so, how? How has this beat connected strands of civic and media responsibility? Students often describe how the beat and multimedia storytelling changed them personally as well as professionally.

[5] Depending on the institution, the application for service-learning (SL) designation can be a time-consuming process that involves revising the syllabus to include up to nine designated criteria and an interview with a faculty committee familiar with the goals of service learning. The SL designation may increase enrollment; some students seek the credits to satisfy requirements for the Service-Learning Scholars Program, while others take SL courses to enhance their applications to graduate school. At the University of Utah, the service-learning manager is available to assist faculty with identifying community partners and maintaining positive relationships with them.

Kimberley Mangun is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Utah. She teaches intermediate reporting as well as conceptual classes on journalism history, alternative media and diversity. She can be reached at

Daren C. Brabham is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He teaches courses in public relations and new media and was a graduate student at the University of Utah at the time of this collaboration. He can be reached at



Community Journalism, a peer-reviewed online journal focusing on journalism in smaller newsrooms and communities, is now accepting manuscript submissions for the inaugural issue. The journal is affiliated with the Texas Center for Community Journalism at Texas Christian University.

The target for publication will be spring 2012. To be eligible for the first issue, manuscripts must be submitted no later than Oct. 1. For more information, see the full paper call at


Conferences, Training and Calls for Papers

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

Columbia, S.C.

Oct. 27-28


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

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

Oct. 28-29


National Communication Association Convention

New Orleans

Nov. 17-20


Digital Age and Society: Issues, Challenges and Opportunities

Bayan College, Muscat, Oman

February 22-23, 2012


International Association for Literary Journalism Studies Convention

Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada

May 17-19, 2012


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

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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View past and current issues of The Convergence Newsletter at


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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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