The Convergence Newsletter
The Convergence Newsletter

From The Newsplex at the University of South Carolina

Vol. VIII No. 7 (October 2011)

Thinking on your feet: New media open new avenues for savvy professionals

By Chris Frear

For the astute professional, the stream of new media creates unprecedented access to audiences. That requires, of course, an awareness of new media and a willingness to adopt different practices.

In this edition, Brian Moritz of Syracuse explores how sports writers are finding challenges — and stronger connections with readers — in blogging. The form demands a different work pattern for writers, but Moritz reports some are also finding more relevance to readers in the process.

Executive Editor Doug Fisher explores how public relations practitioners in government and education are adopting a publishing mindset. Instead of reacting to news stories, they are learning to set the agenda by pre-empting bad news or sending messages directly through their own channels.

It's all part of a search for the new normal in journalism and mass communications, the theme of the Tenth Annual Convergence and Society Conference: Sustainability, Journalism and Media Regeneration at the University of South Carolina, Oct. 27-28.

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.

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

'The first draft of journalism': How blogging has affected sports reporters' roles and routines

We're all publishers now


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

May 9-11: International Conference on Communication, Media, Technology and Design, Istanbul, Turkey

May 17-19: International Association for Literary Journalism Studies Seventh International Conference, Toronto, Canada

May 30-June 2: 11th Annual Hawaii International Conference on Social Sciences, Honolulu, Hawaii

June 10-13: International Symposium on Language and Communication, Izmir, Turkey


Featured article

'The first draft of journalism': How blogging has affected sports reporters' roles and routines

By Brian Moritz
Syracuse University

Once the final buzzer sounds at the college basketball game he's covering, Brad has one job. Before he types the lead to his game story, before he interviews either coach or any player, before even leaving his seat on press row, he updates his blog on his newspaper's website with the final score.

After that, he goes to the head coach's news conference and then to the locker rooms to interview players.

"After a loss or something like that, I'll get back [to his computer] and within 30 minutes, there will be 100 comments," Brad said.

It's the new nature of a sports reporter's job. It's no longer just about reporting who won the game and why. The growth of social media within the news industry, particularly reporter-kept blogs, is changing the way sports reporters do their jobs.

Research has shown that journalism blogs have developed into conversations between reporters and readers (Bradshaw, 2008; Robinson, 2006; Singer, 2006; Singer, 2005; Weintraub, 2007).[1] Newspapers in particular have molded blogs to fit into traditional journalist practices and culture (Deuze, 2003; Singer, 2005).[2] One study found that sports writers held an overall negative attitude toward blogging, including active resistance among older reporters (Schultz & Sheffer, 2007). [3]

My study in spring 2010 suggests that the roles and routines of sports reporters are evolving as a result of adding blogging to the job. I interviewed eight sports writers who blog as a part of their day-to-day jobs. They had a range of professional experience, from eight to 29 years, and worked for a cross section of newspapers, from small-town dailies to major metropolitan news organizations. They covered a variety of beats: the NFL, the NHL, Major League Baseball, major college football and basketball, and minor league baseball and hockey. I selected participants with purposive and snowball sampling methods, using personal and professional contacts in sports journalism to find participants and then conducted the interviews in March and April of 2010.

The reporters indicated that keeping a blog has affected how they report breaking news, emphasizing speed and continuous story updates rather than the traditional morning paper scoop. They noted that keeping a blog adds new time pressures to their day and stretches the balance between print and online work.

"What do they say, journalism is the first draft of history?" said Peter, a longtime college basketball writer. "Well, then the blog is the first draft of journalism." (The reporters were promised confidentiality in exchange for their candor. Names used in this article are pseudonyms assigned by the author.)

Blog posts tended to break down into six categories: breaking news items; pre-game posts (starting lineups, key injuries, etc.); post-game posts (the final score; stats leaders, etc.); opinion or analysis about events on the beat; in-game observations; and a category that can be termed fun stuff (either off-beat aspects of sports, or the melding of sports and pop culture).

In echoing the academic literature, all eight beat reporters said blogging has revolutionized the way they interact with audience.

"It's definitely tied me more closely in to the readers," Steven said. "To the point where, when they see me at the games, rarely do they say, 'Oh, I loved the article Thursday.' It's more now like, 'I love your blog. I read your blog every day.'"

Before blogs, sports journalism was largely a one-way street. Fans could write a letter to the editor, but those weren't always published and reporters didn't always feel the need to answer.

But with blogs that have commenting turned on, fans can question a reporter at any time, even during a game. And the nature of blogging demands that reporters answer questions as soon as possible.

Even though this means extra work for reporters already being asked to do more because of staffing cuts, furloughs and other remnants of the newspaper industry's financial struggles, the beat writers who were interviewed welcomed this change. They enjoyed the banter with readers. They liked that readers were able to call them out on mistakes (allowing those errors to be fixed quickly) and suggest story ideas. Reporters seemed to enjoy the empowerment that readers feel with the blog.

"I think that, for too long, too much of journalism has been like, you know, peering down the mountain," said Douglas, who covers pro football for his newspaper. "And the people that read this stuff all have opinions on it, too. We just have a different level of access to what they want to know about."

As social media continues to evolve, so will the relationship between reporters and readers. The emergence of Twitter has taken that relationship established by blogs and sped it up to a real-time conversation. As one reporter noted, Twitter is all about the interaction between reporters and readers. In that respect, blogging has become almost a midpoint between the immediacy of Twitter and the permanence of the traditional print story.

The interviews suggest there is a tug-of-war between the demands of print and online and that the reporters often struggle with juggling the two.

"Basically, you're working for an Internet company and a newspaper company," said James, who covers Major League Baseball.

A sports reporter's work day is structured not just around the game schedule but also around the traditional print deadline. Unlike news reporters, who are often able to file stories early in the day, sports reporters are writing live game stories with deadlines typically between 10:15 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. Much of their blogging is done within that framework.

Brad, the reporter who has had as many as 100 comments on a blog post with just the final score, said he has to wait to look at those until after he writes his game story on deadline. As he said: "I've still got to work. I've still got to write a (game) story and notebook (article)."

The interviews also suggest there isn't a great deal of original, blog-only reporting being done. All the information that appears on the blog is done as part of work for the print stories. One reporter, Harry, compared the conceptualization of his blog to the extra features that appear on a DVD, with the print story analogous to the actual movie.

This tug-of-war between print and online has made being a beat writer much more of a 24/7 job. Brad compared it to being a doctor, because he's never too far from his cell phone.

Ron, who covers pro baseball and hockey, said, "I think you're much more on your toes because, in theory, you could be writing something that the public's going to see in the next five minutes."

His conceptualization of the role his blogging plays in the newspaper ecosystem clearly shows the continuing influence of "print" even in the digital age.

"The bottom line is, all this stuff we can do, all this blog and video and Twitter and all this stuff, I still need you to get a seven-day home subscription, or three- to five-day home subscription or spend 75 cents in the morning, or I don't have a job," Ron said. "So if (readers) feel they have more of a personal relationship with me and want to read what I say in the paper because I've responded to their email or commented on the blog with them, then that's a good thing."

[1] Bradshaw, P. (2008). When journalists blog: How it changes what they do. Nieman Reports, 62(4), 50-52. Robinson, S. (2006). The mission of the j-blog. Journalism, 7(1), 65-83. Singer, J. (2006). Stepping back from the gate: Online newspaper editors and the co- production of content in campaign 2004. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 83(2), 265-280. Singer, J. (2005). The political j-blogger 'Normalizing' a new media form to fit old norms and practices. Journalism, 6(2), 173-198. Weintraub, Robert. (2007). Play (hard) ball! Why the sports beat must evolve. Columbia Journalism Review, 46(3), 14.

[2] Deuze, M. (2003). The web and its journalisms: Considering the consequences of different types of newsmedia online. New Media & Society, 5(2), 203-230. Singer, J. (2005). The political j-blogger 'Normalizing' a new media form to fit old norms and practices. Journalism, 6(2), 173-198.

[3] Schultz, B., & Sheffer, M. (2007). Sports journalists who blog cling to traditional values. Newspaper Research Journal, 28(4), 62-76.

Brian Moritz is a doctoral student at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. This article is based on a paper presented at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication's Southeast Colloquium at the University of South Carolina in March 2011.


Featured article

We're all publishers now

By Doug Fisher, University of South Carolina
Executive Editor, The Convergence Newsletter

In North Carolina, a college spokeswoman has discovered she no longer must work through the local newspaper to reach the school's varied constituents, from current and future students and faculty to alumni.

In South Carolina, a state agency public relations director, facing a possibly unflattering newspaper series about the agency, recorded the reporters' interview with the agency director and posted the audio online, weeks before the series was published.

If it hasn't become apparent already, no longer must one be a journalist and buy ink by the barrel and paper by the ton. In the digital age, we're all publishers now. For the public relations practitioner, that means exciting, but also challenging, times.

"I think there's going to be a shifting emphasis to that publishing perspective rather than sitting back and reacting to what may happen," said Thom Berry, chief spokesman for South Carolina's Department of Health and Environmental Control, who posted the audio of that interview ( Public relations professionals "can then reach out and connect with their demographic audience or the public in general and not have the filter, if you will, of what may be reported in the media."

At North Carolina's Catawba College, chief communications officer Tonia Black-Gold puts it rather bluntly: "You can't just be a good writer anymore."

"You'd better be all things to all people," she says. "You'd better be able to take your own pictures, write your own stories, be your own editor — and then you'd better be savvy enough about the options that are available electronically so you can put those elements into new digital formats." On Catawba's Web site ( you'll find 25 RSS feeds that push the college's news and other announcements to those who want to monitor what's going on. They range from "all news" to the topic specific, such as "biology," "business," or "chemistry"; or the audience specific, such as "alumni," "faculty," "staff," or "students."

There also are the now-obligatory Twitter and Facebook buttons and a "share" bug so items can easily be emailed or sent to other social networking and bookmarking sites. Black-Gold credits her department's former Web designer, who included the features, and the current designer, who has improved and added to the site. Black-Gold says it just emphasizes that public relations practitioners must keep abreast of technology, or at least recognize its worth when someone else points it out.

The college maintains a good relationship with the local newspaper, she says, but "they are not the sole purveyor of Catawba news anymore. We are doing it ourselves."

"It took us off our knee, I guess," she says. "We don't have to queue up with everybody else in town to get our releases out in a timely fashion."

Now, the PR practitioner must know not only the potential audience and stakeholders, but also understand how to deal with internal constituencies, Black-Gold says. There are hyperlinks to include in articles, for instance. And Black-Gold says she now finds herself dealing with myriad questions surrounding things like the blogs the school posts from students on capstone trips overseas: "Who's the best writer in the group to do the blog? Who's going to take the pictures? Do they have the camera? How are we going to get this back?"

Berry echoes Black-Gold about evolving with the technology. "Don't necessarily discard what is tried and true, but look at the new technology with an eye toward 'How can this help me perform my function better and more efficiently?' " he says.

The former broadcaster says that now "if someone doesn't have the skills, then it's going to show, it's going to come through warts and all. … That's going to be critical, that ability to communicate in a very convincing, a very straightforward manner that's easily understandable to the person who is reading, hearing, watching whatever messages they're receiving."

The ability of PR practitioners to be publishers, however, is potentially changing the dynamic and relationship with journalists. The New York Times and The Washington Post both were scooped on stories — the Times on videotapes destroyed by the CIA and the Post on abysmal conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center — when they gave government agencies time to answer questions.[1] The agencies leaked the information to other media outlets.

The Post, for instance, had given the Army six days to answer questions, something reporter Dana Priest later said she was unlikely to do again.

Berry says he thinks "working journalists will begin to understand and realize they're not going to be the only gatekeepers of information and not the only interpreter of information." He sees things like posting unedited audio of interviews and meetings as a way for agencies to be transparent and to make it easier for radio reporters, for instance, to get sound bites.

But while journalists and PR practitioners might see their working relationships change a bit, he says, "At the same time I think there's always going to be that need for the practitioner to understand and appreciate the role of the working day-to-day journalist because they're not going away."

[1] Roberts, C. (2007/2008, Winter) When being ethical bites you back. Ethical news: the newsletter of the AEJMC media ethics division.


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


Joint Journalism and Communication History Conference: The American Journalism Historians Association and the AEJMC History Division

New York

March 10, 2012


International Conference on Communication, Media, Technology and Design

Istanbul, Turkey

May 9-11, 2012


International Association for Literary Journalism Studies Convention

Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada

May 17-19, 2012


11th Annual Hawaii International Conference on Social Sciences

Honolulu, Hawaii

May 30-June 2, 2012


International Symposium on Language and Communication

Izmir, Turkey

June 10-13, 2012


Job Opening

Media Production, Assistant Professor Mass Communication and Journalism. California State University, Fresno. Deadline to apply: Nov. 14, vacancy No. 11720


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: Chris Frear

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