The Convergence Newsletter
The Convergence Newsletter

From The Newsplex at the University of South Carolina

Vol. VIII No. 9 (December 2011)

A grand experiment takes many smaller ones

By Chris Frear

The grand experiment of convergence requires constant smaller ones by researchers and professionals. One early form of news convergence – the partnership of newspapers and television stations – has evolved with the advent of social media and wider acceptance of user-generated content. Jake Batsell and Camille Kraeplin of Southern Methodist University look at the latest stage in their longitudinal study of convergence partnerships and show how the original experiments have developed and what is replacing them.

While Batsell and Kraeplin find a new emphasis on fundamentals and multimedia skills for those being hired, Michael Scott Sheerin and Moses Shumow of Florida International University in Miami examine the assumption that age equals fluency with digital tools and social media – in other words, that digital natives coming into classrooms now are fluent in digital technology and social media. They also look at what factors might better indicate digital fluency.

The Convergence Newsletter welcomes articles and feedback on any topic related to digital convergence.

The newsletter is a perfect place for a description of front-line issues or for gestating ideas that 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.

Is some research threatened? We need to hear from you.

The article by Jake Batsell and Camille Kraeplin not only continues their significant research into the evolving nature of convergence, but also includes an observation that signals potential concern for researchers: "Our difficulty soliciting responses suggests that, in an age of information overload, email surveys are becoming a less effective mechanism for conducting newsroom research."

They found that many large and midsize TV stations and groups have adopted "no survey" policies. Others begged off, citing an increasingly burdensome workload. Such surveys have, in the past decade, become an important method of gathering significant information about changes in the field. Are you finding the same problems?

We'd like to hear from you, problems or no, about your views on this and whether you think it could be a significant problem for some research. Email us at, or comment on our Facebook or Google+ pages or on our blog. We'd like to compile your views in a future issue.

-Executive Editor Doug Fisher


Featured Articles

Converging With the Former Audience: TV-newspaper partnerships decline as focus turns to public collaboration

Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants: A case of false labeling?


Quick Glance Calendar (Details)

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 articles

Converging With the Former Audience: TV-newspaper partnerships decline as focus turns to public collaboration

By Jake Batsell and Camille Kraeplin
Southern Methodist University

The term "convergence" has inspired myriad definitions during its well-worn journey across the news landscape. Journalism scholars generally have characterized the practice to mean working partnerships between separate, platform-specific news outlets [1], usually newspapers and TV stations. These convergent partnerships triggered newsroom culture clashes and produced mixed results, often amounting to little more than cross promotion [2].

This year, we embarked on the third phase of a longitudinal study tracking how "convergence" and the practices it encompasses have evolved over the past decade. We found that platform-specific partnerships are falling out of favor. Instead, newsrooms increasingly are accepting the public as their convergence partner.

The study includes three phases of newsroom surveys – the first conducted in 2002-3, the second in 2004-5, and the last in 2011. Respondents were media managers at newspapers and TV stations in the nation's top 200 media markets [3]. The first phase of baseline surveys (2002-3) examined the extent to which convergence journalism had taken hold in U.S. newsrooms. Results showed that most responding organizations had forged convergence partnerships with another media platform. This included Web platforms, which often were treated as secondary to the core newsroom; accordingly, the content of the day's newscast or paper was often simply "shoveled" onto these sites with few changes. The second phase of the study (2004-5) demonstrated that newspapers appeared to be experiencing the most success in maintaining convergence partnerships with both websites and TV stations. The third phase (2011) shows that in the years since phase two, media organizations' approach to convergence has evolved yet again. While cross platform partnerships still exist, news managers have turned their focus to developing interactive relationships with readers and viewers, primarily through social media formats that were not even in their toolboxes at the dawn of the new millennium.

Identical methodology; changing results

For phase three of this study, the survey instruments (one for TV, one for newspapers) used in phases one and two were updated to reflect changes in the journalism industry. Most of the original questions remained, but some additions were made to the original questionnaires – one for news directors and one for managing editors. Researchers also updated the sample list used in the previous two phases. The list included a randomly selected TV station in each market along with the largest newspaper. Data collection began early in 2011 and continued with follow-up emails and phone calls through the summer.

The newspaper sample for phase three closely resembled that of the second phase, with participation from a diverse cross-section of small, midsize, and major metro dailies. The phase three television sample, on the other hand, included substantially more small market stations than either of the previous TV samples. The overall phase three response rate (including both TV and newspaper respondents) was 16 percent (N=64), down considerably from 49 percent in phase two (N=197) and 30 percent in phase one (N=120) despite identical methodology in all three phases. In follow-up phone calls, many who declined to participate said they were too busy, while numerous large and midsize TV stations cited "no survey" policies. Our difficulty soliciting responses suggests that, in an age of information overload, email surveys are becoming a less effective mechanism for conducting newsroom research. Still, phase three unearthed revealing insights about how convergence has evolved in newsrooms around the country.

Growing importance of multimedia skills

The third phase clearly conveyed that, more than ever, media managers are focused on motivating staff members to produce multimedia content for their own websites, continuing the transformation from convergence to "Webvergence" [4]. Newsroom bosses also look for multimedia skills in new hires. TV managers surveyed in phase three particularly prized multimedia skills, with 87 percent saying they were very important in new hires, 10 percent saying they were moderately important, and just 3 percent saying they were not important. Among newspaper managing editors, seven in 10 said multimedia skills were important for a new hire in phase one, nearly eight in 10 in phase two, and more than nine in 10 in phase three. Responses from television executives reflected this trend. Similar to their newspaper counterparts, seven in 10 TV managers said multimedia skills were important or very important for a new hire in phase one, compared with eight in 10 in phase two and more than nine in 10 (94 percent) in phase three.

Over the course of the longitudinal study, many of the characteristics media managers value in new journalism hires changed significantly, and these changes seem to mirror structural shifts in the media landscape. In short, by 2011, media managers were most interested in new hires with fundamental skills, such as "news judgment" and "writing/editing skills," as well as multimedia proficiency. In contrast, a number of background qualifications that were highly prized in 2002-3 no longer seemed to be perceived as essential in today's competitive economy. Traits valued by media managers in 2002-3, such as "a strong liberal arts background" and "specialized knowledge," were not nearly as coveted in 2011.

'Everything has changed' with social media

Nearly all managers who responded in phase three acknowledged social media's transformational role in disrupting established newsroom practices. "Everything has changed," wrote one TV news director. "We now have direct and instant communication with viewers for story ideas, updates, opinions." TV managers said their newsrooms frequently use social media to break news (65 percent) and to promote or share stories (80 percent), while managing editors said their papers regularly use social media to break news (50 percent) and promote or share stories (74 percent). TV newsrooms in this sample were especially aggressive in using social media – 90 percent of responding news directors said their organizations now require all journalists to embrace social media as part of their regular duties, compared with nearly 60 percent of newspaper managing editors. "We're engaging the audience first in new media and pulling them into TV," a news director wrote.

As for the original mold of convergence partnerships, many of the newspaper-TV alliances that had survived through phase two of this study in 2004-5 appear to have dwindled. As found in phase two, however, newspapers still played a stronger role in these alliances. For instance, among managing editors, 50 percent said their newspaper had partnered with a TV station in 2011, down from 67 percent in phase two. In contrast, the number of TV news directors who said their station currently had a newspaper partnership was 31 percent in phase three, down from 56 percent in phase two.

Jake Batsell,, is an assistant professor in the Division of Journalism at Southern Methodist University. Camille Kraeplin,, is an associate professor in the Division of Journalism at Southern Methodist University.

[1] Singer, J. (2004). More Than Ink-Stained Wretches: The Resocialization of Print Journalists in Converged Newsrooms. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 81(4), 838-856; Dailey, L., Demo, L., & Spillman, M. (2005). Most TV/Newspapers Partners at Cross Promotion Stage. Newspaper Research Journal, 26(4), 36-49; Kraeplin, C., & Criado, C.A. (2006). Surveys Show TV/Newspapers Maintaining Partnerships. Newspaper Research Journal, 27(4), 52-65. (Return)

[2] Silcock, B. W. & Keith, S. (2006). Translating the Tower of Babel? Issues of definition, language and culture in converged newsrooms. Journalism Studies, 7 (4), 610-627; Smith, L. K., Turner, A. H., & Duhé, S. F. (2007). Convergence Concerns in Local Television: Conflicting Views From the Newsroom. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 51(4), 555-574; Dailey, L., Demo, L., & Spillman, M. (2009). Newspaper Survey Suggests TV Partnership in Jeopardy. Newspaper Research Journal, 30(4), 22-37. (Return)

[3] Kraeplin, C., &Criado, C.A. (2006). Surveys Show TV/Newspapers Maintaining Partnerships. Newspaper Research Journal, 27 (4), 52-65; Kraeplin, C. & Criado, C.A. (2003, August). The State of Convergence Journalism: United States Media and University Study. Paper presented at the annual meeting of AEJMC, Kansas City, Mo. (Return)

[4] Thornton, L-J. & Keith, S.M. (2009). From Convergence to Webvergence: Tracking the Evolution of Broadcast-Print Partnerships Through the Lens of Change Theory. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 86 (2), 257-276. (Return)

(Return to top)


Digital natives vs. digital immigrants: A case of false labeling?

By Michael Scott Sheerin
and Moses Shumow

Research on the best ways to teach multimedia skills to university level students often identifies the instructor as the digital immigrant and the students as digital natives. In "Born Digital," John Palfrey and Urs Gasser write that digital natives, defined as those born after 1980, "all have access to networked digital technologies. And they all have the skills to use those technologies."[1] Similarly, Marc Prensky, in his manuscript, "Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants," describes digital immigrants, and specifically those involved in teaching the digital natives, as ones who speak in an outdated, pre-digital language (generally referred to as a digital accent) that is foreign to the digital natives. [2]

As professors at a large, urban, underfunded university, our classroom experiences and the results of a recent study challenge these assumptions. We find that many of the so-called digital natives do not have across-the-board skills in these technologies, and furthermore, not all have access to networked digital technologies. And though we do find that some digital immigrants (the instructors) have an accent, others do not. Those who have been immersed in the digital revolution from its beginnings, even though they were born before its inception, are just as fluent and often times more so than those whom Prensky calls "natives."

According to Federal Communications Commission member Mignon Clyburn, a reported 93 million Americans still don't have broadband connections in their homes, and a disproportionate number are minorities. A digital divide still exists, and though the digital native may find broadband access in schools if not at home, this gap contradicts the "all have access" assumption.

Another divide has emerged, the "app gap." In a survey of 1,384 parents by Common Sense Media, more than half those with annual household incomes of more than $75,000 had download applications for tablets or smart phones for their children's use, whereas only one in eight with incomes less than $30,000 had done the same. More than a third of this lower-income group did not know what an app was. The Matthew effect proposed by Keith Stanovich [3] and others ("those who benefit from a better socio-economic environment find it easier to benefit from technologies" [4]), coupled with these findings by Common Sense Media, still seem to point to income level as the main indicator of digital skills and fluency. We define fluency not only as the ability to view digital media or navigate a social media site, but also the ability to produce digital content.

If Palfrey's assumptions were true, our students, the vast majority born after 1980 and therefore considered digital natives, would have the skills to use the digital technologies of today. Based on classroom observations and student surveys, we find this is not the case. A full 25 percent of our students self report that they have either below-average or no multimedia skills. And though it is thought that they are immersed in the technology from birth, our survey provides different data. Seventy-one per cent of the students taking the survey did not use multimedia software until they were 15 years old or older. When asked about their experience with some of the most popular tools used in producing multimedia, such as Adobe's Creative Suite and Final Cut Express, the response "never used it" was by far the most popular choice (65 percent). All of this demonstrates that, especially in the classroom, we can't assume a birth date makes a student a digital native or digitally fluent and that the major obstacle in obtaining digital fluency continues to be an economic one. To put the numbers in perspective, the student population at Florida International University, where the survey was conducted, comes from lower-income households, as 64 percent of the undergraduates qualify for financial aid. If the digital divide stills exists due to economic factors and not age, then the data found in our survey should be expected.

In summary, what we find is that although the terms "digital native" and "digital immigrant" may be convenient to categorize an age gap, the terms are not accurate in portraying technical capabilities. As we discovered in a focus group, some digital immigrants are more versed in the world of multimedia than many digital natives, including natives hired to teach the students. We also find that digital native students still need instruction in the use of multimedia tools, and we can't assume familiarity, let alone fluency with digital tools and content creation. As a 2008 study by Bennet, Maton and Kervin points out, "It may be that there is as much variation within the digital native generation as between the generations." [5] The logical next step is to extend this finding to digital immigrants, since, as Henry Jenkins has written, the online world is "unfamiliar and uncertain for all of us."[6]

Michael Scott Sheerin and Moses Shumow are assistant professors in Florida International University's School of Journalism and Mass Communication in Miami.

[1] Palfrey, J., & Glasser, U. (2008). Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives. New York: Basic Books. (Return)

[2] Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants: On the Horizon. NCB University Press, 9(5), 2. (Return)

[3] Stanovich, K.E. (1986). Matthew effects in reading: Some consequences of individual differences in the acquisition of literacy. Reading Research Quarterly, XXI(4), 360-407. (Return)

[4] Pedro, F. (2007). The New Millennium Learners: Initial Findings on the Effects of Digital Technologies on School-age Learners. OECD/CERI International Conference, "Learning in the 21st Century: Research, Innovation and Policy," 5-6. (Return)

[5] Bennett, S., Maton, K. & Kervin, L. (2008). The "Digital Natives" Debate: A Critical Review of the Evidence, British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(5), 775-786. (Return)

[6] Jenkins, H. (2007). Reconsidering Digital Immigrants. The Official Weblog of Henry Jenkins. Retrieved from (Return)

(Return to top)


Conferences, Training and Calls for Papers (Return to top)

Digital Age and Society: Issues, Challenges and Opportunities
Bayan College, Muscat, Oman
February 22-23, 2012


Joint Journalism and Communication History Conference
American Journalism Historians Association and the AEJMC History Division
New York
March 10, 2012


International Conference on Communication, Media, Technology and Design Istanbul
May 9-11, 2012


International Association for Literary Journalism Studies 7th International Conference
May 17-19, 2012


11th Annual Hawaii International Conference on Social Sciences
May 30-June 2, 2012


International Symposium on Language and Communication
Izmir, Turkey
June 10-13, 2012


Job Openings

Public Relations, Assistant or Associate Professor Journalism and Mass Communications
University of South Carolina, Columbia
Deadline to apply: Review begins Dec. 1


Visual Communications, Academic- or Professional-track Candidates
University of South Carolina, Columbia
Applications currently being accepted.


Professor of visual journalism, one-month foreign reporting program
Istanbul, Turkey
June 21-July 19, 2012
Contact: Director Mary D'Ambrosio, Journalism in Turkey,,


Assistant Professor, Interactive Media
University of Miami
Review opened Dec. 1, and will continue until the position is filled.
Contact: Dr. Terry Bloom, School of Communication,,


Assistant Professor, Public Relations/Corporate Communication
Utah State University, Logan
Appointment begins August 2012.


Full-time Lecturer/Student Media Adviser
Temporary, full-time professor in residence. Five years' professional experience required.
Chico (Calif.) State University

Assistant Professor, Public Relations
Chico (Calif.) State University.
Ph.D. (or ABD with degree by December 2012)
Appointment begins August 2012.

Both jobs:


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

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

There is also an RSS feed option for those who want alternative access.

View past and current issues of The Convergence Newsletter at


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.

Creative Commons License


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.

If you would like to post a position announcement, include a brief description of the position and a link to the complete information. Please send all announcements or questions to the editor at the above email.



To subscribe or edit your information, please send a message to or write to The Convergence Newsletter c/o School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208.