The Convergence Newsletter
The Convergence Newsletter

From The Newsplex at the University of South Carolina

Vol. IX No. 6 (August 2012)

In convergence, experience is still the best teacher

By Chris Frear

In our back-to-school edition, two news professionals demonstrate that experience is still the best teacher – for the instructor and the student.

Rob Wells, formerly of The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Business News, and the Associated Press, explains how convergence played a key role during a Washington-area hostage crisis for reporters and editors trying to feed the Dow Jones Newswire,, and The Wall Street Journal's print editions. Wells uses that invaluable field experience to prepare students for the demands of the newsroom.

Chris Harper of Temple University relates how the journalism department uses an urban reporting project to prepare students for the changing demands of the newsroom and to broaden their perspectives by sending students to undercovered, underserved Philadelphia neighborhoods.

For nearly a decade, The Convergence Newsletter has provided a place to describe front line issues for practitioners and for professors training a new generation of reporters and editors. Among other things, the newsletter is ideal for those ideas or parts of research projects that are compelling but deserve fuller treatment beyond a journal article or that do not make an article's final cut.

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.

Agenda Set for 11th Annual Convergence Conference

The agenda for the 11th Annual Convergence and Society Conference features two days of research and panels exploring the conference themes: advancing business journalism and convergence. The conference opens with an evening reception Wednesday, Sept. 26, then continues with two full days of sessions Sept. 27 and 28.

In addition to a full set of panels exploring the latest research, practices, and teaching issues related to convergent journalism, the conference features five sessions addressing business journalism. Keynote speaker Linda O'Bryon, co-creator of PBS's "Nightly Business Report" and president of South Carolina ETV, will address the increasing importance of business journalism. Other speakers addressing topics related to business journalism include the University of North Carolina's Chris Roush and Reynolds Business Professor Pam Luecke from Washington and Lee University. Veteran journalists Gabriella Stern, global news editor at Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal, and investigative reporter Mary Fricker will discuss lessons for students and educators after the 2008 financial crisis.

Conference registration is open. Complete details and registration information can be found on the conference website. For more information or answers to questions about the conference, contact Co-Chair Augie Grant,


Featured articles

Case Study: The Wall Street Journal deploys convergence
in covering a hostage crisis

Teaching Multimedia Journalism, Street by Street


Quick Glance Calendar (Details)

Sept. 27-28: 11th Annual Convergence and Society Conference: Advancing Business Journalism
and Convergence, Columbia, S.C.

Sept. 27-28: Social Media Technology Conference & Workshop, Washington

Dec. 3-4: Annual International Conference on Journalism & Mass Communications, Singapore


Featured articles

Case Study: The Wall Street Journal deploys convergence
in covering a hostage crisis

By Rob Wells
University of South Carolina

At 1:30 on a September afternoon, something on CNN is causing a buzz in the Washington newsroom of Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal: hostages, a guy with a gun, and a lockdown at Discovery Communications' headquarters in suburban Maryland, just seven miles up the road. A front-page story is unfolding.

Over the next few hours, reporters for the financial wire service and its sister newspaper will publish hundreds of words about this breaking news event. But they'll have to negotiate a difficult balancing act: The news organizations share the same newsroom but serve different audiences. On this day, they'll do both primarily with one reporter, a break from past practice when two or more reporters would have covered the same event.

Dow Jones' coverage of the Discovery Communications hostage drama in 2010 marked a new era of cooperation in my five-year journey to harmonize breaking news coverage for the DJ Newswires and the WSJ in Washington. It also provides broader lessons for editors and reporters harassed to satisfy competing demands in the modern newsroom and for academics trying to prepare students for this chaos:

  • Regardless of the publishing platform, reporters with the strongest and most versatile reporting and writing skills will excel. Impressive multimedia skills can't paper over weak writing and reporting.
  • For newsroom managers trying to impose some order on the process, get out of your chair and speak with colleagues, since email and instant messaging don't always cut it during the hurried back-and-forth of a breaking story. And a little diplomacy never hurts.

As the hostage drama unfolded on TV, I looked into the newsroom for a reporter to reach the scene and feed three beasts at once: the Dow Jones Newswires,, and The Wall Street Journal. The newspaper and newswires serve national and international audiences, so the Washington bureau doesn't have a classic cops or local general assignment reporter. Nevertheless, while I hired reporters to cover financial and economic news, I always valued cops-and-robbers experience on the resume. On this day, my pick was easy – Josh Mitchell, a solid writer with street and police reporting experience while at the Baltimore Sun. The enterprise story he was working on would wait for another day.

I briefed Mitchell, and true to form, he darted out of the office with a notepad and a Blackberry. It's a seven-mile drive to Discovery, but traffic is often heavy, so Mitchell hopped on the Metro to the nearest stop and hustled to the scene. His first story flashed on the wire at 2:43 p.m., a tribute to the reporter's speed and talent. editors in New York grabbed it and took down an older story based on CNN and AP. Print editors in D.C. then warned their New York counterparts to expect breaking news from Washington by the first-edition print deadlines, which meant D.C. had to ship a story out by 6 p.m.'s multimedia producer followed Mitchell to the scene. The two had separate responsibilities for what content they would produce and for which platforms – Mitchell would handle all the writing for the wire, the website, and the print edition; the multimedia producer would create a traditional news segment for the website. They also had an informal working relationship in the field. Mitchell briefed the producer when he arrived, identifying key players, important background, and the time and location of the press conference. The producer, in turn, would alert Mitchell to any information he discovered.

While the hostage coverage went smoothly, the longer process of ironing out the roles of the newswire and the newspaper staffs involved substantial cultural differences. Mitchell's coverage marked something of a breakthrough: He handled the demands of the different forms and their deadlines. Not all of the newspaper's reporters could bang out a series of breaking news, 60-character headlines and three- or four-paragraph reports within 15 minutes. Wall Street traders use the headlines to make instant decisions on their holdings, making speed, clarity, and precision essential. And not all newswires staff could pen the analytic, forward-looking prose demanded by the newspaper. But the cultural divide between the two newsrooms had been blurring, especially as new reporters were hired. When I joined the company in 2002, duplication was rampant. Newswires and newspaper reporters would attend the same news conferences and then write separate stories, sometimes without speaking, seeing the other reporter as competition. This was unsustainable in an era of technological change and smart competition, especially from Bloomberg News. When we started harmonizing our newsrooms, we first targeted duplication.

In a breaking news situation, we would assign one editor to sort through the competing requests from the newspaper, website and newswires in New York and Washington. This traffic cop approach had arisen through trial and error.

On this day, then-Newswires Deputy Bureau Chief Mark Anderson was the single voice to the reporter in the field. That way, Mitchell could report and interview without interruption from the various desk editors in New York and Washington. I served as a hub for the other editors seeking reports for their platforms and prioritized these requests. It worked by picking up the phone or speaking in person rather than shooting emails or text messages, which lack the human touch.

As the Discovery story unfolded, the newspaper's Justice Department reporter discovered the suspect's identity by working the phones. Anderson relayed the information to Mitchell for further elaboration. Later, another WSJ reporter found the suspect's "manifesto" on Twitter.

How do we prepare students for such an environment? In my classes, I drill them on writing. Students get papers returned with detailed comments on grammar, construction, and organization. I try to simulate the frying pan of a breaking story, showing them a YouTube video then telling students to write 60-character headlines and a brief, four-paragraph story within 15 minutes. This is not a stress-free classroom environment. Many students won't go on to news wire reporting, but they will need to crank out accurate and concise headlines and posts for news websites or Twitter feeds.

Navigating the modern newsroom, especially answering to multiple bosses, is another key skill for our students. I had at least four bosses at the newswires and WSJ. The big lesson: initiate face-to-face meetings with your supervisors and frequent co-workers in other cities. If your stories are being edited in another city, go there and take those people to lunch. This is a good strategy to mitigate the tensions that can arise on deadline. I emphasize to students that responsiveness and professional conduct are essential. Be aware of your tone in email communication. Cut the snark and sarcasm – reply promptly, acknowledge assignments, and be patient with those who don't respond in kind. In breaking news coverage, I did everything I could to meet the requests of every other editor, even if it is a junior copy editor with one year of experience. Instructors need to tell students to be flexible, responsive, and willing to raise issues when needed.

I also instruct students on the value of team reporting, which emphasizes flexibility and interpersonal skills. In my reporting class at the University of Maryland, I team up students for a deadline writing assignment, with a less experienced writer taking the "lead writer" role. Each team also has a strong writer. But each reporter needs to know when working as a team that they type up their notes in story-ready copy, paragraphs fit to be published without rewriting by the lead writer. This peer interaction reinforces the writing and reporting lessons from my lectures.

And I tell my students about actual reporting dilemmas, such as the Discovery hostage case. Our students need to learn that they will work in situations with no clear lines of authority or very hazy ones and that they must develop the organizational, reporting, and interpersonal skills in advance. The reporter likely to thrive in the digital age is the one who delivers clean stories, consistently and quickly, from the scene while others watch on TV in the office.

Rob Wells, former deputy bureau chief for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal in Washington, taught business journalism at the University of South Carolina in spring as the Reynolds visiting professor and is a lecturer for the fall semester.


Teaching Multimedia Journalism, Street by Street

By Christopher Harper
Temple University

The Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab, the publisher of, was created in 2004 at Temple University as a means to develop multimedia skills among undergraduate journalism students and to create greater cultural awareness of underserved and underreported neighborhoods that had sporadic and generally unfavorable coverage by the mainstream media.

From only a handful of students, the program has grown to about 160 per year who take the required course as the capstone for the Department of Journalism. The integration into the curriculum has plusses and minuses. All of the journalists gain greater familiarity with the convergence technologies of text, photos, graphics, and video, but not all come with the self-selected enthusiasm generated by having worked at a student newspaper or magazine. For those interested in a journalism career, the course provides an array of tools to advance into a new media era. And even for those who have decided not to pursue journalism, the class emphasizes tools that can be used in any workplace, particularly writing and social media.

Philadelphia Neighborhoods engages in hyperlocal journalism – reporting on tightly focused geographic areas – as contrasted with citizen journalism, in which residents provide content, or community journalism, which is generally associated with smaller towns and communities. [1] Although we have tried to engage community members in producing material for the various editions, this technique has generally not worked, mainly because of a lack of money to pay for their efforts.

The student journalists work in pairs and, as a group, are assigned to about 30 neighborhoods within the city, mainly those with higher concentrations of African Americans and Hispanics and incomes often significantly below Philadelphia's median. During the 14-week semester, or a six-week summer session, the reporters produce a weekly story with text and photos about their neighborhood and six multimedia stories, which are published at The organization has won numerous state, regional, and national awards and has been cited in various publications.

The website operated primarily as an internal Temple University site until January 2009 when a new website was launched. The change from the Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab to has made the website easier to find and allows us to engage in better search engine optimization and branding.

Partnerships with local news organizations also have given the reporters additional outlets for their stories. The program works with a variety of community outlets, including WHYY, the public broadcasting station's website at;, a website covering Northeast Philadelphia;, a website about technology in the city;, a website devoted to development issues; and Al Dia, the largest Hispanic weekly in the Northeast United States.

According to Google Analytics, the website has gone from virtually no visitors three years ago to about 150,000 unique visitors and 500,000 page views a year now, roughly equivalent to a small legacy media site. The viewership tends to rise Monday through Friday and drop on the weekends. Google Analytics demonstrates that the site's focus appears to be reaching its intended targets. Pennsylvania residents provide about two thirds of the visits, with a heavy concentration in the city.

The number of views from mobile devices has increased significantly – a factor the program wants to expand. Even though computers may be rare in some neighborhoods, mobile devices have become an essential part of the residents' lifestyle, with an estimated 75 percent of all adults owning one, according to various studies. As a result, the program modified its delivery system to provide for more compatibility with mobile devices.

In March 2012, Philadelphia Neighborhoods also launched targeted sites for seven communities: Brewerytown, Fairhill, Germantown, Hunting Park, Kensington, Strawberry Mansion, and West Philadelphia. The idea of these zoned editions, an old newspaper term, is to provide specific coverage for these communities, among the poorest in the city. The hope is to expand these into monthly printed newspapers as well as to provide an online venue for discussion of issues within these communities. So far, the sites, which have companion Facebook pages, have added about 1,000 unique visitors a month to the overall website, particularly in Germantown and West Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Neighborhoods uses eight Facebook pages – one general page and seven targeted pages—and two Twitter accounts, but only about 2 percent of the traffic comes from Facebook and 0.5 percent from Twitter. The bulk comes from return visits – about 40 percent – and the rest from search engines, according to Google Analytics, primarily because of the emphasis on proper search engine optimization. Students tweet and post links to their articles from their own accounts, and instructors manage the Facebook and Twitter accounts connected to the news sites. For search engine optimization training, we spend a day teaching students the essentials of optimization and our specific style, then we bring in an outside expert – usually Temple grad John Paul Titlow of ReadWriteWeb, and finally we reinforce it daily by showing them details from Google Analytics reports about the source and characteristics of site traffic and the stories attracting the traffic.

Another goal of the program is to create more culturally competent reporters. Research has found mixed results.

Dianne Garyantes, who received her doctorate at Temple and now teaches at Rider University, studied Philadelphia Neighborhoods for her dissertation. She notes one of the most dramatic changes among the journalists was the self-reported knowledge of the neighborhood from the start of the semester to the end. At the beginning, 57 of the 102 surveyed said they had very limited or limited knowledge of the neighborhood they had been assigned to cover. By the end of the semester, 78 of 130 surveyed said their knowledge was good or very good.

Nevertheless, news sources and neighborhood representatives said many of the young journalists were inadequately prepared with information and historical perspective about the neighborhoods covered. Moreover, the journalists often made mistakes about neighborhood boundaries, provided inaccurate job titles, and performed interviews with individuals who did not live in the community. It is unclear whether these errors occurred as a result of poor reporting or a lack of cultural awareness. [2]

Whether Philadelphia Neighborhoods has created websites and publications that actually benefit the communities and neighborhoods remains unclear. What is clear is that an analysis of the website data provides a better understanding that the program has achieved the following:

  • A significantly higher viewership.
  • A viewership that seems to be more targeted.
  • A viewership that seems to be reaching the intended audience.

And based on Garyantes' study, it appears the program has created greater awareness among the reporters of particular neighborhoods in the city, and it does appear that many have become more culturally competent.

Christopher Harper is a professor of journalism in Temple University's School of Journalism and Communication and co-director of the university's Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab.

[1] Schaffer, J. (2007). Defining citizen media. In Citizen Media: Fad or the Future of News? The rise and prospects of hyperlocal journalism. Retrieved from

McLellan, M. (2011). Two phrases I hope will disappear in 2011. [Knight Digital Media Center blog]. Retrieved from

Schaffer, J. (2008). The state of citizen journalism, journalism that matters. [PowerPoint presentation]. Retrieved from

Weaver, D. H. (2009). US journalism in the 21st century, what future? Journalism, 10(3), 396-397. (Return)

[2] Garyantes, D. (2010). Toward a new norm of understanding: A culturally competent approach to journalism. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Temple University.

Garyantes, D. (2012). At the Community Level: Cultural Competence and News Coverage of a City Neighborhood, Community Journalism 1(1), 47-66. Retrieved from (Return)


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

11th Annual Convergence and Society Conference: Advancing Business Journalism
and Convergence
University of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C.
September 27-28


Social Media Technology Conference & Workshop
September 27-28


Annual International Conference on Journalism & Mass Communications
December 3-4


Community Journalism, a new, peer-reviewed online journal focusing on journalism in smaller newsrooms and communities, is accepting manuscript submissions. The journal is affiliated with the Texas Center for Community Journalism at Texas Christian University. For more information, see the journal and the full paper call at


Job Openings

Assistant Professor of Journalism and Communication
University of Oregon
Requirements: Master's degree, Ph.D. preferred; professional multimedia and digital journalism experience; program of scholarly research.
Application Deadline: Oct. 1
Send letter, CV, and contact information for three references to

Assistant Professor, broadcast journalism
State University of New York, Fredonia
Requirements: Master's degree with professional experience, Ph.D. or M.F.A. preferred; teaching record; active research agenda.
Applications review begins Sept. 8.
For additional details, visit the university's job listings page.

Assistant or Associate Professor, Journalism/Multimedia Faculty, non-tenure
George Washington University
Requirements: Bachelor's degree with extensive professional multi-media experience and track record of research and practice; master's degree or higher in journalism preferred.
Send C.V., work samples, statement of current and future practice or research interests, statement of teaching philosophy, and three letters of recommendation (sent directly by references) to Albert L. May, Journalism Search Committee Chairman, School of Media and Public Affairs, 805 21st Street, N.W. Suite 400, Washington, DC 20052.
Review continues until position filled.
For additional details, contact Albert May,

Assistant Professor of digital media, tenure-track
Lehigh University
Requirements: Ph.D, ability to teach visual journalism preferred.
Apply at Academic Jobs Online:
Application Deadline: Nov. 1
For questions, contact Department Chairman Jack Lule,

Assistant Professor in Journalism, tenure-track
Auburn University
Application deadline: Oct. 1.
Appointment begins Aug. 16, 2013.
Requirements: Master's degree and at least six years of professional journalism experience. Ph.D. with professional experience preferred. Ability to teach multimedia and digital journalism, including social media.
Apply at


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: Christopher 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.