The Convergence Newsletter
The Convergence Newsletter

From The Newsplex at the University of South Carolina

Vol. IX No. 8 (October 2012)

What's Twitter done for you lately?

By Chris Frear

A veteran researcher asks if journalists are making the full use of Twitter and looks at the possibilities in this edition of The Convergence Newsletter. The 6-year-old Twitter platform has become a staple of journalistic routines and offers a range of ways to inform and engage with readers. Newsletter founder Augie Grant suggests a typology of functions for reporters and researchers to consider.

Also in this edition, Barbara Selvin of Stony Brook offers a detailed look at teaching journalism students about the business side of the industry. She argues that students need a deeper understanding of business as they enter a changing field and a challenging job market.

The Convergence Newsletter provides a place to describe front-line issues for practitioners and for professors training a new generation of reporters and editors. We're always interested in 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

Learn advanced skills in convergent journalism this summer

The weeklong Convergent Journalism Teaching Boot Camp, scheduled for June 24-28, provides college faculty with advanced training in converged media operations and journalistic practices that can be adapted to individual journalism programs. Through an intensive set of seminars and hands-on workshops, participants learn and practice skills essential to working in a converged media environment. In addition, participants study the process of teaching and conducting research in digital media. For more information, visit or email coordinator Augie Grant,


Featured Articles

Seven functions of social media for journalists

Teaching the business of journalism today: A double dose of reality


Quick Glance Calendar (Details)

Dec. 1: Paper submission deadline, Research Symposium of the Broadcast Education Association, Las Vegas

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

Feb. 8-9: Journalism Interactive, Gainesville, Fla.

April 4-6: American Copy Editors Society, St. Louis

April 19-20: The International Symposium on Online Journalism, Austin, Texas


Featured articles

Seven functions of social media for journalists

By Augie Grant
University of South Carolina

Journalism organizations are attempting to embrace social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, as well as blogs, commenting, and other tools that enable interactive communication among journalists and members of the public. These social media provide a new set of tools for gathering and distributing the news, but the set of best practices for journalists is still emerging. A review of the (very limited) literature, analysis of the social media, and analysis of journalistic efforts suggest at least seven functions of social media for journalists that we need to be teaching and practicing:

Report: The simplest way to use social media is to deliver a message such as a headline or brief summary directly to the audience. This function treats these media simply as new distribution channels – another way to get information to the public. Reporting is especially useful when major news first breaks and information is scarce, such as in the case of international events or natural disasters. In most situations, using social media to simply send information is the least effective way to use these media as part of the reporting process.

Promote: One of the more frequent uses of social media by journalism organizations is the promotion of content, with teases and headlines on Twitter and Facebook linking directly to Web versions of stories. Social media can be used for promotion like any other medium by sending targeted messages to targeted audiences. For example, the main New York Times Twitter feed, @nytimes, consists almost exclusively of headlines and links to stories, while the individual reporter accounts, @brianstelter for instance, use Twitter for multiple purposes of engaging, sharing, and following. Promotion is one of the easiest ways to use social media, but it also is one of the least "social" ways.

Share: The power of social media is more effectively tapped when both the journalist and the journalism organization realize the flow of information must be bi-directional, with users given the opportunity to share their experiences and perspectives in the process of building and following up a story. Sharing offers users information, experiences, or insight, asking them for the same thing in return. Specific applications of sharing can be as simple as on online poll that allows readers to share their opinions and to see the opinions of others, or as complicated as creating an interactive site that allows readers to manipulate budgets or precinct maps.

Engage: Beyond sharing, social media offer the capability to engage users in a manner not available in traditional media. The key distinction between sharing and engaging is that the latter involves creating an online community where the agenda, focus, and content are as much the product of what readers bring to the site as what the organizer creates. An excellent example is Jim Romenesko's media news site, where a community of users responds to and interprets content – and sometimes supplies it by leaking internal memos that Romenesko posts – adding their own dimensions and encouraging users to return frequently to see how the story has grown and changed. Other examples include fan pages, review panels, and special events. Comments are the most common tool for engagement, but any tool that allows the development of a community of interested readers contributes to engagement. The challenge is deciding a) whether comments are anonymous or not, and b) whether user contributions will be unmoderated, moderated by users, or moderated by the media organization. Less moderation increases the likelihood of flaming and troll behavior, so the question of whether and then how to moderate content is critical for a journalistic organization.

Follow: Social media have also become critical tools to assist reporters in gathering information and identifying sources. Although the idea of "friending" a source invites ethical considerations, the fact that many public officials (as well as private individuals whose actions are newsworthy) have a social media presence suggests that reporters take advantage of the information distributed through social media. Facebook posts and tweets have the advantage of being written and recorded, simplifying verification.

Sourcing: The potential for reporters goes well beyond finding out what sources are saying and doing (or say they are doing). The social network surrounding individuals and issues provides a wealth of sources that can be called on for comments and background information. Perhaps more than other sources, however, reporters should be careful to verify the credentials and identity of sources who are identified through social media. (Social media accounts related to the Federal government can be verified at

Defend: The final function of social media for journalists requires constant surveillance to determine where and when your organization, reports, and reporters are being mentioned. Good mentions and sharing of your content are a plus, but it is equally important to know when negative information is being circulated and then to know the social graph and influence of the complainer. Many times, the best solution is to ignore the negative content to avoid attracting more attention to it, but you must be prepared to respond to inaccuracies, misquoting, and other negative information.

These seven functions are neither exhaustive nor mutually exclusive, but they are a good starting point for teaching journalists how to take advantage of social media. In the process, we need to reconceptualize our roles as journalists – instead of our being the source of information, social media allow us to become a hub for information.

If you would like to add additional functions or elaborate on these, please let me know or send a response to the editor of The Convergence Newsletter for publication in a future edition.

Augie Grant is J. Rion McKissick Professor of Journalism at the University of South Carolina, co-author of Principles of Convergent Journalism (2nd edition), and was founding editor of The Convergence Newsletter.

Editor's Note: For an additional perspective of changing news routines and the concept of stories now built through sharing and engagement, see Bradshaw, P. (2007, September). A model for the 21st century newsroom: Pt. 1-the news diamond.

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Teaching the business of journalism today: A double dose of reality

By Barbara Selvin
Stony Brook University

For the first couple of years that I taught Stony Brook's required course on the changing news industry, Journalism 24/7, layoffs mounted in newsrooms throughout the country and students saw the class as explaining why they would never find jobs. But as 2007 turned to 2009, experiments in new formats and new business models emerged, some began to thrive, and the students' mood improved. Our graduates were getting good jobs.

The required course works on the theory that it's no longer enough to teach journalism students how to report, write, shoot photos and video, edit in all media, and post online. We also have to teach them about the context of journalism in this time of digital transformation and financial turmoil.

Over the 11 semesters I've taught Journalism 24/7, I have molded it into a course not only about journalism but also about business. Corporations own many of today's most powerful journalistic institutions. Many are publicly owned. All seek favorable regulation and tax treatment. Now more than ever, at this time of turmoil, we have a moral obligation to help students understand what they're getting into. [1] This course helps students overcome the all-too-common fear and ignorance of business by shedding light on the landscape in which business people operate, a world increasingly converging technologically, organizationally, and, as a result, economically.

It's a different course each term because of the speed at which the industry is evolving, but I've developed an easily adaptable framework. This article details that framework so that others can build a course like Journalism 24/7 – a course on business, on journalism, on convergence, and on careers.

The early weeks introduce students to basic business concepts, beginning with terms such as asset, capital, IPO, stock option, market capitalization, vertical integration, horizontal integration, shareholder value, and private equity. I illustrate these terms with the story of a hypothetical company, Selvin Inc., maker of thneeds, which most students remember from Dr. Seuss's The Lorax.

Once we've digested IPOs, we move from the imaginary Selvin Inc. to real newspapers. I frame the history of newspaper companies' business models as a four-part saga: family ownership, consolidation into chains, public ownership, and today's post-consolidation, private-equity ownership. We look at the strengths and weaknesses of each model, the potential conflicts of interest of different types of owners, and some real examples. For instance, we talk about how offering key newsroom employees stock options can "align employees' interests with those of shareholders" [2] and subtly shift editors' loyalty from reader to self – in other words, to financial rather than editorial rewards. [3]

We examine how and craigslist took classified advertising to the Web, and then we look at changes in display advertising and online advertising. We look at charts from current State of the News Media reports [4] on revenues and circulation, the days of 20-percent-and-more profit margins, and the concepts of secular and cyclical change.

We look at the recent major sales: Knight Ridder-McClatchy, Dow Jones-News Corp., and the Philadelphia Media Network. As a former business reporter for Newsday, which went from the Times Mirror Corp. to the Tribune Co. to Cablevision Corp. in less than a decade, I spend a day on the histories of Times Mirror and Tribune, including the lingering bankruptcy. This fall, Advance Publications and the unfolding saga of The Times-Picayune of New Orleans is a major topic. Students looking to work at a "daily" newspaper must realize they may face a three-day-a-week publication schedule, feeding stories blog-style into the online maw instead of crafting the inverted-pyramid copy we teach them in their reporting classes.

About half the students write corporate histories of news companies, focusing on the evolution of the companies' business strategies. This helps them consolidate everything we've discussed so far and trains them to study up on the owners of the organizations that might hire them. Students learn to use Yahoo!Finance,, and the university library's business databases.

Students may also choose to present a news briefing on a recent development: social-media use at a network news division; the latest circulation, audience or earnings reports for news companies; a new mobile app for organizing news stories; an update on newspaper paywalls. The briefings often spark a lively discussion of trends. An item about the iPad led students to talk about "the two-screen experience." [5]

Students also blog twice a week on news-industry stories and must read at least two newsfeeds a day from sources such as Romenesko and Mediabistro. They also must read The New York Times' Monday business section and David Carr's "Media Equation" column. As with the corporate history assignment, blogging helps students consolidate, reflect on, and apply the concepts we discuss in class. And blogging experience is a good resume item, as is proficiency with WordPress.

Conflicts of interest, short-term thinking, failure to grasp the importance of the Web, layoffs, bankruptcies, closures, the whole doing-more-with-less thing – the first part of the course can get depressing. But we also look at how the Internet is changing the way journalists work and examine emerging news organizations. We segue into this material with a discussion of John Paton's "Digital First" philosophy at MediaNews Group and Journal Register Co. Then we move into exploring new business models and changing philosophies of journalism: aggregation, curation, pro-am journalism, user-generated content, paywalls, niche news sites, nonprofit news sites, investigative networks, hyperlocal startups, backpack journalism, university news sites, partnerships among professional news organizations, crowdfunding, and crowdsourcing, the link economy, web video, and more.

I bring in four guest speakers per semester. One frequent guest is a longtime Long Island community journalist who started a hyperlocal news site three years ago and made a profit within six months. Another regular is former CBS News President Andrew Heyward, who sits on the advisory board of our Center for News Literacy. I've brought in advertising executives, ProPublica reporters, Patch editors, digital-news gurus, our own alums, senior AP executives, publishers, bloggers, news directors, and media technology experts. While social media is threaded throughout the course, we look in depth at how journalists use Twitter, Facebook, and Storify.

In the last third of the semester, we move to the broadcast side, starting with National Public Radio. We discuss how the success of 60 Minutes changed the role of the network news division from prestige to profit center. I explain networks and affiliates, local marketing agreements, the cable business model versus the broadcast business model, ratings and shares, and more. We look at the aging of television-news audiences, which always reveals the conundrum of students who rarely watch newscasts yet say they want to be on-camera reporters or anchors. [6]

Talking about television leads nicely into the last major section of the course, which focuses on another evergreen business topic: regulation. Our main focus is the FCC, and the topics we discuss most are licensing, cross-ownership rules, and net neutrality. We were discussing net neutrality well before the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) became front-page stories. We touch on other aspects of broadband policy, such as the digital divide and why the U.S. lags in broadband speed and penetration. [7]

It's a lot to cover in 14 weeks, but it's an upper-level course, and the students leave with a broad appreciation of the changing news industry, a blog they can show future employers, exposure to new ventures in journalism, a recognition of the vital role of multimedia skills in a convergent news environment, and a solid introduction to the business of journalism.

Barbara Selvin is an assistant professor of journalism at Stony Brook University in New York. A longer version of this paper was presented at the 2012 Convergence and Society Conference.

[1] Claussen, D. S. (2008, Summer). They're in for a Rude Awakening [Editor's Note]. Journalism and Mass Communication Educator, 63(2), 103-106.

[2] Blair, M. M., and Kruse, D. L. (1999, Fall). Worker capitalists? Giving employees an ownership stake. Brookings Review, 25. Retrieved from

[3] Maguire, M. (2005). Hidden costs and hidden dangers: Stock options at U.S. newspaper companies. In R. G. Picard (Ed.), Corporate Governance of Media Companies [PDF/Adobe Acrobat version] (pp. 29-51). Retrieved from

[4] Maguire, M. (2012). The State of the News Media 2012. Retrieved from

[5] Kim, G. (2012, Feb 7). Super Bowl was a two-screen experience. Content Marketing Institute. Retrieved from

[6] Gunther, M. (1999). The transformation of network news: How profitability has moved networks out of hard news. Nieman Reports. Retrieved from

[7] Gunther, M. (2012, March 5). OECD broadband portal. OECD Directorate for Science, Technology and Industry. Retrieved from

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Conferences, Training and Calls for Papers
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Research Symposium of the Broadcast Education Association
April 7
Las Vegas
Paper submission deadline: Dec. 1


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


Journalism Interactive
University of Florida, Gainesville
Feb 8-9


American Copy Editors Society
St. Louis
April 4-6


The International Symposium on Online Journalism
April 19-20
University of Texas at Austin


International Communication Association
June 17-21


Job Listings

University of Houston, Clear Lake: Assistant Professor, Digital Media/Video; Assistant Professor, Public Relations/Strategic Communication
Complete application at Also submit letter of interest, C.V., three letters of recommendation and graduate transcript. Direct questions to Ashley Packard, professor of communication,
Review of completed applications begins immediately and continues until position is filled.


Loyola University Chicago: assistant professor, digital communication
The School of Communication
Submit a cover letter and C.V. and the names and email addresses of at least three professional references, at
Deadline: Nov. 21


Missouri Western State University: Assistant Professor of Convergent Journalism (two positions)
Submit letter of interest, C.V., unofficial transcripts, one-page statement of teaching philosophy, evidence of teaching effectiveness, if available, and contact information for three references to Direct any questions to Robert Bergland, professor of journalism,
Applications accepted until positions filled. Appointment starts August 2013.


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

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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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