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17-year-old twitter user in the Complexo do Alemao in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, uses new media to provide the world with a play by play of what is going on in his community. This young man offers an inside perspective that mainstream news reporters did not have access to. Check out this BBC story.

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A Day on the Farm

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In Chapter 13: Beyond the “Tower of Babel” in the book Understanding Media Convergence, Susan Keith and B. William Silcock emphasize the fact that the definition of “convergence” is continuously evolving (2009, p. 226). From their qualitative study conducted in 2002, in which they interviewed journalists at two converged partnerships, they concluded that the form of convergence that they observed did not fit the existing models and that therefore there is a need for more theorizing about convergence structures (Keith & Silcock, 2009, p. 226).

Keith and Silcock found that the individual news organizations began to focus more on feeding content to their common Web site than sharing content between themselves (2009, p. 224). Both the television and the newspaper partners became more interested in repurposing their own content for the Web site as well as creating new content designed specifically for the Web site. Tracy Collins, deputy managing editor for presentation at the Arizona Republic explained that:

“We found there was no measurable difference in our circulation numbers and no measurable difference in their overnight ratings based on the stuff that we were doing…We started to realize through market research and everything that the newspaper and the broadcast audiences were fairly different and that sharing between was not necessarily going to drive one to the other” (Keith & Silcock, 2009, p.224).

Since the definition of “convergence” is continuously changing as we expand our understanding of what this process is and how it affects newsrooms’ staff and employees, educators now find themselves in a difficult position. They are faced with the question of whether or not journalism curriculum should be revamped to train students to work in a converged newsroom setting.

In Chapter 12: News Convergence Arrangements in Smaller Media Markets in the book Understanding Media Convergence, DeMars highlights the fact that while educators are trying to prepare students for a successful career in the specific field of journalism that they plan to enter, this task is becoming increasingly challenging due to “the uncertainty of what journalism may be like in coming years” (2009, p. 206).

DeMars draws attention to Birge’s conclusion made in 2004 that a convergence aspect should not be incorporated into the curriculum taught by Journalism programs. Birge suggests that “adding too much to the traditional areas of study in journalism or broadcast journalism programs can weaken the quality of classes” and the knowledge that the students obtain (DeMars, 2009, p.206) With this in mind, is Birge right? Is the conclusion he made in 2004 still relevant today? Are we all in agreement that convergence is the best move for the future?

It seems that those who oppose newsroom convergence argue that convergence is benefiting the news companies and managers more than it is improving the product. Is this true? I think that before educators can decide how to better prepare Communication and Journalism students, we must first determine whether the pros of convergence outweigh the cons.

When professionals already practicing convergence were faced with the question of why companies should continue or consider doing some form of news convergence, a majority responded that it was good for business and also allowed them to improve their product. DeMars explains that “practicing convergent journalism made them more competitive, more attractive to the audience, and more efficient,” (2009, p. 211). Is this the case for all media organizations?  If convergence is the future of journalism, then we must undoubtedly adjust what is being taught in Journalism and Communication programs across the nation so that students majoring in each area are adequately prepared to enter the work force.

After looking at the levels of news convergence and opinions of news directors and editors at daily newspapers and local market TV stations in Texas, DeMars is able to conclude that the perception among these professionals is that a college degree in Broadcast Journalism prepares you less for working in a converged newsroom than does a degree in Print Journalism (2009, p. 210).

In last week’s readings, Dupagne and Garrison explained that in order to make it in the converging world, graduates will need to be not only an expert in one specific area, but also familiar with the skills required from other departments as well (2009, p.196).  This raises the question of whether it is possible to implement a convergence aspect into the curriculum of journalism programs without weakening the overall quality of education the students receive, as Birge suggested.

Educators must now decide how to create the converged newsperson? How do you manage to teach enough in one particular area while also addressing issues in all other areas? It is difficult to answer this question because there is a specific amount of time allotted for each course and time that is spent focusing on one area is time lost focusing on another area. Therefore, if a student is taught too much additional information, they will not have the knowledge or experience that is required in their particular field, whether it be print, broadcast or new media.

References

DeMars, T. (2009). News Convergence Arrangements in Smaller Media Markets. In A. E. Grant & J. S. Wilkinson, (Eds.), Understanding media convergence: The state of the field (pp. 204-220). New York: Oxford University Press.

Dupagne, M., & Garrison, B. (2009). The Meaning and Influence of Convergence: A Qualitative Study of Newsroom Work at the Tampa News Center. In A. E. Grant & J. S. Wilkinson, (Eds.), Understanding media convergence: The state of the field (pp. 182-203). New York: Oxford University Press.

Keith, S. & Silcock, B., W. (2009). Beyond the “Tower of Babel”. In A. E. Grant & J. S. Wilkinson, (Eds.), Understanding media convergence: The state of the field (pp. 221-233). New York: Oxford University Press.

 

 

 

Today, we now see that many company managers and supervisors are no longer fighting the idea of convergence between multiple news operations. Instead, they are willing to get on board with the idea of convergence in hopes of utilizing the talent in their organization to its fullest potential and taking advantage of the financial benefits that convergence entails.

The idea of newsroom convergence also assumes that new media technologies will be used to better tell stories in each individual news outlet: print, broadcast, radio and online. While managers and editors who have been in the field for many years may not be extremely knowledgeable when it comes to new programs and equipment that is now being used to create online content, they assume that new graduates entering into the work force are experts in these areas. Therefore, students who graduate from Journalism and Communication programs that do not focus on new media technologies or incorporate this aspect of convergence in their curriculum may feel that they are at a disadvantage as they venture off into the professional world.

This is one of the reasons why I was extremely excited to take this class and to become more familiar with new media technologies. While those who have been working in the industry for many years are often not expected to be efficient with new media, it is almost always assumed that those entering into the profession are already familiar and competent with these new media technologies, even though this is not taught in many university programs.

With that said, many Journalism and Communication programs across the nation are beginning to implement a more convergence friendly curriculum into their department. Dupagne and Garrison point out in Chapter 11: The Meaning and Influence of Convergence: A Qualitative Study of Newsroom Work at the Tampa News Center in the book Understanding Media Convergence, that “If a convergence curriculum is to be successful, it is important to determine what new practices, if any, are being implemented in convergent newsrooms,” (2009, p. 187).

In order to shed light on this question, Dupagne and Garrison decided to study Media General’s News Center located in Tampa, Florida, which houses three different news operations: The Tampa Tribune, WFLA-TV, and Tampa Bay Online (TBO.com). The Tampa News Center is unique because, as a Tribune business section reporter puts it, “This is the only place in the country where you’re going to see a TV station and a print newsroom in the same building,” (Dupagne & Garrison, 2009, p. 193).

In the chapter by Dupagne and Garrison, Media General explains that “Convergence brings together the depth of newspaper coverage, the immediacy of television and the interactivity of the Web” (2009, p. 188). This viewpoint is not shared by all, critics of this convergence felt that it would damage the editorial independence of news operations, reduce the amount of original content that is produced in each news operation, and increase employee workloads without proper compensation (Dupagne & Garrison, 2009, p. 189).

One of the recurring views expressed by the editors and journalists interviewed by Dupagne and Garrison was that one of the greatest advantages to newsroom convergence is the ability to share resources between the three news operations. The results shared by Dupagne and Garrison’s case study highlights a quote from an interview with the assignments manager for WFLA-TV, in which he explains that:

“If we run out of photographers to respond to a story, they [the Tribune] may have a photographer at a story that we wouldn’t have covered otherwise. Now we’re at a position where The Tampa Tribune photographers are also shooting video for us, so a lot of times we’re able to shoot video of assignments that we’re not able to get just because we’re out of people. The same goes for them” (2009, p. 192).

While I can definitely see the advantage to having newspaper photographers also learn to shoot video, it makes me question whether critics of newsroom convergence may have a valid point when they suggest that journalists have to take on an increased work load without proper compensation.

Many journalists and editors interviewed by Dupagne and Garrison admitted that their positions were now more demanding because overall there was more to do. The manager of the news research center states that:

“We have a really talented group of people in here that just weren’t being utilized. So there were changes that I made, in terms of if you are going to enhance text for the digital archive, why not do the photos at the same time, the same person, that way you know how to work the photo database…” (Dupagne & Garrison, 2009, p. 194).

With this in mind, I think it is important to question whether this group of people is being utilized or overworked. How do we determine what the line is between a productive news environment and one that is demanding too much from journalists with no further compensation? How are journalists supposed to have time to master the continuously changing new media technologies, while they are also expected to take on a much larger work load?

The Tampa News Center case study suggested that graduates entering into the work force will need a new set of specific skills to work in a convergent newsroom.  Dupagne and Garrison suggest that students need to be good at one specific task, but also be able to perform other tasks as well (2009, p. 196). Therefore, we can conclude that Journalism and Communication programs across the nation will need to not only prepare students to be successful in one specific area, but will also need to incorporate a convergence friendly atmosphere within the classroom.

References

Dupagne, M., & Garrison, B. (2009). The Meaning and Influence of Convergence: A Qualitative Study of Newsroom Work at the Tampa News Center. In A. E. Grant & J. S. Wilkinson, (Eds.), Understanding media convergence: The state of the field (pp. 182-203). New York: Oxford University Press.

Woohooo! I’m back online! After taking the entire morning off from new media technologies, I found myself eager to jump right back into my multitasking world centered around the use of technology. When I woke up this morning, I realized that a million thoughts were going through my head that all had something to do with technology. My first instinct was to turn the television on while I was waking up and getting ready. Then, I realized that my throat was really soar and I immediately wanted to text my friend to say, “Oh man! I think I’m catching your cold! :(”  After getting past the fact that I couldn’t turn the television on or go online to perform my daily “wake-up process,” as I like to call it, where I ease into doing productive activities by half watching television or checking email, I decided to take advantage of this time to read the journal articles I had printed off the night before for my rhetorical criticism paper.

I was surprised by how relaxing and kind of soothing it was to just focus on one particular thing, the journal article I was reading. In fact, it was so relaxing, that I actually fell back asleep a couple of times! In between these quick naps, I found it difficult not to go online to perform a quick search about things mentioned in the articles that I was unfamiliar with. This reminded me of Krissy Clark’s article Journalism on the Map: A Case for Location-Aware Storytelling, and I realized that her dream of living in a world where hyperlinks connect readers to the stories that make up certain locations has basically come true. While reading an article about the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I learned that Snoop Dogg’s music video for the song Beautiful was filmed in Rio de Janeiro. It was torturous not to be able to get on YouTube to search for the video.

After surviving without new media technologies for half of a day, I now realize that there are times when it is nice to be able to disconnect from technology and relax and there are times in our world today when being connected to constant information is necessary. I can’t imagine trying to work on a research paper without using a computer or having access to the Internet. Nonetheless, I think that it would actually be nice to set aside some time each week to disconnect from technology and enjoy a good book or a face to face conversation with a friend.

The fact that today’s younger generation prefers to get their news from the Internet and television rather than from newspapers should come as a huge surprise to no one. In fact, doesn’t this idea coincide with the way that young people are sometimes portrayed through the eyes of older generations? I feel that now days, young people are often viewed as being technologically savvy, impatient, lazy individuals who can somehow manage to sit in front of the television screen for hours playing video games, yet can never muster up the same attention span to watch the nightly news.

Edgar Huang points out in the article The Causes of Youths’ Low News Consumption and Strategies for Making Youths Happy News Consumers that, “Traditionally, young people could be depended upon to grow up, mature, and become newspaper readers,” (2009, p. 108). The question then arises of whether this statement will continue to hold true or not. Will the younger generation ever become “routine hardcopy newspaper readers?”

Huang highlights the common view expressed by other scholars and industry researchers that “if the newspaper industry does not reach these young people now, it will lose them as readers forever,” (2009, p. 106). This makes me ask the question: “So what?”, which may seem completely absurd to those of you who work or have worked as print journalists for newspapers or in the newspaper industry.

Why is it so bad that younger generations prefer to access news through other media outlets rather than through newspapers? If newspapers happen to die out, will this event trigger the demise of quality journalism, or will print journalism just simply find a new location? Does not reading the newspaper reflect negatively on my level of intelligence or education? Is my generation, those in their early 20s, doomed to be less politically active and less aware of current events because a majority of us do not read newspapers?

Convergence partnerships have often been fueled by newspaper organizations’ desire to attract and reach a younger audience (Huang, 2009, p. 107). George L. Daniels points out that convergence activity has increased steadily since 2002 (2009, p. 164). We can now find online sites for all major newspapers, and the question becomes less focused around which news medium is best and more around how to incorporate the best of each medium into online news stories.

Briggs states that “To build your audience online, you need to analyze what you publish, what your readers like and don’t like, and then do more of what they like,” (2010, p. 311). Huang does exactly this in the article The Causes of Youths’ Low News Consumption and Strategies for Making Youths Happy News Consumers, by employing the uses and gratification theory in an attempt to discover why young audiences use or do not use certain media (2009, p. 109). Huang’s study consists of three rounds of in-depth interviews conducted in the spring of 2007 with 28 different high school and university students, ranging from 15-30 years-old in age (2009, p. 110). The results show that 82% of the students received their news mostly from the Internet, while 54 % received it from television, 7% from newspapers, and only 3 % from radio (2009, p. 111).

Huang found that, “The respondents loved the fact that news on the internet was quickly updated, easy to navigate, interactive, searchable, filterable, containing graphics and videos, providing much more information than newspapers for optional in-depth reading, handy for those who were near a computer often, enabling viewing from various digital devices, and allowing time-shifting,” (2009, p.116).

The students interviewed by Huang suggested that the media needed to satisfy their everyday desires  “to be informed, know the issues and know what is happening so that they could intelligently deal with the world around them,” (2009, p. 112). To me, this statement provides a rather positive image of the younger generation. It suggests that we do in fact want to be involved in our community, both politically and socially.

So, why is it that younger generations prefer to access their news online? One major reason has to do with time restraints; students often complain about having limited time to consume news (Huang, 2009, p. 112). In fact, one of the students interviewed explains that when your entire day is spent in the classroom or studying, the last thing you want to do is to go home and watch the news because you see it as “another form of education,” (Huang, 2009, p. 112). I completely agree with this statement. After a long day of work and school, I often find myself complaining that “my brain hurts,” and all I want to do when I get home is to relax and to “turn my brain off,” so to speak.

Therefore, if the younger generation calls for media convergence, we must then ask ourselves: What will true convergence look like?  Huang concludes that:

“A true convergence will mean that the news industry provides the younger generation an experience of consuming high-quality multimedia news that is customizable and relevant to them all online through computers or other more convenient and less expensive hand-held devices with and an opportunity for the audience to be easily engaged in participatory journalism,” (2009, p. 118).

Krissy Clark envisions true media convergence as providing journalists with the opportunity of telling stories at exactly the right time and place. Clark agrees with Briggs that quality content must be published in a way that allows individuals to easily locate the story online through search engines (2010, p. 310). She explains in the article Journalism on the Map: A Case for Location-Aware Storytelling, that if reporters and newsrooms “geotagged” their stories and archives, journalists would no longer have to dream of the lucky coincidence that their story is read at exactly the right time, in exactly the right location, as to be most meaningful to the reader (2010). Convergence would allow us to build tools that would ensure those moments (Clark, 2010).

References

Briggs, M. (2010). Journalism next: A practical guide to digital reporting and publishing. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press.

Clark, K. (2010). Journalism on the Map: A Case for Location-Aware Storytelling. Nieman Reports. [Web log comment] Retreived November 5, 2010 from http://www.nieman.harvard.edu/reportsitem.aspx?id=102425

Daniels, L., G. (2009). On Linkages and Levels: Using theory to assess the effect of converged structures on news products. In A. E. Grant & J. S. Wilkinson, (Eds.), Understanding media convergence: The state of the field (pp. 164-181). New York: Oxford University Press.

Huang, E. (2009). The Causes of Youths’ Low News Consumption and Strategies for Making Youths Happy News Consumers. [Article]. Convergence: The Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 15(1), 105-122. doi: 10.1177/1354856508097021

It is often difficult for journalists to support the idea of newsroom convergence. In Chapter 8: Developing Media Managers for Convergence in the book Understanding Media Convergence, Holly A. Fisher contributes this to the fact that, “Convergence flies in the face of traditional journalism; it goes against the basic tenets of the profession most reporters have been operating under for decades,” (2009, p.138). As discussed in earlier readings, convergence calls for journalists to put aside their competitive nature, which they have developed over the years as a crucial survival skill needed to stay in the industry, and to work alongside previous competitors.

When discussing new media and newsroom convergence, opinions are usually divided between those that are loyal followers of the Old Media and those who prefer the New Media and embrace the idea of convergence. In the article The Search for a Purveyor of News: The Dewey/Lippmann Debate in an Internet Age, Nathan Crick further elaborates on this issue by explaining that, “If defenders of the Old Media cite its accountability and reliability as a dedicated news source, defenders of the New Media credit the proliferation of fresh voices as a way of providing rich new perspectives on world affairs,” (2009, p. 485).

I think than when discussing media convergence it is important not to get sucked into the debate of which news medium is superior to the others, but rather recognize that each medium has its advantages and disadvantages. Crick draws attention to a point made by New Yorker columnist Eric Alterman, which highlights the fact that even though the Internet challenges the “top-down dissemination model of Old Media,” it does not necessarily occur in a democratic community or encourage communication between members of a society that would otherwise not communicate (2009, p. 484). For example, social-networking sites tend to attract and connect people with similar viewpoints, which further strengthens the line of division between members of different races, religions, political views, etc.

Fisher continues by stressing the fact that even though many journalists still disapprove of media convergence, the thought of converging newsrooms is no longer as mind-boggling and unfathomable amongst journalists and news organizations as it once was. In fact, many print, broadcast, and online newsrooms across the nation are now merging together in an attempt to embrace the needs of today’s readers and preserve the future of journalism. With this said, Fisher also notes that few organizations have yet to master the art of convergence or are aware of how they are to go about this process.

Fisher argues that media convergence now rests in the hands of the media managers. It is their responsibility to help reporters through the convergence process (Fisher, 2009, p. 135). “Not everyone embraces change, and it is up to media managers to develop a positive attitude about change within converging news operations,” (Fisher, 2009, p.138).

One way that managers can improve the ease of convergence and minimize stress is to make sure that there are specialists in the organization whose job it is to oversee the convergence process (Fisher, 2009, p. 140). Fisher explains that the Orlando Sentinel has a “multiple-media desk for news coordination,” where editors from all departments (print, broadcast, radio and online) work alongside each other (2009, p. 140). This method is believed to improve the communication between the managers of each different department. Therefore, when a major news story breaks, they are able to focus on how the story will be covered in all the different formats, rather than which department will be first to break the news story.

After all, isn’t this how it should be? Isn’t it about time that we all accept the fact that we are living in a world where different people have different needs, and different needs call for different mediums? While the Internet and online news may be the most practical medium to for many, we cannot overlook the fact that print journalism, against all odds, has not died out. I think that this proves that there is still a place for print journalism. Although convergence may minimize the chance of a print journalist being the first to break the news story, it does not assume that there is no need for newspaper or magazine articles. Convergence points out that there are some benefits to print journalism and it may be safe to say that online news content should incorporate some of these aspects, such as the vast amount of information and detail that is provided in print journalism.

In the article How Metadata can Eliminate the Need for Pay walls, Martin Moore points out that Rupert Murdoch has created pay walls around some of his sites, so that it now costs 1 euro to view thetimes.co.uk (2010). Moore states that pay walls “represent a shift from the openness that has defined the early history of the web, to a closed world much more reminiscent of the twentieth century’s constrained media environment,” (2010). Moore views pay walls as being a step backwards in the evolution of new media technologies and suggests that instead of limiting the amount of information readers have access to, we should be concerned with providing them access to more information with more ease.

Moore suggests that metadata, which includes information such as who wrote the article, when it was written, and what it should be classified as, should be embedded in all online news content (2010).

Amy Gahran offers a similar viewpoint in the article Structured news: Make useful connections to build your news business. She suggests that news organizations should offer a more structured approach to news, which includes providing clear context for the people, entities, and events in the stories, adding more links to the stories, and making use of good online tools (2010).

Reading both Moores and Gahran’s suggestions of incorporating more information into the online news content for the purpose of increasing transparency and accountability made me imagine a PR news release that usually includes extra descriptions about any companies, organizations or people mentioned in the release that the reporter may not be familiar with.

I think this is just one example of the fact that as we become more familiar with what is required to insure successful newsroom convergence, we will also continue to recognize which aspects of print, broadcast, radio and online news are more productive and how the news content produced by all four mediums can be improved to better suit the audiences needs.

References

Crick, N. (2009). The Search for a Purveyor of News: The Dewey/Lippmann Debate in an Internet Age. [Article]. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 26(5), 480-497. doi: 10.1080/15295030903325321

Fisher, H. (2009). Developing Media Managers for Convergence: A Study of Management Theory and Practice for Managers of Converged Newsrooms. In A. E. Grant & J. S. Wilkinson, (Eds.), Understanding media convergence: The state of the field (pp. 135-150). New York: Oxford University Press.

Gahran, A. (2010, August 19). Structured news: Make useful connections to build your news business. [Web log comment] Retreived October 28, 2010 from http://www.knightdigitalmediacenter.org/leadership_blog/comments/20100819_structured_news_make_useful_connections_to_build_your_news_busines/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+KnightDigitalMediaCenter+Knight+Digital+Media+Center&utm_content=Google+Reader#When:22:32:34Z

Graham, P. (2000). Hypercapitalism: a political economy of informational idealism. [Article]. New Media & Society, 2(2), 131.

Moore, M. (2010, August 18). How Metadata can eliminate the need for Pay walls. [Web log comment] Retreived October 28, 2010 from http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2010/08/how-metadata-can-eliminate-the-need-for-pay-walls230.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+pbs%2Fmediashift-blog+%28mediashift-blog%29&utm_content=Google+Reader