Convergence in the trenches

Convergence is a reality in local TV newsrooms, but what does it look like? A new research study finds that in most cases what stations call convergence is just repurposing, not truly reporting across media.

The researchers surveyed producers and reporters at small and medium-market stations across the country. Almost all of the respondents indicated that their station practiced some form of convergence. The most common convergence partner is not a surprise: the TV station’s own Web site was cited by 61% of respondents as the focus of their convergent duties. But about one-fifth of respondents said they’re responsible for providing content to another TV station or to a radio station. Less than 10% said they also write for a newspaper outlet.

The survey found that most of what these reporters and producers post online requires little or no new information or reporting. “Very few provide still pictures, add additional facts to a story, or help design the site,” the authors write. “No news workers were tasked with creating Internet-only stories. Fewer than 20% report providing unaired video or sound bites to the Web site, even though such material is readily available.”

It’s possible that these tasks are being performed by photojournalists or Web producers who were not surveyed; more than half of respondents (55%) said their station had at least one staffer whose primary duty was to maintain and post content online. Let’s hope so. If markets below the top 50 aren’t providing anything but “shovelware,” TV news online still has a very long way to go.

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