The state of multimedia

For a long time convergence and multimedia were dirty words in many newsrooms – and that may still be the case for some.  But there is more evidence that journalists are simply embracing the idea that having more ways to distribute their stories can actually improve the quality of their work.

At the Broadcast Educators Association Convention in Las Vegas, a group of convergence researchers came together to talk about the state of multimedia.  Janet Kolodzy of Emerson College referenced a Pew Research Center report from March 2008 that indicated nearly half of all journalists now say working for the Web has made their journalism better.

But Kolodzy also warned broadcasters that “newspapers woke up in 2006, but TV is still somewhat somnolent. ”  Kolodzy went on to say that she’s seen much more evidence of “newspapers growing their own video sources vs. TV growing its own text and photos.”

The Pew research seems to support the argument that newspapers are putting more of an emphasis on the Web than their broadcast brethren.  Just 10% of those in local TV say the Web has the highest priority in their newsrooms, compared to 18% in local newspapers.

Ken Killibrew of the University of South Florida says that U.S. media are also falling behind European journalists when it comes to convergence.  He says many European publications are buying into the idea of the “news river.”

“We don’t live in a world where we put out newscasts and newspapers – we live in an ongoing stream of news,” says Killebrew.

How does that change things for journalists?  According to Killibrew it puts more of an emphasis on conversations with the audience and innovation in terms of news coverage.  He sees more use of Twitter and social networks among European journalists, as well as a belief in the “wisdom of crowds.”

He also says it can change the newsroom structures from teams to “cluster work,” in which a newsroom “works more holistically.”  For example, under this scenario, you might find a health reporter working with a business reporter and a sports editor to develop a story about the impact of a star player’s knee injury.

To learn more about what’s going on across the pond, check out the European Journalism Centre.


One Response

  1. Ah, that word convergence. At the RTNDA convention last week, Pam Johnson, director of the School of Journalism & Broadcasting at Western Kentucky, said it’s still a dirty word at WKU. “The faculty didn’t know what it was and didn’t want to know,” she said. “Now we call it ‘working across platforms.'”

    Linda Shipley, associated dean of the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska, said convergence is a misnomer. “We talk about options for content, delivery and platforms,” she said. “Convergence sounds like simplifying and combining, but we’re actually diversifying.”

    But Esther Thorson of the University of Missouri said they like the word convergence at Mizzou–so much so that they have a “convergence journalism” sequence and faculty.

    One of the biggest challenges the universities face is getting their faculty up to speed to teach multi-platform journalism. Thorson said J-schools have to insist on getting resources to send the faculty out to workshops or bring in experts to train them. Nebraska has done exactly that as it prepares to launch a new multimedia curriculum. “It’s here, and we don’t want to be left behind,” Johnson said.

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