Teaching Examples

‘Convergence’ is dead
February 12, 2007, 12:13 pm
Filed under: future, journalism, online

Buzz words come and go, and it’s high time to nail the coffin lid on this one.

As I’m following things these days, it seems that the model now — for newspaper companies, at least — is “to heck with the electronic media, we’ll just create our own video and audio.” I don’t follow the TV news end of things closely enough to judge how quickly they’re moving in this direction, but I would guess that if they’re not, they’d better get started.

The tools are inexpensive enough that there’s little substantial barrier to entry. The questions revolve around the best ways to tell the story, manage your time resources, and monetize the results.

That’s from Bryan Murley, who pondered this during a visit to Nebraska to conduct training for college journalists and their advisers.

Everybody got all jazzed up back in 2000 when the Tampa Tribune merged with the local TV station and built a Space Age kind of command post (“Houston, can you read me?”) in the center of their newsroom.

There are lots of sweaty palms in this Tampa newsroom, where the Tampa Tribune and WFLA-TV, Channel 8, and their online sites have decided to converge. That convergence took place in March, when all three moved in under one glass roof. This $40 million temple to convergence was built by Media General, a Richmond, Virginia, based company that owns all three outlets. Dubbed the “Newscenter,” the newspaper, broadcast, and online operations are on separate floors, connected by a central atrium. The nerve center is this super desk, where a staffer from each operation sits along with a multimedia editor to bring it all together. They share information and, most importantly, reporters. (Source: PBS NewsHour, July 17, 2000)

I look at the Tampa Web site from time to time, and frankly, it leaves a lot to be desired. You may disagree, but to me, judging the Web site of a news organization is the only practical way to evaluate that news organization today. If the Web site is poor, like Tampa’s, then the news organization is in trouble.

Now the buzz is all about Gannett’s “Information Centers” and mobile journalists who shoot video, file copy 24-7 online, and live in their cars. Oh, I meant work in their cars.

Change is good — change is imperative. I’m all for change.

What I’m against is a lemming-like rush to do something to which you can apply the latest buzz word so that you seem to be adapting and evolving.

A buzz word this year is transformation. That’s very good — that’s about big changes, really significant changes that make a difference. A real difference. Not just a surface difference.

Of course, that’s what everyone said about “convergence” too.

Many people, maybe most people, tend to get fenced in by what they think is possible. We don’t have money for this (now). We don’t have enough people to do that. We don’t know how to write that code or build that thing. We don’t have enough time.

So we just won’t do it.

What we need to look for is a can-do attitude. In Malaysia they say “Boleh!” — “Can!” You can see that positive force at The Roanoke Times, at the San Jose Mercury News, at the Naples Daily News, and even at the NBC Nightly News.

Buzz words come and go. When they go out of date, they sound stale and even foolish. But a good practice — a change for the better — never seems foolish in hindsight. A change for the better makes people’s lives better. Not worse. A change that seeks to improve journalism — not merely follow a trend — is a change worth doing. A change worth standing up for and shouting “Boleh!”

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2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Hey, we’ve got one of those space-age things in our newsroom too. But man, is it cool to sit in! It’s like being on the deck of the Enterprise!

Comment by Danny Sanchez

That’s exactly what it looks like! Engage!

Comment by Mindy McAdams

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