Research (Vol. 53) — Convergence, Higher Education

A Survey of Convergence in Missouri Higher Ed Journalism Programs

StLouisArch_CreativeCommonsPatHawks

Mark Smith, Ph.D.
Truman State University

Don Krause, M.A.
Truman State University


Abstract: With changes in how audiences receive information, much attention has been placed on the implementation of multi-media storytelling tools and convergence of media outlets to enhance the news consumption experience. Through a survey administered to both print and broadcast association members advising student media in Missouri, as well as a focus group comprised of broadcast journalism advisers, this study closely examined the status of convergence at institutions of higher education in Missouri and the challenges of converging. A significant finding reveals that advisers introduce convergent storytelling techniques in coursework and have engaged colleagues in discussions of convergence, yet in practice convergence in student media in Missouri higher education remains a challenge for faculty advisers and students. Some of the reasons for the lack of convergence include the different ownership structures of student media within the same university, lack of time among advisers to oversee implementation of convergence as well as learning software to aid in the effort, and difficulties in working through university IT departments to implement combined websites.

A Survey of Convergence in Missouri Higher Ed Journalism Programs

The rapidly changing nature of access to information continues to shape and reshape journalism departments at colleges and universities nationwide. Much of that change is audience-driven in which the news consumer increasingly demands control of what they want and when they want it. Such control is embedded in the convergence of technological factors such as online (website) access to news and information and “computers in our pocket with smartphones” (Fisher, May 2014, fifth paragraph).

At Truman State University, faculty advisers and students have faced numerous challenges implementing a convergent journalism model that melds traditional media entities into a new structure combined with the intriguing but still time-consuming areas of multi-media storytelling. The purpose of this study is to identify both the status and challenges of journalism convergence in student media at select Missouri colleges and universities.

Literature Review

Defining Convergence. The implementation and evolution of “convergence” in higher education journalism programs and student media has been the subject of considerable debate. Its origin traces to the transformation of information distribution and consumption gained through computing and its inherent, flexible digital processes. For example, Huang et al. (2006) conclude that using a variety of platforms is a norm in the commercial news distribution process; therefore, “dealing with media convergence in college journalism education is an urgent necessity” (254). At the same time, student media operations and commercial media settings are confronted not only with devising workable, day-to-day models of convergence but also the challenge of defining convergence, which “remains elusive even as buzz about the term increases among media scholars and industry professionals” (Dailey 2005, 150).

For college educators, the focus of this research project, morphing traditional media systems into a new configuration has been difficult to grasp, leaving some educators to wonder about their efforts. Many convergence models blend broadcast, print and online journalism, which creates some doubt in the value of traditional curriculum in a converged world (Huang et al. 2006).

With the growth of the Internet and increased competition, commercial media companies have experimented with various facets of journalism convergence for the last 20 years. In the 1990s, for example, the San Jose Mercury News was among the first media entities to produce online content through the nascent America Online (AOL) Internet service. Other newspapers formed strategic partnerships with television news operations, which yielded content sharing and convergent cross-promotion opportunities (Gordon 2003; Kolodzy 2006).

As professional media began converging, many queried whether colleges were properly preparing younger journalists to meet the challenges created by a converging media landscape. Even at the turn of the new century, the president of the Association for Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication questioned whether college students were being properly prepared for a career in the changing world of journalism (Huang et al. 2006). At that time, one media manager concluded that college students need to be made aware of the new ways news can be disseminated, noting being prepared meant being able to work in a multimedia world (Huang et al. 2006).

J-schools experienced much change in the late 1990s and early 2000s in response to the perceived commercial media landscape. According to Huang et al. (2006), from 1998 to 2002 about 60 percent of the nation’s J-schools modified curricula in preparation for convergence.

As colleges wrestled with convergence in its earliest manifestation nearly 20 years ago, there was some concern on how well instructors were prepared or willing to include convergence-related material in coursework. A 2002 study found about eight in 10 professors were theoretically prepared to teach convergence, compared to only 53 percent indicating they were technologically prepared (Huang et al. 2006).

Since the push toward greater convergence began, the results among student media operations appear mixed. Most recently, a national survey of college media advisers revealed three significant findings. First, reporting across media platforms surfaced, among the respondents, as an important model (or definition) of convergence. Next, convergence in the curriculum is closely tied to the level of convergence practices in student media. Finally, regardless of definition, media advisers encounter significant roadblocks to convergent implementation (Wotanis, Richardson and Zhong 2015).

This study offers a snapshot of convergence within Missouri higher education institutions based upon: 1) the degree to which particular types of convergence are in practice in student media in the Show-Me state; and 2) regardless of the convergence model employed, what are challenges and barriers to convergence practices in student journalism? First, the study defines various models of convergence, followed by examples of convergence in student media.

Modes of media convergence defined. Broadly stated, Gordon (2003) finds that media convergence may be parceled into five distinct categories: ownership, tactics, structure, information gathering and storytelling. The sections below explicate each category to better understand how the digital world and modern journalism intersect. The model presented here dates to the early 2000s; however, the individual modes continue to challenge newsroom convergence in 2016.

Ownership. Media companies, large and small, have engaged in attempts to find operating and editorial efficacies through mergers and acquisitions. Charges of “media monopolies” are of frequent concern, especially in light of Ben Bagdikian’s scholarly work beginning in the 1980s that raised alarms of increasing information control in the hands of a few. The Time-Warner/AOL merger in the early 2000s was touted as a model of modern convergence although company executives struggled “mightily to figure out how they could get their different media properties to work together more effectively” (Gordon 2003, 64). That merger foundered, among other reasons, when the dotcom financial bubble burst in 2001. A long-standing cross-ownership model is found in Chicago. The Tribune Company has owned a television station, radio station and newspaper for several decades, but for much of its cross-ownership history rarely shared content or resources. By the early 2000s, however, greater efforts at synergistic operations emerged. According to Jack Fuller,  a company executive, cross-ownership not only is a means of lowering costs and increasing efficiencies but also the opportunity to “provide higher quality news in times of economic stress” (Gordon 2003, 64).

Tactics. For companies that operate under separate ownership umbrellas, local newspapers and electronic media have engaged in tactical convergence. The hope is that promoting a news-gathering entity on another media platform will drive readers and viewers back and forth among local news producers. For example, a local TV meteorologist provides weather content for a newspaper that in turn, or so the thinking goes, will drive newspaper readers to TV station news broadcasts. Beyond sharing content, perceived cultural barriers to greater convergence efforts, such as enterprise reporting, hindered tactical partnerships in the early years of industry convergence (Gordon 2003). Tactical relationships, however, continue to thrive. Recently, the New York Times and National Public Radio joined forces to share video content, including social media websites and apps (Mullin 2015).

Structure. Traditional newsrooms have long maintained specific job titles that have changed little over many decades. A TV news broadcast typically has its News Director and/or Producer; a Managing Editor oversees news and editorial operations at newspapers. Online news production has created new job descriptions, especially in converged operations. The Orlando Sentinel, for example, created a cable news channel and with it the new position of Multimedia Editor. Other media operations have added Multi-Media Reporters tasked with creating online news content (Gordon 2003). Convergence continues to drive newsroom structures. In response to consumer access to video streaming on cell phones and pads, The New York Times has revamped its information distribution system. With a greater emphasis on visual storytelling, The Times has, for several years, deployed a video department (Somaiya 2015).

Information Gathering. Using multiple tools to tell stories certainly enhances final content but the reality of new storytelling tools has created additional challenges in converged operations. Should reporters gather not only information for textual delivery online but also pictures, video and audio? Fears of reporters morphing into “Inspector Gadget” are not unfounded (Gordon 2003). The foundation of journalism is built on accuracy, fairness and sourcing, among other news values. As Kolodzy (2006) notes, those principles need not be sacrificed in the online age in which multi-media tools carries with it the promise of enhanced storytelling.

Storytelling. Virtually unlimited space online (versus limited column inches in print and restricted timeframes for broadcast) means that reporters have greater freedom to tell meatier stories (Gordon 2003). And with the availability of smartphones that record audio and video, and shoot pictures, “the computer in the pocket” is a commonplace tool for reporters. The level of storytelling is likely dependent upon the nature of a particular news story. Is it breaking news or a longer feature that explores a subject in greater depth? For example, some aspects of enhanced audio, video, animation and interactive graphics may be more applicable to special news events; whereas, text, pictures and “raw video” may better mesh with breaking news coverage.

Video storytelling online, even among traditional news outlets continues to grow. At The New York Times, for example, the newspaper employs 75 persons involved with video collection, editing and online distribution (Somaiya 2015).

The five categories of Gordon’s (2003) convergence model are geared to commercial media operations. At the same time college and university student media outlets seek to mirror industry standards; therefore, Gordon’s model is applicable in the shift toward journalism convergence in higher education. The challenges of media ownership and tactical relationships are not unique to the commercial world of news gathering. In higher education, student media “ownership” may lean toward use of university facilities and budgets, which combine to produce journalism products that may or may not function within co-curricular programs. Likewise, “independent” student publications and broadcast facilities on university campuses may receive funding through student fees and/or other sources, and may or may not engage with faculty advisers and curricular programs. Regardless, the challenge of “merging” stand-alone student media systems “owned” by universities or through tactical affiliations is likely as challenging for students and faculty advisers as it is for media producers in commercial settings. The structure of converged student media along with its inherent challenges of deciding what and how to implement news gathering tools and the level of storytelling produce further quandaries for students and faculty advisers in large part because of the vast swaths of uncharted area heretofore rarely or never explored. As Augie Grant (2014), a long-time proponent of journalism convergence, noted, “the biggest barriers to implementing change in a newsroom are not economic or technological; rather it is resistance from people who need to learn new words and new ways of doing things” (no page number). Finding consensus among the staffs of media systems with differing cultures of news gathering and reporting creates its own challenges, not only in the commercial world, but likely in student media as well. Illustrations of convergence, explicated in the next section, demonstrate that faculty and students are rethinking the long-standing ethos of journalism through various forms of modern convergence.

Examples of convergence in student media. The mutable news tastes of consumers, driven in the 21st century through such cultural shifts as reliance on portable technology and online social media access, have reconfigured student media at four universities that serve as models of convergence in this study.

University of North Carolina, Asheville. The Blue Banner is a weekly student newspaper. A tactical relationship led to a focused delivery of online news content and a structural shift and perception of the weekly, printed product. Funded by a one-time grant, the Banner formed a partnership with the Asheville Citizens-Times to deliver web content targeted to readers in western North Carolina. The Banner both shared and posted content from other members of the same journalism project (DiPalma and Gouge, 2011-2013).

From a storytelling perspective, the Banner streamlined its initial vetting process that very much mirrors a traditional radio station newsroom. Reporters post news, video and pictures online minus the scrutiny of a copy editor. The Banner staff actively engages in social media, which has led to higher website traffic. A print edition remains in place, but is produced more so as a “promotional product to drive readers to the website” (DiPalma and Gouge 2011-2013, 79). Student print newspaper editions normally generate revenue to cover print costs; however, a paradigmatic shift is on the horizon as Banner advertisers have begun to demand that ad messages communicate to audiences online rather than through print. But as DiPalma and Gouge (2011-2013) note, in much the way that television did not replace radio, “the printed college newspaper still has its place” (80).

University of Florida. Tactical, structural, news gathering and storytelling convergence has produced the ROPE model at UF: Report Once, Publish Everywhere. Students are trained to deliver content on more than one medium. For example, radio reporters record audio, but also take pictures for online news distribution; meanwhile, print students produce stories supplied to the radio station. (It is unclear if electronic media contributes to print operations at UF.) Traditional electronic news staffs occupy positions in radio and TV, and the Integrated News Facility (INF) brings those broadcast media together in a single large space. But having student media physically sharing space did not immediately translate to cooperative storytelling efforts. Lack of communication among Traditional content managers impeded the free-flow of information-sharing (Sheehan 2012). To promote greater content involvement, UF student media began using Google docs and other means to communicate news coverage and story production updates. Sheehan notes that the next step to increase the efficiency of the INF model is “to find—or build—a content management system that works for all platforms” (Sheehan 2012, no page number).

As of late 2015, the UF student print and electronic news websites maintained distinct barriers. Although radio and television media share a converged website, the student newspaper maintains a separate website.[1]

Texas Christian University. A student media website that approaches coverage through Gordon’s (2003) five categories of ownership, tactics, structure, newsgathering and storytelling convergence is found on TCU 360. A combined newsroom brings together print and electronic media with an emphasis on “digital first” (Chimbel 2013, no page number). Much like the changing news consumption habits at other universities, online reporting and an emphasis on social media emerge at the forefront of this convergence model. Students are experimenting with new web tools to tell stories, but full migration from the traditional mindset of news coverage is ongoing. Managing Editor Jordan Rubio notes:

When it comes to breaking news stories, we only have text and photos…we need to incorporate some other media such as video and infographics. Nevertheless, 360 has evolved to become more digital first in its approach. (Chimbel, 2013, no page number)

And although TCU student media touts a digital first approach, the director of student media notes that coursework and the traditional nature of student media (a weekly newspaper now focused on in-depth coverage and regularly scheduled TV news shows) means that convergence at TCU has reached it limits (Chimbel 2013).

Although structural positions, such as student media managers remain in place at TCU 360, those traditional roles have morphed into overseeing content placement already produced; one Executive Editor determines coverage for all media with faculty advisers for print, broadcast and online (Chimbel 2013). Other structural changes include the addition of a Visual Editor and Projects Editor (TCU 360.com).

Efforts of convergence within student media can take several forms, but aim to bring multiple outlets together in an effort to provide a better experience for the end-user and students learning the trade of journalism in 2016. As explicated in the results section, institutions in the state of Missouri have achieved varying levels of convergence.

Method

To gain a better understanding of the levels of convergence in journalism at institutions of higher education in Missouri, a two-prong research method was employed. The researchers, who are affiliated with two higher educational media organizations based in the state of Missouri, prepared and administered a survey that queried members in several areas related to convergence in journalism.

In spring 2015, advisers attending the Missouri College Media Association (MCMA) and Missouri Broadcasters Education Association (MBEA) annual meetings completed the survey, which was also administered through email to advisers on record with MCMA for schools that did not complete surveys at the April meeting. Fourteen members of MCMA and six members of MBEA completed the form. There was no duplication of schools between the two groups.

If multiple surveys from a single school were completed at either MCMA or MBEA, only one survey was used for this study to ensure equal representation.

The survey covered a variety of areas including institutional information, composition of student media, funding sources and use of student media websites (see appendix). In addition to the survey instrument, a focus group was conducted in April 2015 with six MBEA member-schools participating. The institutions were composed of two public universities and four private colleges. The half-dozen institutions ranged in size from a public university with 11,000 undergraduate students to a private school with an undergraduate enrollment of 1,700. One private school had three participants; the other five institutions were represented by one faculty member each.

Researchers closely examined the surveys and responses from focus group participants to detect themes that provide a snapshot of convergent journalism in Missouri higher education. Based on the literature, the researchers targeted themes related to the convergent categories explicated by Gordon (2003): ownership, tactics, structure, information gathering and storytelling.

Findings

Survey Results. Responses were split evenly among public and private schools, with 10 of each. The majority of responses, 18 of 20, were obtained from four-year schools. Size of schools ranged from 600 to 16,000. Nearly half of the respondents, 9 of 20, reported their school size being 3,000 students or less. Three schools reported enrollment at 12,000 or more.

Co-curricular activity. Most schools reported that student media is a co-curricular activity. Only three of 16 responses specified no co-curricular affiliation.

Adviser’s role. Two-thirds of the 20 respondents indicated they “advise student media,” with one-third indicating they “directly manage student media outlet.” When asked to describe their duties, two advisers responded with “assist with story ideas.” The majority of respondents, however, indicated they avoid editorial decisions and focus instead on media system guidance, training staff and assisting with the business aspects of a particular student medium.

Newspapers dominate campus media. From the survey, newspapers are still the most common form of student media on campuses across Missouri. The respondents indicated that 15 of 20 schools have newspapers, with weekly papers, (10 responses), being the most common cycle of distribution. Broadcast or cable television was second, with 11 responses, and broadcast radio service received eight responses. In addition to being the most common form of student media, newspapers also have the most stand-alone websites, as all schools with newspapers reported an online presence. Radio is the next most common form of stand-alone website, with four responses, and TV with three. However, in a positive move for convergence, seven respondents reported their schools utilize a shared website for student media. Four schools reported more than one student media stand-alone website, only half of the respondents reported the use of a hyperlink from one site to another.

Student media working together. Survey results point to some form of convergence (tactical, structured, etc.) in student media at Missouri colleges and universities, but as noted below and in the focus group findings in the next section, active discussion of convergence has not produced robust convergent practices. Four of 16 respondents agreed to a statement asking if the student media news coverage at their school is “largely a configuration of separate news units that cover the same events/news stories.” Six responded to the question with a “no,” while another six responded with “occasionally student media come together for coverage.” For those schools not actively converged, 12 out of 15 respondents reported there has “been discussion among faculty and students to shift toward some model of converged media.”

Focus Group Themes. Six MBEA members participated in a focus group to better understand the challenges of converging student media. Several themes—grounded in ownership, tactics, structure, information gathering, and storytelling—emerged from the focus group that responded to levels of journalism convergence at their respective institutions. “Ownership” of media on the college/university level varies among institutions, which has affected the tactical ability and willingness of student media systems to “come together.” Specifically, differences in funding sources and the level of co-curricular status between traditional news entities and departments strongly shape converging student media operations on a day-to-day basis. The focus group was asked to evaluate the blending of print and electronic student media units into singular “war rooms” in a tactical effort to share story ideas, news coverage possibilities, website collaboration and financial budgets. The six participants reported varying levels of “cooperation” but none had converged student media systems into singular operating units. The road to this definition of convergence (i.e., student media units working together) is marked, in part, by ownership and tactical complexities as one faculty member at a public university explained:

Some [media]…is club driven, [some] is classroom driven…. And so it’s not convergence between media outlets [we encounter], but between the department and student media groups, which is one reason why the newspaper is still kind of standing alone to a certain extent because their funding sources are different and [the] advising structure and freedom of speech is different.

Faculty staffing and time pressures present further roadblocks to merging traditional student media outlets into a singular unit. As one faculty member lamented, “It’s one guy doing all the video and one guy doing all the [print] journalism and every once in a while [we] see each other in the hallway and say [to one another] ‘are you still breathing?’” And it’s not solely faculty that face time burdens. Another instructor noted that widely varying class schedules present yet another obstacle for print and electronic media to find common ground in news coverage: “They [students] go do stories in between classes, so I’m not sure they could ever be coordinated…TV deadlines are different than print deadlines.”

The structure of converged operations (print and electronic student media working together) did not materialize as a topic in this focus group as the majority of institutions had not resolved the challenges of ownership and tactics; therefore, discussions had not progressed on how to construct a converged newsroom with updated production titles.

A significant finding of journalism convergence reveals a distinct disconnect between classroom learning and actual practice for audience consumption. Most university programs among focus group respondents have implemented, at some level, information and storytelling convergence in coursework. Broadcast instructors stated that communication and mass communication students are exposed to convergent news reporting techniques. Basic media courses teach multiple writing styles including traditional print/online, broadcast and the new frontier of multimedia presentations. The respondents reported that online information techniques include the incorporation of text and hyperlinks along with picture galleries, video and embedded audio. A typical comment, from a large university, noted that students are exposed to multiple news story techniques through “…courses as part of multi-media journalism but they’re also getting…print, layout and design and management [courses].” Smaller institutions have forged similar classroom experiences. As one faculty member noted, “for sports reporting, that’s a true convergent class. They’ll write articles for the [news]paper, produce radio pieces, [and] produce television pieces.” Further probing reveals; however, disengagement between the classroom experience and what appears online in student media reporting (regardless of the level of ownership and/or tactical convergence). The majority of schools reported that convergent instruction, which promotes a variety of multi-media tools in the classroom, does not regularly translate to what students produce online for public consumption. At most, what is created by students for traditional media platforms is, many times, “shoveled” online with few enhancements. As one faculty adviser remarked, “We don’t shovel up individual stories, it’s all part of the [TV] newscast that gets shoveled up. There’s no other hyperlinks or anything else or an individual story or anything…I guess I could do that.”  Another broadcast instructor acknowledged the curriculum-daily practice disconnect: “I think we do it in our classes but I think if you want somebody running the newspaper [for example] where stories have video and links to other articles, that takes a serious effort.” Another respondent pointed to the time pressures on faculty who advise student media: “There’s not enough hours in the day. What you’re [the moderator is] saying sounds wonderful and it’s like ‘wow’ [but] the hours aren’t available…[there’s a lack of] man or woman power right now.”

Related to the information and production processes, the focus group was asked to explain how each school implemented website design and information uploading. Only one of the six schools utilizes third-party services for web design and maintenance (including coding issues):

Currently, the newspaper has a site that sits outside the university, and the other media stuff is happening [loaded] on the university website, which is slow and does not get updated enough, so we have a web designer who is moving us to another site, another server in the fall.

The other five participants stated that news delivery online is facilitated by local Information Technology (IT) departments at the respective institutions or by instructors. Website creation and updates to student media news pages emerged as significant challenges. Two schools stated that faculty advisers maintained student news sites (uploading and maintenance); the other schools reported dependence upon sometimes lukewarm relationships with IT departments. As one respondent stated, “…our IT department thinks they own every computer and every monitor on campus. And they’re getting better at it [working with us, but] you have to kinda go through them.”

Only one school reported utilizing “user-friendly” website software, such as WordPress® (another instructor was unaware of the WordPress® brand, a common open source content management system). Lack of training in convergent media software (including not only website software but also updated video and other multi-media software) by and for faculty emerged as a significant theme. IT departments at some universities offer website training, for example, but as one instructor implied, the time spent learning and retaining website maintenance is challenging for busy faculty:

We have a web design team at our university and we send them pictures and stuff and they update it. We recently went to a training session on how to do it ourselves, but I have not had five seconds [to try it] since the training session was 60 days ago and it’s [the knowledge] is gone. So I’m going to go back for a [another] training session.

Faculty resistance to incorporating media convergence and learning new technologies surfaced as a factor for at least one respondent:

Everybody’s on board, the newspaper adviser’s onboard, other media, except for the one guy [instructor] who says ‘no’ to everything. He just doesn’t want extra work…. Yeah that’s the vision I think all of us share, but when I say ‘onboard’ I mean that when we go out for lunch [we say to one another] ‘wouldn’t it be great if we could do this?’ and then nothing happens.

Conclusions

Findings from a questionnaire and focus group reveal that the level of day-to-day convergence in student media is relatively modest among the sample of Missouri colleges and universities in this study. In addition, faculty advisers strongly suggest that significant barriers inhibit further convergence in student media operations.

One challenge for researchers lies in defining “convergence” in journalism programs in college and university programs. For example at Truman State University, the school in which the authors teach, convergence refers to student media maintaining traditional identities but at the same time “coming together” for collaborative reporting and storytelling opportunities and the shift to a singular, branded online news and entertainment presence. Meanwhile, the largest university that took part in the focus group defined convergence as the melding of traditional student media with commercial media in the sense that students prepare not only media products for an online news site (operated by the student newspaper) but also for commercial print and electronic media in the market in which the university resides. With that qualification in mind, several themes were detected that serve as a snapshot of convergent journalism in Missouri higher education. While many advisers report including convergence into coursework, student media in Missouri has experienced limited progress in moving toward true convergence outside the classroom. Through the survey and focus group, we conclude there is no single reason for the lack of convergence. Instead, a combination of influences, ranging from funding sources to time and skills constraints among advisers, prevent true convergence from taking hold within student media.

Most advisers indicated that convergence is part of classroom instruction; however, a converged mindset, for the most part, does not find its way to practice within student media. Of 20 schools responding only seven survey responses (35%) indicated “shared” websites between student media at the same school. For those schools without a shared website, only four responses indicated there are links from one media website to a sister site. But most significant, the majority of student media in Missouri, of the schools in this study, still largely operate as separate entities.

Dissimilarities within the “ownership” of student media statewide surfaced as a hindrance to convergence. If a university boasts multiple student media outlets, they may be funded differently, which can create difficulties in bringing traditional media systems together. Despite those disparities, convergence is a topic on the minds of those advising student media, but with reservations. At schools where student media is not converged, 12 of 15 respondents indicated there has been discussion to bring some form of convergence to student media. Yet, from the focus group, concerns of simply not having enough time—hours in the day to implement convergence—was a theme echoed by nearly every school. Another constraint to convergence, interestingly enough, is the very technology that propels the new journalism archetype. Lack of training in the software required for a converged website emerged from the study as a concern, as did the requirement at many schools to work through IT departments. Lack of technical skills, along with less than amicable relationships with IT departments, creates significant barriers to improving the functionality of student media websites. Finally, the perception among faulty that students endure time restraints (e.g., the challenges of meshing class schedules and differing media deadlines) adds another challenging layer of convergence complications.

The structure of student media raises complex issues for Missouri journalism programs. Focus group participants noted that traditional print and broadcast content is frequently “shoveled” online with few enhancements. With consumer tastes rapidly shifting to digital delivery, the structure of student media outlets likely requires new position titles and staffing, but at the same time schools with thin journalism staffs continue to produce traditional print and broadcast product. These stresses bedevil advisers and students alike who seek to juggle the traditional media world with the new frontier of online content.

The meaning of convergence continues to evolve. Regardless, it is clear in this study that the devil in the details lies in its implementation. The literature, however, points to signs of hope for convergent journalism on the university level. Institutions that have implemented convergence in practice are producing positive results. Texas Christian University has created an enhanced model of student media collaboration that serves audiences gravitating more and more to online news consumption. A converged website (i.e., all student media on one web address) focuses on “digital first” with an emphasis on breaking news (i.e., text with pictures). Traditional printed newspaper delivery at TCU concentrates on depth; however, much like Missouri universities in this study the digital emphasis at TCU has yet to achieve a normative schedule of robust storytelling. A strong template, however, has been forged at TCU for others to closely examine and emulate as needed. Other tools to assist faculty and students in the convergence process include innovative software, such as Camayak®, which tracks story proposals and submissions across media platforms.

This study offers a preliminary look at convergence efforts by student media within Missouri higher education. To fully understand how convergence could be implemented at more schools, further study in several areas would be helpful. From the focus group, an interesting discussion relating to the advisers emerged. Further inquiry could address the time constraints and technology concerns facing advisers. Another area of inquiry could evaluate convergence at the high school level and its effects on the college level since many college journalists start with a high school program. Furthermore, future research could examine other schools that have implemented convergence to determine how those programs overcame the challenges of technology and working with IT departments.


References

  • Chimbel, Aaron. “A Changing College Newsroom: From Convergence to Digital First to What’s Next.” The Convergence Newsletter, ed.  Chris Winkler: August 2013. Retrieved from http://sc.edu/cmcis/archive/convergence/v10no4.html
  • Dailey, Larry, Demo, Lori, and Spillman, Mary. (2005). “The Convergence Continuum: A
  • Model for Studying Collaboration Between Media Newsrooms.” Atlantic Journal of Communication. 13 no. 3 (2005): 150-168.
  • DiPalma, Sonya, and Gouge, Michael. “Adapting to the Changing Media Landscape: The story of the Blue Banner.” College Media Review Research Annual, vol. 49-50 (2011-2013): 71-83. Retrieved from http://cmreview.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/CMR_Research2013_06_DiPalma.pdf
  • Fisher, Doug. “A Few Final Thoughts on Convergence, Whatever that is.” The Convergence Newsletter, ed. Chris Walker: May 2014. Retrieved from http://sc.edu/cmcis/archive/convergence/v11no4.html
  • Gordon, Rich.  Digital journalism: Emerging media and the changing horizons of journalism, K. Kawamoto (ed.), 57-74. Rowman & Littlefield: New York, 2003.
  • Grant, Augie. (2014, May). “Convergence Crossroads: Hindsight and Foresight.” The Convergence Newsletter (May 2014), Chris Walker (Ed.). Retrieved from http://sc.edu/cmcis/archive/convergence/v11no4.html
  • Huang, Edgar, Davison, Karen, Shreve, Stephanie, Davis, Twila, Bettendorf, Elizabeth, and Nair Anita. “Bridging Newsrooms and Classrooms: Preparing the Next Generation of Journalists for Converged Media.” Journalism and Communication Monographs 8 no. 3  (2006): 221-262.
  • Kolodzy, Janet. Convergence journalism: Writing and reporting across the news media. Rowan and Littlefield: New York, 2006.
  • Mullin, Benjamin. (2015). “The New York Times, PBS Newshour strike video-sharing agreement.” Retrieved from http://www.poynter.org/news/mediawire/330079/the-new-york-times-pbs-strike-video-sharing-agreement/
  • Sheehan, Matt. (2012, November 19). “Our first election: Lessons from University of Florida’s Integrated Newsroom.” Retrieved from http://mediashift.org/2012/11/our-first-election-lessons-from-university-of-floridas-integrated-newsroom324/
  • Somaiya, Ravi. (2015, July 7). “New York Times to Revamp its Video Unit.” Retrieved from  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/08/business/media/new-york-times-to-revamp-video-unit.html?_r=0
  • TCU 360.com. Retrieved from http: //www.tcu360.com/staff
  • Wotanis, Lindsey, Richardson, Janis and Zhong, Bowei. (2015). “Convergent Media on Campus: A Study of Campus Media Organizations’ Organizational Practices.” College Media Review. 53 (2015): Retrieved from http://cmreview.org/research-vol-52-convergent-media-on-campus/

Appendix

Student Media/Convergence Survey

To obtain the most accurate snapshot of convergence in journalism within Missouri higher education, we request information regarding your university.  Although we do ask for the name of your institution, the scholarly paper we are preparing does not reveal individual institutions by name.  Do not provide responses in which you feel uncomfortable providing such information.

Part I
Institutional Info

  • Name of Institution  __________________________________________
  • Public __________   Private ___________
  • 2 Year _________    4 Year _________
  • Undergraduate enrollment (approx.) _____________________________________
  • Part II

Composition of Student Media at your school.  (Not just your advising duties.)

  1. Printed newspaper? (  ) yes (  ) no. If yes, (  )  weekly   (  ) daily   (  )  other
  2. Printed magazine (  )  yes (  ) no.  If yes, describe printing schedule _____________
  3. Broadcast radio service? (  )  yes   (  )  no
  4. Broadcast or cable television services? (  )  yes   (  )  no
  5. Is student media at your institution a co-curricular activity? (  )  yes (  )  no. If no to #5, is student media a club/organization (without ties to coursework)? (  ) yes (  )  no
  6. Do you directly manage a student media outlet or serve merely as an adviser (  )  directly manage student media outlet (  ) advise student media outlet. How many student media outlets do you manage or advise? _________ What student media/medium do you manage/advise? __________________________
  7. Briefly describe your role as a manager or adviser. ___________________________

Part III
Funding

(answer “yes” or “other” to 1-4)

  1. Is funding for student media at your institution provided solely through the university  (  )  yes
  2. Is funding for student media at your institution provided solely through a dedicated, department or university-wide student fee? (  )  yes
  3. Is funding for student media at your institution a combination of a dedicated student fee and funding provided by the university? (  )  yes
  4. (  )  other (please describe) ____________________________________________
  5. Is advertising/underwriting part of the revenue stream for student media at your institution? (  )  yes (  ) no
  6. If student media at your institution receives revenue from multiple streams, indicate a percentage for each (estimates are acceptable). ___________________

Part IV

Student Media Website(s),
News Coverage

  1. Stand-Alone Newspaper Website (  )  yes   (  )  no
  2. Stand-Alone Radio Website (  ) yes   (  )  no
  3. Stand-Alone Television Website (  )  yes   (  )  no
  4. Combined Student Media Website (  )  yes   (  )  no
  5. If your school uses more than one stand-alone website for student media (for example, separate websites for the newspaper and TV), is there a hyperlink to the other outlet?
  6. Is student media “day-to-day” news coverage at your institution largely a configuration of separate news units that cover the same events/news stories? (  )  yes (  )  no (  )  occasionally student media come together for coverage
  7. If student media is not converged, has there been discussion among faculty and students to shift toward some model of converged media (either through news coverage, a combined website, and so on). (  )  yes (  )  no

[1] The WUFT TV and FM station website can found at http://www.wuft.org/news/2015/06/01/gators-sweep-ncaa-baseball-gainesville-regional/. The Independent Florida Alligator is found at http://www.alligator.org/.


Mark Smith
Mark Smith

Mark Smith is a professor of communication at Truman State University. Dr. Smith’s research interests include media history, convergence, broadcast regulation and media criticism. He advises student media and is chair of the media board at Truman State.

 

 


 

Don Krause
Don Krause

Don Krause is an associate professor of communication at Truman State University. Krause’s research interests include social media, crisis communication, visual presentation and convergence.  He advises the student-produced newspaper, The Index.

 

 

 


 

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