Ivan Askwith, one of my fellow media analysts here at the Convergence Culture Consortium, directed my attention to a publication called The Convergence Newsletter, published through the University of South Carolina and originally based on the university's famed Newsplex. Now, however, the newsletter has expanded to be a driving force behind important questions regarding journalistic integrity driving multi-platform news delivery.
This discussion about transmedia delivery of news in journalism, especially in converged newsrooms, has branched off of a May column by Ed Wasseman in the Miami Herald. Wasseman said that questions about convergence in journalism are being answered by "the technies, the brand managers, the publishers, the marketers," but that the journalists needed to be the ones deciding where convergence needs to go not to raise profit margins and to create interesting marketing opportunities but to better deliver the product.
This spurned a variety of discussion in the newsletter, with professionals and educators from around the country weighing in on the debate started by Wasseman. The editors of the newsletter describe an evolution of opinion over the past few years from convergence as an experiment to convergence as an element of everything that journalists do--an important part of the new media landscape.
However, many of the professional journalists who have (very insightful) pieces in the newsletter respond to Wasseman's claims at convergence as being a potential disaster for journalism and the media, as if it were some flash-in-the-pan experiment. The problem is that people are viewing convergence as some corporate-driven drive for watering down media content when multi-platform journalism, done correctly, creates a vareity of pieces that, when working together, greatly expands coverage instead of limiting it.
Maybe I'm just ill-equipped to understand Wasseman's point, since our Comparative Media Studies department does not recognize the fundamental divisions among all the groups of people Wasseman indicates when it comes to conversations about convergence. I don't think we have an issue where journalists aren't currently at the table.
That being said, of course there are people who think only of the bottom line instead of what creates the best product--but what industry is that not true in? However, to put a cap on the idea of convergence simply becuase its sometimes misused in practice is severely limiting the potential of multi-platform coverage.
And, sure, the concern that convergence will just lead to more work for the same number of journalists is a concern. As I've written about before, at weekly newspapers with extremely small staffs, the only way that convergence can happen is often if the same number of people take on even more responsibilities--but many of these journalists are doing radio shows or television appearances, keeping up a Web site, etc., becuase they believe that they are giving their readers better coverage for it, even if there really isn't the ideal staff size to sustain converged coverage. And the new media tools available are allowing more and more voices to get into the mix of journalism, with grassroots bloggers and non-traditional podcasters and Web sites sometimes scooping the major media.
But just becuase economic realities pose problems for a concept doesn't mean that the concept should be abandoned. The current newsletter provides five interesting editorials on the issues of convergence, many of which are direct responses to the Wasseman column. They provide nuanced takes on what multiplatform journalism means for the group of people interested in content and journalism integrity.