March 9, 2007
Understanding Journalism Convergence in Historical Perspective, with an Eye Toward Emerging Technologies

The February 2007 edition of The Convergence Newsletter has some great points in its first feature article from Augie Grant, the newsletter's executive editor.

The newsletter, put together by the University of South Carolina and focusing on convergence in the world of journalism, has been a great forum for debate about changes in the journalism world, both technological and cultural. The whole discussion of "convergence," has stretched on for a few years now in the journalism realm, when it was first a buzz word back when I was in J-school, but the debates continue.

Grant's piece is about how new media is "the next generation of convergence." Based on the work of Tim Bajkiewicz, Grant writes about how a historical understanding of how journalism shifted with the introduction of new technologies helps shape the modern debate about convergence as well. Tim's work is looking particularly at journalism education and how that education has shifted with the introduction of new technologies.

Just as MIT's focus has been on understanding the current changes in the media industry based on the incorporation of new technologies in the past, this perspective of understanding convergence in journalism today is key, as there have been a variety of major technological changes in journalism over the past two centuries, from the telegraph to television.

Grant writes, "Just as surely as the Web will make the transition from being 'new media' to being 'traditional media,' other media will emerge that will offer the same opportunities to the practice of journalism (and the teaching of journalism) that online journalism offers us today."

He looks at e-mail, RSS feeds, mobile media, and other emerging technologies as further frontiers of convergence that will continue to deal with this shift, attempting to ground our current perspective on how the Web has changed producer/consumer relationships for news entities in both its history and in relation to its future.

Grant concludes, "Each of these prospective media represents two opportunities for those of us attempting to stay on the cutting edge of journalism. First, we have an opportunity to experiment with these media, finding ways to integrate them with more traditional media or to create new forms of content for these media. Second, we have an opportunity to use these tools in training journalists to move the focus from the medium to the story. "

I agree wholeheartedly with Grant in that it must become about the story rather than the technology to have any meaningful new impact for readers. Back in October, I wrote:

I still contend that it is much more valuable to think of a transmedia approach to journalism, since that term doesn't carry nearly as much baggage. What does that mean? It may mean blogging or a video camera in the newsroom, or it may not. It simply means telling the story to the best of a particular medium's ability and forming partnerships with other media outlets or hiring people within a newspaper to provide the means to do a transmedia approach...but it doesn't simply mean cross-platforming everything, or giving everyone a blog, or any other superficial attempt at "convergence." Basically, if it doesn't add to the story, it's a waste of time, aside from some initial gee-whiz factor that wears off very quickly.

See more of my recent posts about journalism and convergence here, here, and here.

See my previous posts about The Convergence Newsletter here, here, here, here, and here.