The Convergence Newsletter

From Newsplex at the University of South Carolina

Vol. II No. 1 (July 7, 2004)

 

Exploring the Meaning of Media Convergence

The purpose of this newsletter is to provide an editorially neutral forum for discussion of the theoretical and professional meaning of media convergence.

 

We welcome articles on any topic directly related to media convergence, including academic research or information about convergence experiences in your newsroom. We also welcome information about conferences, publications and related links.

 

Holly Fisher

Editor

convergence-editor@mailbox.sc.edu

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Feature Articles

 

Newsletter marks first anniversary

New roles in converged newsrooms

Multiskilled journalists are prepared to tell stories in many forms

Newsplex announces 2004 technology picks

Five steps to a convergent news lab

Election Connection covers conventions

Newsplex News

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Conference Information

 

Digital Revolution Conference

Digital Story Master Class

Society of Professional Journalists National Convention

Convergence: The Tour

Convergence for Teams: Visions & Values in Action

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Announcements/News

 

Writing a book about convergence?

Online newspapers tempt readers

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---------------Feature Articles

 

Newsletter marks first anniversary

One year ago this month The Convergence Newsletter was introduced as a new source of information and ideas about the expanding field of convergent journalism. That first newsletter contained information on the IfraNewsplex and its Affiliates Program, convergence and diversity, as well as updates on conferences and seminars.

 

Since then, the newsletter has addressed changing roles in newsrooms, reported academic research on convergence and profiled those who have gone through convergence training at Newsplex. The Convergence Newsletter now has more than 500 subscribers, including students, journalists and educators around the world.

 

I have to admit when I took over as editor of the newsletter in January I knew convergence was a trendy journalism buzzword, but I had to do a great deal of research in order to bring myself up to speed with developments in the teaching and practice of convergent journalism.

 

A newspaper purist, I have often snubbed my nose at the idea of producing anything that might be considered broadcast journalism. My experience with this newsletter has made me change my tune, and I am seeing the value of using pictures, video and the Web to tell a story.

 

In May I spent a couple of days sitting in on a seminar at Newsplex for journalism professors. They were immersed in new technologies and the concept of doing journalism for print, broadcast and the Internet.

 

They soaked up the information like sponges. I likened them to first-year journalism students hungry to absorb as much as possible about their craft. We could barely tear them away from their computers at lunchtime they were so immersed in their work. Had you walked in uninformed you might have thought a huge story had just broken in Columbia, S.C.

 

They scurried about putting together packages on the State Farmer’s Market, a colorful place within walking distance of Newsplex. Using the newsroom roles—storybuilder, newsresourcer, multiskilled journalist and newsflow editor—these experienced journalists and professors produced story packages that included writing for the Internet with a video component. They left the seminar excited and eager to share these new techniques with their students.

 

I understand how they feel. I, too, get excited learning new skills that will enable me to share the news with a larger audience in a variety of media. Even the purists have to realize technology has changed us. By embracing convergence, we can make journalism better. We can tell our stories in different ways and bring even more detail, information and news to our readers, viewers and Internet surfers.

 

I hope you enjoy reading each issue of this newsletter and that it contributes to your learning about convergence and how best to use it in your newsrooms and classrooms. As we embark on our second year, we will be looking at ways to make this newsletter even better. Your feedback is valuable, so please feel free to e-mail me with comments, suggestions and story ideas. As always, we welcome your article submissions.

 

Happy converging,

Holly Fisher

Editor

convergence-editor@mailbox.sc.edu

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New roles in converged newsrooms

 

Editor’s Note: In this issue we conclude our series looking at the four new roles in a converged newsroom as developed by IfraNewsplex director Kerry Northrup. Over the last three issues, The Convergence Newsletter has looked at the role the storybuilder, the newsresourcer and the newsflow editor have in a newsroom. The storybuilder supervises all aspects of an individual story, coordinating the reporters, photographers, and other personnel assigned to a story in the gathering of information and the distribution of the stories produced across media. The newsresourcer combines writing, editing and news judgment with the best of librarianship and information management to manage the wealth of information coming into the newsroom. The newsflow editor focuses on the content of a story rather than the delivery method. Similar to a managing editor or producer, the newsflow editor makes sure all elements of the story work together to create the best product. Our series wraps up this month looking at the multiskilled journalist.

 

The most important characteristic of these new roles is that they do not necessarily reflect individuals or specific positions in a newsroom. Rather, each of the four represents a new set of responsibilities and activities in a newsroom. In Newsplex training, individuals are assigned to each role, but, in newsrooms, the roles may overlap across individuals or may be split, with two or more people combining to serve the role.

 

As you read these articles, please keep in mind that there may be other emerging roles that also should be profiled. If you have identified any other new roles, please let us know so that we can address those in a future edition.

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Multiskilled journalists are prepared to tell stories in many forms

 

By Dr. Augie Grant, Associate Professor, College of Mass Communications and Information Studies, University of South Carolina

 

The most recognizable new role in convergent newsrooms is the multiskilled journalist.  This term describes reporters who are skilled at interviewing, collecting audio, video and still images, editing those images, and writing stories for delivery across multiple media. 

 

By definition, a person who is assigned to do two or more of these tasks is a multiskilled journalist. Focusing on these tasks, however, ignores the most important role of the journalist in a converged environment: To be able to look at a story to determine what materials need to be gathered for the various media that might be used to disseminate the story.

 

Consider everyday situations: The first one on the scene of any breaking story needs to be able to capture as much information as possible, including pictures, videos, interviews, etc.—with the ability to clearly deliver the story right away. Freelancers have long carried this combination of skills onto the battlefield and into remote regions, sometimes being a sole witness to a story that can and should be delivered across media. Even mundane coverage such as routine city council meeting can be shared more widely if one or more of the reporters attending delivers a roundup for a radio newscast after (or before!) filing the story for the next day’s Metro section.

 

The first skill of the multiskilled journalist is therefore to look at all the opportunities a story represents for each of the media fed by the journalist. In practice, that means the ability to identify all of the elements of a story, including interview sources, photographic subjects, video opportunities, etc. 

 

The next skill is the ability to tell the story in the appropriate format, ranging from an inverted pyramid for newspapers to a linear, broadcast narrative. Writing across media may be one of the most difficult skills to master, but the task is made easier by the presence of story builders, editors, and others who can help refine the story for presentation.

 

Multiskilled journalists must also have photographic skills, with the ability to capture both still and video images. This does not mean each reporter must be an authority on photography and other technical skills, but it does mean that, in the absence of a photographer, videographer or audio engineer, the multiskilled journalist is capable of capturing the images and sounds that will help tell the story.

 

Time is a critical variable for multiskilled journalists. On the scene of a story, they need to know which medium needs to be fed first—the Internet, the radio station, the television broadcast, or the newspaper. It’s not unusual for a journalist working for an organization such as CNN to feed a live television report, record a follow-up report, rewrite the script for the Web site, and then do a feed for a radio network, all in the space of an hour or two.

 

In my experience, the most exciting part of the roles training we provide at Newsplex is watching experienced journalists and academics who have just been introduced to multimedia reporting take on this role, delivering pictures and sound along with text. The technical skills are absorbed and practiced almost automatically as focus remains on the story and how to deliver it across each medium.

 

Few topics in convergent journalism have generated as much debate as the “multiskilled journalist.” This position is sometimes referred to as the “backpack journalist” and the “one-man band,” with each of these terms implying that one person can take on the roles formerly filled by two or more individuals. (Martha Stone and Jane Stevens have shared an interesting point-counterpoint on this subject in the Online Journalism Review. “Backpack Journalism is here to stay” by Stevens at http://www.ojr.org/ojr/workplace/1017771575.php and “The Backpack Journalist Is a ‘Mush of Mediocrity’" by Stone at http://www.ojr.org/ojr/workplace/1017771634.php)

 

There are certainly a few journalists who are accomplished photographers, but the norm is not—and will never be—a person who has mastered all the skills related to gathering information. Indeed, many news directors/editors say they do not expect every journalist to do everything. On the other hand, the norm in converged newsrooms is likely to be that all journalists will share a basic set of technical skills to enable them to be more effective in gathering information for distribution across media when necessary or desirable.

 

That brings up the issue of equipment. Electronic newsgathering equipment, from digital cameras to laptop computers and cell phones is becoming more compact and less expensive, making it easier to equip all journalists with cameras, recorders, and other tools that contribute to the process of gathering news. Multiskilled journalists must know basic equipment operation and composition in order to use this equipment, but there is not a need for them to be masters of each craft. (It may also be argued that photographers and audio engineers need basic writing and interviewing skills as well!)

 

The lower cost and small size of the cameras and other equipment used by these “backpack” journalists enables an organization to equip all of their journalists so that breaking news is more likely to be captured any time, any where. (See the related article on Newsgear later in this newsletter.)

 

Again, the primary concept of the multiskilled journalist is not the mastery of a particular set of skills but simply the mindset that the information being gathered will be distributed through a variety of media, with recognition of the individual elements that must be captured in order to bring the story to the consumer.

 

From a practical perspective, there are few job listings today that require all of the skills discussed above. But when choosing from available candidates, hiring decisions will more often than not favor reporters who bring additional skills to the newsroom. That’s perhaps the best reason for making sure our graduates are ready for converged newsrooms.

 

The multiskilled journalist is the most traditional of the four roles in a converged newsroom that are being explored in this series (http://www.jour.sc.edu/news/convergence/index.html). Other roles are certain to be identified as converged newsrooms proliferate, and these four existing roles are certain to change over time. The multiskilled journalist—the eyes, ears, arms, legs and voice—remains at the heart of any conception of converged journalism.

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Newsplex announces 2004 technology picks

 

Journalists interested in convergence enjoy learning about how to write for the Web, how to package stories and the benefits of telling the news across multiple media. But they also enjoy learning about the “toys”—those gadgets and gizmos that have reporters abandoning the notebooks and pens of yesterday and taking up the laptops and camera phones of the 21st century.

 

Each year Newsplex Director Kerry Northrup scours the land of technology armed with $10,000 and a desire to arm a backpack with all the tools a journalist would need to cover a story for multiple media.

 

The 2004 Backpack Edition includes:

*Toshiba Portege M200 Tablet PC with a full-size keyboard and good battery life, making it a great tool for the multiskilled journalist.

*Apple iSight Video Conferencing system makes desktop video conferencing easy for bureaus and source interviews.

*Sony DCR PC330 Camera’s high quality captures broadcast quality video and still pictures at newspaper quality.

*Archos AV320 Video Recorder is an all-in-one digital media tool used for Web-quality video, print stills and audio compatible to Mac and PC.

*Nokia 6600 Imaging Phone can provide audio and video for breaking news as well as low-resolution streaming video over high speed networks.

*DaKine Pod 1 Urban Backpack is rugged, stylish and durable, which makes it a great case for everything a multiskilled journalist wants to tote around.

*Canon BJC-55 Portable Printer has high-quality printing capabilities and an optional replacement for the ink cartridge turns it into a scanner.

*Visioneer Strobe XP100 Scanner is extremely portable, allowing reporters to scan documents and image at the news site.

 

Also included in this pack is Serious Magic Visual Communicator Pro, a simple software suite that makes packaging of news stories easier and less expensive than a full-scale recording studio.

 

The entire list—including descriptions, Web links and prices—is available at www.newsplex.org.

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Five steps to a convergent newslab

 

By Dr. Augie Grant, Associate Professor, College of Mass Communications and Information Studies, University of South Carolina

 

Since we began publishing this newsletter a year ago, the most frequent question I’ve received from faculty is, “What software and equipment do I need to put in a convergent newsroom?” Here’s a brief summary of the way I most often answer that question:

 

1.  First and foremost, make sure more attention is paid to curriculum than to tools. The underlying philosophy of delivering news across media is much more important than any specific tool. For example, you can use standard Microsoft products available in almost every writing lab, ranging from Word and PowerPoint to Windows Moviemaker to do almost all the jobs that need to be done if you don't have the resources to equip a lab.

 

2.  The acquisition tools come next. You have to be able to record still pictures, and your options range from expensive digital cameras to inexpensive camera phones. You have to be able to record audio and video, again with options ranging from simple audio cassette recorders and still cameras to broadcast-quality video cameras. You need to be able to generate graphics—almost any graphics program will do, but you have to have one (most people are using Photoshop today because of its versatility).

 

3.  Editing tools are next. You need to have a tool to edit pictures (Photoshop, again). Video can be edited on a range of programs from imovie and Windows Moviemaker to FinalCut Pro and Avid Newscutter.  Your best video editing option is the tool you are already using in your broadcast news sequence, although it is easiest to teach the basics of video editing on imovie or Moviemaker. Word is an adequate text editor, but the newsroom software you are already using in your broadcast and print newsrooms works as well.

 

4.  Finally you need to package the content for delivery. Visual Communicator is the best package for non-broadcasters to use in creating "broadcast-like" packages, but you should check with your broadcast faculty first to get them on board. The quality of Visual Communicator is low, but the output is perfect for the Web. You also need a Web editor, either Dreamweaver or GoLive, depending upon what is used in the rest of your operation. (I do not recommend FrontPage or Word for Web page editing.)

 

The key throughout is to have a clear picture of what you see as the output of your convergent newsroom, and then make sure the tools are there to teach the process of gathering, editing, and delivering the content needed across all the media. In my opinion, enabling students to experience each part of the process is more important than providing the highest-quality output to individual media.

 

This response is based upon the process of adapting Newsplex training to teaching environments. In my discussions regarding convergent newslabs around the country, I’ve seen many other approaches. If you would like to provide a different answer to this question, we would love to include your thoughts in a future edition of The Convergence Newsletter. Please email your thoughts to convergence-editor@mailbox.sc.edu.

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Election Connection covers conventions

 

By Randy Covington, Director of Advancement/Instructor, School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of South Carolina

 

Student journalists from around the country this summer will use photo phones to cover the Democratic and Republican National Conventions as part of the Election Connection, an innovative project funded by Cingular Wireless and coordinated by the IfraNewsplex at the University of South Carolina.

 

The students will cover official events, protests and human interest sidebars. Their images and text will be posted to a mobile weblog at www.RUCingular.com/election. Cingular is underwriting the cost of the project, including providing stipends to participating student journalists.

 

For the Democratic Convention in Boston, the Election Connection reporting team will include four students from the University of South Carolina, two students from Emerson College and two students from Northeastern University.

 

At the Republican National Convention in New York, four reporters will come from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and four others will come from the University of California at Berkeley.

 

The work will be overseen by faculty members from the University of South Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communications. It will be edited in Newsplex, a newsroom of the future in Columbia, S.C., that is jointly operated by the USC journalism school and Ifra, the German-based press consortium.

 

To cover the fall presidential election, Cingular anticipates expanding the program to include other journalism schools, though details are still tentative.

 

The Election Connection initiative follows an earlier partnership among Cingular, TextAmerica, Newsplex and USC. Student reporters used photo phones to cover the South Democratic Presidential Primary, posting their pictures and reports to a mobile weblog (http://scprimary.textamerica.com).

 

For more information, contact Randy Covington at Randy.covington@sc.edu or (803) 777-6898. Or if you are going to be at the AEJMC Convention in Toronto, stop by the Newsplex booth.

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---------------Newsplex News

 

By Julie Nichols, IfraNewsplex Projects Director

 

Steam’ – Summer has arrived in South Carolina with strong sun, high temperatures and dramatic thunderstorms.  Although life on campus has slowed down for the summer, the Newsplex staff is busy as ever with professional training and preparation for the upcoming coverage of the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.

 

The most recent trainees in residence were participants in Ifra’s Backpack Journalism course. Attending from the Finnish publishing group Ilta-Sanomat were managing editor Kari Ylanne, news editors Iina Artima-Kyrki and Timo Paunonen, staff reporter Tuomas Näveri, and sports writer Rami Tuisku. 

 

Joining them from London was Paul Roberts, production operations specialist with BBC Training and Development, and broadcast news executives Rich O’Dell, president/general manager, and Mike Garber, news director of WLTX-TV in Columbia, S.C., and Darren Richards, news director of WFMY-TV in Greensboro, N.C. The seminar concluded with a special backstage tour of CNN for the broadcast group hosted by the delightful Marianna Spicer-Brooks, director of news standards and practices for CNN News Group. Also addressing the group about convergence at CNN was Manuel Perez and Annic Jobin of CNN.com. 

 

John Stevens, telecommunications manager for the IT Division at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa, visited in June as well. John was on a 45-day tour of the United States, gathering information on the latest developments in journalism school technology for use in the design of a new building for the journalism program at Rhodes.

 

The Newsplex staff was delighted to hear that he’d been directed to Newsplex over and over again during his travels. We wish him the best of luck with the project, and can’t wait to hear about the results.

 

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Newsplex at the University of South Carolina Web site: http://newsplex.sc.edu

 

For information about our Academic Affiliates, visit www.newsplex.org/affiliates.shtml

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---------------Conferences

 

A Conference on The Digital Revolution: The Impact of Digital Media and Information Technologies

Oct. 14-16, 2004

Location: University of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C.

The purpose of this conference is to provide a scholarly examination of the attributes and implications of the digital revolution, including discussions of social influences, media practices, integrated information systems, cultural issues, legal implications, information needs and effects upon consumers. A showcase of convergent media practices will run concurrent with the academic conference. Paper presentations will address theoretical and practical examinations of digital photography, video, information archives, telephony, consumer electronics and information infrastructure. The agenda for the conference will be published in the August issue of this newsletter.

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A Showcase of Digital Media and Information Projects and Practices

Oct. 14-16, 2004

Location: University of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C.

The purpose of this showcase of digital media and information projects and practices is to provide a venue for scholars and professionals experimenting with digital media and information technologies to demonstrate their systems, processes, experiments and innovations. This showcase is the demonstration component of The Digital Revolution: The Impact of Digital Media and Information Technologies, an academic conference exploring practical, theoretical, phenomenological, critical and/or empirical approaches to digital media and information technologies.

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Digital Story Master Class

July 26-30, 2004

http://www.mediacenter.org/04/Digitalstory/

Reston, Va.

Geared toward online content managers, editors, directors, visual and graphic designers, and senior producers for any Internet site where compelling content is critical to success; traditional print and broadcast journalists who want to learn new ways to communicate with online audiences. Attendees will learn ways to push the creative, journalistic limits of the Internet to serve audiences better and an understanding of the latest trends and state-of-the-art tools in online story-telling and interactive communications.

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Society of Professional Journalists National Convention

Sept. 9-11

New York City, N.Y.

http://www.spj.org/convention_preses.asp

Convergence 101 is one of the sessions presented as part of a pre-convention training program Convergence 101 will look at ways to ground convergence in good journalism and how to plan a multimedia story. The full convention also will have sessions on convergence, including blogging tools and a look at the best convergence models in journalism.

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Convergence: The Tour

Oct. 19-22, 2004

http://www.mediacenter.org/04/Convergence/index.cfm

Location: TBA

Visit three of the most fully converged multi-platform newsrooms in the world in this convergence tour hosted by the American Press Institute. Meet executives and rank-and-file staffers who “do” convergence, see firsthand what convergence is all about and learn what it takes to build a converged news operation. Attendees will gain a better understanding of the costs and benefits of the various convergence models and of the nuts and bolts of structuring a convergence partnership. Tuition is $2,100 or $1,890 if you register by the Aug. 19 early-bird deadline.

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Convergence for Teams: Visions & Values in Action

http://www.poynter.org/seminar/seminar_view.asp?int_seminarID=3128

Oct. 24-29, 2004

St. Petersburg, Fla.

A Poynter Institute program

Companies are eager to build and discover ways to share their journalism on television, radio, in newspapers and on the Web. But many fear they will damage their core values or water down their reputation for excellence. Converged newsrooms need a practical plan that will help them strengthen their journalism, maintain their standards and reach more people. You will see the plans and best practices of other converged newsroom around the country. As a team, you will evaluate your own convergence efforts and make specific plans to move forward and you will get feedback from your newsrooms about what is working and what needs work in your convergence plan. You also will explore the ethics and leadership issues that arise when newsrooms converge.

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---------------Announcements/News

 

Writing a book about convergence?

The Convergence Newsletter will be publishing an article in the August issue about books that address the subject of convergence. If you have written or are in the process of writing a book about convergence and would like The Convergence Newsletter to feature your book, contact Holly Fisher, editor, at convergence-editor@mailbox.sc.edu.

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Online newspapers tempt readers

Source: BBC News (http://news.bbc.co.uk)

By Peter Feuilherade (June 1, 2004)

 

The number of newspaper websites around the world has doubled since 1999, a study has found.

There has been a tremendous boom in the consumption of online editions.

 

Timothy Balding, director general of World Association of Newspapers said web audiences for newspapers have grown by 350% over the last five years.

 

He was addressing editors and executives from hundreds of newspapers who are meeting for the society's annual congress in Istanbul this week.

 

The rapid growth of broadband in many countries means people are spending less of their leisure time watching television, preferring to surf the web instead.

 

This led to more visits to newspaper web sites, according to research by the World Association of Newspapers and ZenithOptimedia presented at the Istanbul gathering.

 

Read the full story at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/3767267.stm

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---------------Interesting Links

 

Power Users – The National Association of Newspapers released a 2004 follow up to its 2002 profile of online newspaper consumers. This study looks at the strength of the audience and explains shifting habits in a broadband world. Working with MORI Research, “Power Users 2004” reveals that Internet operations should determine new ways to address users' interest in utility services, breaking news and shopping options. Read the executive summary at http://www.digitaledge.org/download/Power_Users_2004_summary.pdf

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Pop pop fizz fizz – Originally from Ohio, I spent 22 years referring to carbonated beverages as “pop.” Then I moved to West Texas and discovered “pop” is your dad and fizzy drinks are “Coke,” regardless of whether you’re drinking Coke, Pepsi or Sprite. Then I moved to South Carolina where “Coke” or “soda” is the term of choice. How does this relate to convergence? I’m not sure that it does except to illustrate a neat example of how to use the Internet to tell a story. For example, East Central University has a great map that breaks down what each county in each state says when it wants a cold drink, located at http://www.popvssoda.com/countystats/total-county.html. (Thanks to www.cyberjournalist.net for the tip.)

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---------------Copyright and Redistribution

 

The Convergence Newsletter is Copyright © 2004 by the University of South Carolina, College of Mass Communications and Information Studies. All rights reserved.

 

The Convergence Newsletter is free and published by The Center for Mass Communications Research at the University of South Carolina, College of Mass Communications and Information Studies. It may be redistributed in any form – print or electronic – without edits or deletion of any content.

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---------------Submission Guidelines/Deadline Schedule

 

The Convergence Newsletter welcomes articles of all sorts addressing the subject of convergence in journalism and media. We also accept news briefs, calls for papers and conference announcements. Our audience is both academics and professionals, and the publication style is APA 7th edition. Feature articles should be 750 to 1,500 words; other articles should be 250 to 750 words; announcements and conference submissions should be 200 words. All articles should be submitted to The Convergence Newsletter Editor at convergence-editor@mailbox.sc.edu. Please include your name, affiliation and contact information with your submission.

 

The Convergence Newsletter is published the first week of each month (except January). Articles should be submitted at least 10 days prior to the publication date. Any questions should be sent to

convergence-editor@mailbox.sc.edu.

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---------------Subscribe/Unsubscribe Information

 

To subscribe, unsubscribe or edit your information, please send a message to

convergence-editor@mailbox.sc.edu or write to The Convergence Newsletter c/o School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208.