Journalists everywhere should be concerned with the impact of convergence

Keith Farner

Since the turn of the century, journalists across the country have been a little nervous.

Anytime words such as “synergy,” “mixed-media-transfer” or the biggest one, “convergence,” slide off the tongue, journalists tend to get a shiver up their spines.

Since 2001, convergence has become a hot topic in newsrooms and media circles thanks to the influx of corporate companies snatching up media outlets in the name of profit margins.

Many believe that jobs will be lost while print, broadcast and online media are merged. Robert J. Haiman, president emeritus of The Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank in St. Petersburg, Fla., s said the quality of journalism could be diluted if convergence becomes a fixture in the United States media.

In “Can Convergence Float?” which was published on Poynter’s Web site on Dec. 18, 2002, Haiman said journalism’s mission may need some protection from bottom-line- focused company executives.

“Even if it goes as well as it possibly can, I believe that it is going to distract journalists, journalism teachers and journalism students away from that single most important imperative of the craft to create an informed society capable of intelligently governing itself,” Haiman wrote.

There’s two main problems. One is the dilution of journalism. The second is putting more work for other mediums on reporters which would decrease quality.

Trying to mix multiple media while maintaining quality is unrealistic. If a city’s major media outlets are working together, instead of trying to compete for stories, the lack of competition will diminish quality.

Those in favor of convergence say it will provide a way for reporters in different media to exchange tips and information. But the problem is the newspaper provides the most thorough and detailed summary of the city’s current events.

Most convergence supporters are interested in increasing the company’s bottom line through advertising across multiple platforms that have more impact.

In an article published on July 1, 2000 on the American Society of Newspaper Editor’s Web site, Gil Thelan, the executive editor of The Tampa Tribune, explained that the agreement with WFLA-TV was a three-step process of communication, trust and cross-training.

The bottom line is that only one newspaper out of the 51 largest in the country, the Tribune, is converged. If 50 of the largest media outlets in the country don’t agree with convergence, then why should it be marketed other than to increase profit margin?

At those papers, the editorial process is not corrupted by corporate goals.

However, since the idea of convergence is still developing, it is a prime time for journalism professors and students to work toward maintaining quality.

Students shouldn’t have to learn to be more flexible and stretch themselves thin just to be able to land a job.

Students graduating now should be equipped with tools to handle the technology boom, not be burdened by it. They should work to make themselves more valuable in their chosen specification so that the quality of their work won’t be diminished.

Keith Farner is a junior news-editorial major from Louisville.

This commentary does not reflect the views of the Herald, Western or its administration.