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The present state of online news media

Emergence: A different way of looking at news

Abstract emergence image, 5kOnline media has emerged in three waves or stages. As such a new medium, there are many news sites that still exist primarily in the first two waves, as well as those cutting-edge sites that are ringing in the third.

John V. Pavlik outlines his view of the three stages in his book, Journalism and New Media:

  1. "Shovelware" is a term that is frequently used to describe the first stage of online journalism in which newspaper and magazines simply shoveled their origninal print content onto a website. Smaller news organizations have yet to emerge from this stage.
  2. The second stage, in which most larger news sites currently reside, involves a combination of shovelware stories, some original content and token multimedia. More hyperlinks are involved to provide further depth and background information to stories.
  3. Stage three is a relatively unchartered area into which only a few journalists have launched exploratory expeditions. Here, content is created specifically for the Web and there is more experimentation with non-linear storytelling, or story immersion in which the reader navigates through a story. Audience collaboration and customization is introduced. The news becomes truly interactive.

Stage three is crystallized in the term emergence, where "News beomce the product of a universally distributed intelligence that develops from an interconnected society enabled by interactive media, according to Dale Peskin of New Directions for News.

Journalist Dan Gillmor calls this stage, "Journalism 3.0" and claims it is "based on several principles, including:

  • My readers know more than I do;
  • That is not a threat, but rather an opportunity;
  • We can use this together to create something between a seminar and a conversation, educating all of us;
  • Interactivity and communications technology -- in the form of e-mail. weblogs, discussion boards, Web sites and more -- make it happen.

As a concept, emergence itself is still emerging. It is a vague and abstract word to describe the advent of a relatively unchartered era of journalism that will involve interactivity and audience participation. Rather than relying soley on the written word, audio or video and as an alternative to teaching journalists to work with all of the above simultaneously, emerged news sites will draw from the strengths and talents of journalists from many backgrounds and from the audience they serve.

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The convergence buzzword and cross-platform news

Newspaper, satellite, keyboard collage, 9kConvergence is currently the favored buzzword in the news industry. There are really two types of convergence: journalistic and commercial.

Commercial convergence stems from the recent, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" tendency of media companies to merge or form partnerships, thus creating a news organization that dominates or fiercely competes in a single market. Journalistic convergence involves the cross-platform training of reporters and mixed-media methods of presenting the news. The two often go hand-in-hand.

The covergence poster child used in most examples is TBO.com. Owned by the same parent company, The Tampa Tribune and WFLA-TV have converged, not only to provide content for TBO.com, but to work for each other.

According to several articles from Online Journalism Review, reporters for the Tribune have received television training and now do regular on-air spots for WFLA. Videographers carry still cameras to catch photos for the newspaper. Journalists from both organizations package feature stories for TBO.com while all of the Tribune's content is filtered onto the Web site. Television reporters have developed regular newspaper columns, while Tribune writers frequently file audio reports to WFLA while transmitting text to the newspaper.

Though frequently cited as a flagship operation, TBO.com is not the only convergence game in town. Owned by Gannett, Co. which also owns several television stations around the country, USA Today is jumping on the convergence bandwagon, too, according to a recent article in Editor & Publisher.

Daily, anchor Lauren Ashburn regails viewers of 21 of Gannett's stations with the top headlines in that day's edition of USA Today. The live spots are filmed in Gannett's main office in Arlington, Virginia.

Additionally, the newspaper's reporters are being trained in television reporting and are encouraged to create stories for the Web site as well as their regular print edition.

Many believe that convergence is the wave of the journalism future. Others dismiss it as a temporary trend, centered around increasing revenues. As a fairly new concept in the news business, the fate of convergence is yet to be seen.

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Emergence, convergence -- What's the difference?

Tomato, to-ma-to, six of one, half a dozen or another... Emergence and convergence may seem very similar, but it is their origins and subtle differences that separate the two concepts.

Emerged media build slowly upon a solid base of print or broadcast journalism and explore new ways to communicate the news. These Web sites draw from the talents of a variety of media. Emergence is an ongoing process, starting from the bottom and working its way up.

Converged media starts at the top, laterally combining what works best at two or more separate news organizations to create cross-platform news presentations. Journalists, though they may specialize in a particular medium, will be expected to have some training in all areas.

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References and related work:

In this section:

Emergence: A different way of looking at old news

The convergence buzzword and cross-platform reporting

Emergence, convergence -- What's the difference?

Writers and their stories

Explore some of the new methods of telling stories and communicating the news at these sites currently on the Web:

Converged media on
the World Wide Web

Explore the world of converged media. These sites exhibit news presentations created through joint efforts among news organizations:

You're majoring in what?

The University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Journalism has recently revamped its core curriculum to incorporate the need for cross-platform trained journalists.

According to an article in Editor and Publisher, this fall's incoming freshmen will be required to complete classes that teach them to report for a variety of mediums. For example, students may cover a single story, but produce a TV segment, a print article and a Web presentation for it.

Once the core curriculum in the communications school is completed, students can opt to specialize in a particular medium: print, TV, radio, or Web.

Copyright © 2002 by Michele K. Jones.
Site last updated: April 17, 2002.