Here we are. History is, well, history. And the world of journalism has taken some interesting paths. The newspaper took a separate road than the radio. The internet took a separate path than television. Yet despite the trials of each, the paths have met. Or, as we now call it, the paths have converged.

Companies such as Tampa Bay Online (TBO.com) have taken big risks. They have left the trends and joined companies. At TBO, a local television station teamed up with a local newspaper to unite on an interactive Web site. As a result, it isn't rare to see a sports writer from Tampa giving a broadcast or a television reporter writing a guest column. These days, we're not dealing with writers and anchors. More simply, we're dealing with journalists.

Yet when the truth is told, the most influential people in the effort of sports convergence claim the roots of journalism still remain the keys to success. After all, journalism is still about reporting the news.

On Feb. 7, three of the nation’s most successful names in sports media teamed up to offer aspiring journalists the most direct path to success.
During the Symposium on Converged Journalism at the University of Florida, the panel consistently returned to one glaring bit of advice. It’s not just about writing, the trio agreed. It’s about reporting.

“Report, report, report,” said John Marvel, who manages a staff of more than 70 online journalists as vice president and executive editor of ESPN.com. “I am willing to wait four, five or even six hours if I’m going to get a column or a story that is so unique it’s going to take me or my reader to a place they can’t go on the high land.”

At the event which drew national attention, Marvel was joined by The Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan and ESPN correspondent Sal Paolantonio. Even though each admitted they have spent a majority of their careers plugging away at print journalism, all said converged journalism has become the new method of the profession.

As a result, Paolantonio, who contributes to ESPN The Magazine, ESPN.com, ESPNEWS, ESPN Classic, “SportsCenter” and ESPN radio's “GameDay,” said the best reporters are those that can tell their story on the air and in print.

“You have to know how to tell your story on the radio, the internet or in a newspaper,” Paolantonio said. “I’m a winning example of it. I know how to tell stories, and I know how to break stories. If you know how to tell stories, and you know how to break stories, you will do well in your field. Learn how to write and report, and you will do fine.”

At one point during the symposium, Paolantonio talked about a recent experience when his reporting skills set him apart from his competition. A day before this year’s Jan. 26 Super Bowl between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Oakland Raiders, Oakland center Barret Robbins was missing from his hotel room. When Robbins didn’t show up for the game, editors at ESPN called Paolantonio to inform him of the news.

“I had just arrived at the stadium,” Paolantonio said. “I sat down to eat my lunch, and the phone rang.”

Suddenly, the Super Bowl was not his first priority.

“I ended up missing the first three quarters of the game,” he said. “But I was also the only reporter in the nation that found Robbins and talked to him. At that point, I had the story that mattered.”

Within minutes, Paolantonio had his story broadcast to the rest of nation via internet and television. More importantly, he didn’t have to wait for the next day’s newspapers.

That’s the purpose of converged journalism, Paolantonio said. It’s about finding the story and letting the public know right away.

But as important as 24-hour reporting has become in the last decade, converged journalism wasn’t born because of such facets as ESPN.com. Rather, it was born because of one man.

“One day Dick Schaap decided to have a television show,” Paolantonio said. “And low and behold, converged journalism was born basically out of Dick Schaap.”

Schaap, who died at 67 in 2002, was the first major sports journalist to contribute to television, radio, newspapers, magazines and books.

After starring in several television shows, Schaap had most recently been the host of "ESPN Magazine's Sports Reporters" on television. Even after Schaap died, the show has remained a successful testimony of converged journalism, Paolantonio said.

Ryan, who joined The Boston Globe as an intern in 1968, remains a part of what Schaap started. He currently works as a regular on "ESPN Magazine's Sports Reporters."

Even Ryan, who admits he is more of a “talking head” than a reporter, said the future of journalism belongs to the writers who are willing to take the chances Schaap once did.

“This business is about taking a chance and telling your story,” Ryan said. “If you can do that, you can be successful. Tell your story first, and tell it the best.”

 
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