Friday, October 14, 2005

Utah's Media Convergence Model




Given the media convergence happening in the Salt Lake City market, Utah seemed like an ideal place for scholars to gather to talk about cross-media partnerships and the promises and possibilities they bring to news gathering.

In the nation’s 36th largest market, there are actually two cross-media partnerships, the biggest of which involves NBC affiliate KSL-TV Channel 5, KSL’s AM and FM radio stations and the Deseret Morning News that are all owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Representatives from the television and newspaper partners visited the Brigham Young University campus Friday to share their take on “convergent realities” during a panel at the Fourth Annual Conference on Media Convergence.

Besides not having time to figure out what convergence means for all of their reporters, the managers from the Morning News and KSL-TV said they recognize the strengths possible with the partnership while at the same time expressing some concern about the multimedia preparation of their future reporters and editors.

“I have yet to see an applicant to showcase multimedia talent,” said Maria Titze, managing editor at KSL-TV.

Even as educators attending the convergence conference voiced concern about mixed messages they receive about the type of graduate most desired in the industry, the managers from KSL and Morning News were certain they still want to hire employees with journalism basics.

“I have a lot of good reporters and I have a lot of good writers, but not many who can do both. If you are good at both, you can make money in this field and do well, “ said Tad Walch, Utah County Bureau Chief for the Morning News.

Hiring new talent in a convergent age was just one of the realities expressed by this panel of print and broadcast journalists.

Besides a second, although smaller-scale, convergence partnership in Utah’s only media market between CBS-owned and operated station, KUTV Channel 4 and The Salt Lake Tribune, the Morning News is tied to its morning newspaper competitor, the Tribune through a joint operating agreement involving advertising and circulation operations.

Despite having Utah’s most visited news website, KSL.com, which includes both the KSL TV and Radio brands, the online component of this convergence partnership does not include the Morning News.

“The hardest part of the website is being able to make it profitable,” said Steve Poulsen, vice president of marketing and promotions for both radio and TV broadcast units.

In its infancy, the convergence effort at Morning News’ Utah County Bureau in Provo is the biggest move yet in cross-media cooperation between these units.

Last May, a KSL-TV reporter and KSL-Radio reporter began working out of the newspaper’s bureau in the backyard of Brigham Young University.

Deseret Morning News Bureau Chief Tad Walch admits he at least thinks about his broadcast partners more, but the three units are far from a point of daily collaboration.

“When I say the phrase fully converged, I kind of cringe because we don’t do much in the sense that the academic model would think about,” said Walch.

Back at the main newsroom in Salt Lake City, the day-to-day cooperation and planning between TV, newspaper and radio continues even as some of the managers ask questions.

“We’ve yet to approach the frontier of backpack journalism. I’m not even sure if that’s what we want,” Titze said.

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