Friday, October 12, 2007

Al Gore, MySpace top Day 2 panels

COLUMBIA, SC-- "An Inconvenient Truth" is making the headlines today for more than one reason. Early this morning, we learned that Vice President Al Gore is sharing the latest Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the documentary.

But, here at the convergence conference, it was Al Gore's acceptance of an Academy Award that was the focus of at least one presentation on convergence and pop culture.

Two different papers were presented on the hot topic of social networking. MySpace, in particular, was the subject one graduate student's study at University of Central Florida.

And, the big news that I learned just moments ago, there's now a blog for The Convergence Newsletter. Check it out.

It's lunchtime and we still have three afternoon panels to go.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Reflections on Day 1

COLUMBIA, SC-- Well, it's approaching midnight and it's taken me an hour to capture the highlight of today-- the Gannett presentations.

What will I remember most from today-- well it depends on whether you're talking about research or teaching.

The highlight of the day researchwise was my colleagues-- Tim Brown and Tim Bajkiewicz's research on convergence efforts at local stations and specifically at Tampa's News Center.

These guys are playing in an area that directly relates to my scholarship-- and I know they share my interest in what's happening with television newsrooms. Their research is very fresh, current and relevant not only to those in the academic community, but those in the industry.

The "Writing Across the Media" half-day workshop left me with a different impression about my goal in teaching cross-media reporter.

Stressing the importance of being able to take ideas back to our classroom that we can implement NEXT WEEK, Augie Grant's review of the core concepts of this area of instruction was just what I needed.

His list of "basic technical skills" was accompanied by a more nuanced view of what our priorities ought to be in teaching students how to report NOW and more importantly, in the future.

"The Fisher Grid" is a takeaway method for immediately putting my students into the cross-media reporting mindset.

My head is already full-- even if I got back on I-20 and went back to Tuscalooosa right now, the trip would have been well worth my time.

But we still have two more days.

2007 Conference Features Convergence the Gannett Way

COLUMBIA, SC-- It’s all about the consumer—that’s the word from the top man at the Gannett Co, who was the keynote speaker at tonight's dinner for the 2007 Convergence Conference.

My former boss, Craig Dubow, shared the company’s strategic plan which has as its centerpiece a makeover of all of its television station and newspaper newsrooms into information centers.

“Our world is truly platform agnostic at this point,” Dubow said. “This industry has really shifted.”

A former head of Gannett broadcasting and general manager at Atlanta’s WXIA-TV (where I worked more than seven years ago), Dubow took over as chairman of the nation’s largest chain of newspapers and more than 20 television stations and dozens of Websites within the last two years.

“What the information center concept is all about is hyper-local,” Dubow explained.

As Dubow explained, the four components of the plan are digital delivery, innovation, the information center and leadership and diversity.

Along with Dubow, several top managers from his company including the general manager of the Gannett-owned CBS affiliate here in Columbia, WLTX.

Earlier this afternoon, Dubow’s person person on new media, Jennifer Carroll, gave conference attendees a tour of the many local microsites that have launched in markets such as Cincinnati and Indianapolis that augment and facilitate community conversations.

Carroll shared concepts such as “crowdsourcing” and Web sites built around databases that expand the online user’s experience beyond reading news.

Gannett's News-Press in Fort Myers has won an award for its crowdsourcing concept from the CinciNavigator and has drawn unprecedented Web traffic.

“Let’s keep it about the journalism, but let’s do it with an engaged audience, more clarity and more immediacy than ever before,”Carroll said .

Panel 1: Looking Back at the Past 5 Conferences

COLUMBIA, SC-- As the first panel ends, we’ve been taken back to the last five convergence conferences—with a retrospective that reminds us of the common themes that have come from these gatherings.

Having worked at multiple institutions, Jeff Wilkinson, now working as coordinator of the International Journalism Programme at United International College in China, provided 18 lessons learned from previous conferences. His presentation, “May I have a bandage please,” focused on the bleeding edge of teaching convergence at three institutions.

“When you say students know the technology, be careful, because they may surprise you,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson was followed by Tony DeMars, now at the University of Houston, who explained how his own teaching has transitioned from a traditional way of teaching media to a whole new perspective back to a mix of old and new.

“ The six years I’ve been involved have drastically changed my teaching,” DeMars said.

DeMars tied into his presentation research that came from his experience at WGEM-TV and a faculty internship at KHQA-TV in the Quincy, IL market.

Culture of change is the topic that Kolodzy focused on in her presentation.

“The issue is not the nirvana of convergence,” said Janet Kolodzy. Acting chair of journalism at Emerson College in Boston. “It’s the journey not the endpoint that is convergence.”

Kolodzy talked about the risk-averse culture of the academy.

“Our entire point is what we’re trying to do is to peer over the horizon,” said Augie Grant, the coordinator and convenor of each conference, which next year will focus on the participatory Web. “The reason we’re here, the reason we’re doing the research is to understand what is the next step”

Having recounted some of the problems or challenges from the past five conferences, Kolodzy was very optimistic about the next step and the progress made.

“We are beginning to figure out what you need to keep, what you need to throw away and what we need to modify, Kolodzy said.

Convergence Conference Begins!

COLUMBIA, SC--After a morning session on "Writing Across the Media," the sixth convergence conference formally begins this hour at Scuth Carolina ETV.

At the University of South Carolina's Newsplex, we are getting things started with a panel from three people who have attended all five previous conferences.

I'll be posting throughout the next three days from this gathering.