Review: Convergence Journalism (Kolodzy)

This originally appeared in the Blogger-hosted predecessor to this website.

‘Convergence’ is one of many buzzwords currently doing the rounds in the news industry, and like many buzzwords, there is often confusion about what it actually means. For some it represents a new model of mixed-media journalism; for others it represents a change in organisational structure.

For Janet Kolodzy it’s both, and more besides. Kolodzy takes that term ‘convergence’ as her starting point, and spends the whole of the first chapter outlining its different forms – from the convergence of technologies that has taken place with digitisation, to economic convergence in media ownership, through to the journalistic convergence that is seeing both a combination of media forms into one ‘multimedia’ form, and a multiplication of delivery systems.

From there she looks at how newsroom practices have had to change as a result of convergence, and at news values. To her credit she speaks to the people working in converged newsrooms and the book is littered with case studies – essential when looking at a medium that is being made up as we speak – and there are conceptual models for the theorist too.

There is a chapter on gathering and producing a news story in a convergent age, which gives a good insight into the different considerations in gathering video and text material – although more thought could have been given here to audio and interactivity. Indeed, a journalist following the steps outlined here would be guilty of traditional linear storytelling: while interviews are covered, for example, no mention is made of the option to get readers to post questions online, or indeed to arrange a live chat.

These ideas are left instead for the chapters on broadcast, print, and online ‘basics’. To her credit here Kolodzy does not stop at how to write for the web but also outlines non-linear forms from polls and forums to quizzes, timelines, calculators, slideshows, animations, webcasts and podcasts. A traditional journalist could be forgiven for getting dizzy at the raft of options – and that’s even before we’ve covered “Participatory journalism” (citizen journalism, wikis), which is given a chapter of its own under ‘The Next Wave’ section.

It is a sign of how fast things are moving that that particular ‘next wave’ is probably already with us, but in the final chapter Kolodzy quotes media design consultants Bowman and Willis on a trend that may be more significant in the longer term: “While news organisations may see their audiences as readers and viewers,” she notes, “the next wave are increasingly gamers, who like to explore.”

This is an unusual book. Most authors would identify themselves as practitioners or academics, and set out to appeal to an audience in their own image: either the budding journalist, or the student of the craft. Convergence Journalism, however, dares to assume the reader is interested in both the how and the why. Perhaps we are finally seeing a convergence of the two?

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