Communications Breakdown: Convergence is the Name of the Game

Posted on July 22, 2014

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By Shawn Patrick Floss and Bridget Doyle

Until recently, broadcast reporters and print reporters stuck to their own arena of journalism. Broadcast focused on its well-coiffed anchors, on-scene stand-ups and colorful B-roll; print informed the masses with the beauty of the written word showcased in front page news stories, columns and features.

While both types of journalism still specialize in their given area of expertise, convergence is the name of the game across all mediums today. Print or broadcast, digital platforms have changed the way both industries are delivering information. The transformation and explosion in content is a huge benefit to the consumer and a great opportunity for government officials looking for additional outlets to share their information with the public.

Bob Sirott

Thanks to websites and social media, both television stations and print newsrooms have more ways to share a storyand often times with additional content. While some may criticize the changes in journalism’s current form, it’s what the masses are craving. Journalism is continually adapting to find the most effective way to deliver news.


Digital platforms changing TV news

While a newscast may be limited in time and length of a story, a reporter has the opportunity to write more about the subject and share it online through the station’s website. The web version of a story can provide a lot more context and background on an issue.

For example, a reporter can probably only use 12 seconds of a videotaped interview with your local mayor or city manager, but stations have been known to share the entire interview on their websites if they think they can generate a good amount of web traffic from the topic.

The additional room for content or entire taped interviews can also be exciting for government officials who may find themselves frustrated or perplexed by a reporter’s choice of sound bites in a story. Government leaders are no longer restricted to a quote or two in a few columns, but instead can share and explain their issue on camera as more papers add video to their sites.


Print news shifting to web and video focus

The old school depiction of print journalists includes a notepad, pencil, suspenders and some sort of fedora. While some may (questionably) still rock a fedora, the notepad or tape recorder would now likely be replaced with an iPhone or Android. Many print newsrooms are arming their field reporters with phones in an effort to record interviews on video for the web.Newspaper reporter at typewriter

For example, if a reporter has been assigned to a feature story about recent flooding in the region, he/or she might head to a neighborhood where flooding was the worst. The focus of the story might be the larger picture, but while there, the reporter would interview at least one or two of the residents used in the print story using the phone’s video capabilities. The reporter would then immediately send those videos to digital staff in the newsroom, who would quickly package the clip to sit atop the online version of the story. By the time the reporter wrote the story an hour or two later, the video would already be ready to go. The online audience is now receiving not only a well-written story by a reporter, but gets to see and hear the scene as well. These type of short video clips are now becoming essential to newsrooms across the country.

As a local government, we help the reporters find the right interviews when there’s an issue involving City Hall. If the reporter is unavailable to come take video or misses a good opportunity, we should take a short video and send it to the reporter. If it’s used, the local government will get credit for the footage and appear to the public as proactive in helping to tell the story.

Chuck Olsen, Citizen Journalist. Photo Courtesy of Flickr.
Chuck Olsen, Citizen Journalist. Photo Courtesy of Flickr.


Convergence and “backpack journalism”

Launched in Fall 2005, Convergence Journalism is the Missouri School of Journalism’s newest arm and “teaches students how to produce news in a more impacting way with “converged” media–two or more mediums used together to create a stronger story.” According to the school’s website, the program also focuses on training students to use, produce news and be involved with emerging media platforms, such as tablet apps and social media.

An important term coined by Mizzou J-School (both Bridget and Shawn’s Alma Mater) is the “backpack journalist.”  While arguably all journalism should now be focused on the convergence of media platforms and how to tell stories digitally, the backpack journalist is the quintessential new-age journalist. He or she can do it all – interview, photograph, record, take video, take sound bites and put it all together. There’s still an emphasis on teamwork, but journalism now requires each reporter to be able to tell the story in a variety of mediums.

(Click here for a video explanation of a “Backpack Journalist.”)

The better local governments understand the new all-encompassing journalism, the better their chance of getting their story told by local newsrooms. Taking photos, video and sound bites and posting to your government’s websiteor sending them directly to news organizationswill help your story’s chances of getting covered.



Staffs Shrinking In Newsrooms

Another similarity shared between the broadcast and print industries is the consolidation of companies and staff reductions. Fewer reporters and photographers are available to come by a city council meeting or a groundbreaking ceremony, making the chances of coverage for your city even more difficult.

Here is another opportunity for your staff to promote your own content by sharing it with a newsroom, station or newspaper. Rather than waiting for a media outlet to provide the coverage, offer your own images and story.

Many local governments have a communications staff or point person producing this content for their city website and social media. This is a good opportunity to email those pictures and a brief article to the newsroom and see if they’ll adapt or post it directly on their website. You may not be reaching a television audience, but stations generate a large amount of web traffic, and some of the larger stations can average more than 100-thousand likes on their Facebook pages or more than 30-thousand followers on Twitter.

multimedia journalist (SF Public Press)

Have questions about how your government’s staff can work better with local media to share information? Email Bridget ( or Shawn (

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