NEWSPAPER EXECS: CONVERGENCE IS WORKING

By: Joe Strupp

Joint Broadcast-Print Efforts To Become Common


WASHINGTON – While admitting that the road to convergence
between broadcast, Web, and print news organizations has been
bumpy, those involved in such partnerships said Friday that the
effort is working. Eventually, these arrangements will be as
common to news coverage as the pad and pen, suggested editors and
news directors from several markets with multiple-media
operations.

Speaking at the American Society of Newspaper Editors meeting,
the editors stressed that the change must be handled slowly. “It
has become much more a part of our newsroom and of what we do,”
said Janet S. Weaver, executive editor of the Sarasota
(Fl.) Herald-Tribune, which partners with its own 24-hour
news channel on stories. “It has provided an opportunity for us
to grow very quickly.”

Panelists praised the obvious positive aspects of combining
resources, cross-marketing, and sharing story ideas. “It provides
us with more stability and resources,” said Marion Meginnis,
president and general manager of WQAD-TV in Moline, Ill., which
partners with the local newspaper in that market. “We have
become, together, a dominant news presence.”

Although the panel lacked any anti-convergence voice, some
members of the audience brought up the obvious problems involved
in combining different news operations, such as questions of
compensation, training, and different cultures of print and
broadcast newsrooms. “The cultural issue is huge,” said Tom
Curley, president and publisher of USA Today, which
provides news for TV stations owned by its parent company,
Gannett Co. Inc. “Some of the television newsrooms were not
engaged in this, originally, but the news value of it has kicked
in. It is still about getting the story out.”

David Underhill, vice president of intergroup development for the
Tribune Co., agreed. He said many journalists on both sides are
reluctant to join forces until a big story vividly illustrates
the value of cooperation. “Some event, a train derailment or a
hostage standoff, comes in and they can’t get enough resources,”
he told the audience. “Then [cooperation and convergence] really
kicks in.”

Panelists also said the approach has affected the hiring of young
reporters, who are often not trained in the crossover role, and
in their approach to compensation. “People who have been most
resistant are the young ones, right out of college,” Weaver said.
“You need them to have some knowledge of all parts.” Curley
agreed, saying, “job descriptions have to change.”

When asked about the fear of losing independent voices when two
or more editorial sources combine, the editors said each medium
is still different. “Television, newspapers, and online still do
things differently,” said Meginnis. “They each tell it their own
way.”

Weaver, however, said that joint news operations need to explain
to readers and viewers how and why they are providing combined
coverage. “It raises the bar on us to do more to explain the
partnerships and how we did the story,” she said.



Joe Strupp (jstrupp@editorandpublisher.com) is an associate editor for E&P.



Copyright 2001, Editor & Publisher.

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