“Convergence is about being flexible enough to provide news and information to anyone and everyone, anytime and all the time, anywhere and often everywhere without abandoning key journalistic values” (Kolodzy, 2006, pg.vii).
Convergence on a large scale is currently occurring in the world of journalism as the traditional roles of journalists are being stretched, pulled, prodded and challenged everyday. Convergence in journalism can be seen in two ways:
- The union of all forms of media to create interactive, all encompassing news reporting – otherwise known as multimedia journalism and
- The new type of journalist that writes, films, produces and edits their own news stories, or backpack journalism.
As Kolodzy discusses, “convergence in journalism means the coming together of journalists and certain types of journalism that have been operating in separate spheres – newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and online – to provide quality news in all those different formats” (2006, pg.10). This convergence has lead to a “multi-platform, multimedia environment” (Wallace, 2009, pg.685), where news is no longer a one-way system “offering little opportunity for feedback on the part of the reader or the viewer” (Stevens, 2003, para5). Instead multimedia journalism combines “text, still photos, animation, graphics, video and audio” (Stevens, 2003, para6) to create two-way communication where individuals can contribute their own knowledge and resources.
Henry Jenkins, a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology discusses that convergence is not an end state; it is a continuous and dynamic process (Kolodzy, 2006, pg4), and therefore convergence will continue to play a large role in journalism. In her book, Convergence Journalism, Kolodzy discusses that “less than thirty years ago, the digitization of words, pictures, and sound for access by a variety of electronic devices seemed like science fiction” (Kolodzy, 2006, pg.5), so adding another ten years onto that, what will the world of journalism look like?
In the 21st century, the constant demand for information has lead to many changes for journalism: for example the emergence of twenty-four hour news operations, the use of the internet and social networking sites providing live news feed, and the new phenomena that everyone can be a journalist. Bill Gentile, a pioneer in ‘backpack journalism’, explains this final concept further:
“Ordinary citizens of the world now wield extraordinary power; we wield the power to communicate instantly, globally and in a language, the visual language, which supersedes both the written and spoken word. This visual language knows no frontiers, it needs no translation… it is one of the most powerful tools of our time. Backpack journalism is the embodiment of this visual language” (Gentile, 2010).
Gentile is discussing the way that individuals are “challenging the traditional media’s role as gatekeepers of news and information” (Kolodzy, 2006, pg.3). This is where convergence comes into play, as journalists needs to compete with the ability and resources now in the hands of a large proportion of the world to report on news and events, as well as the expectations and demands on the 21st century news audience; “convergence is about acknowledging that the way journalism has always been done needs to evolve, and continue to evolve, because news audiences are evolving” (Kolodzy, 2006, p.vii).
Backpack journalism, other wise known as ‘one-man-band’ journalism, is the personification of the modern convergence of journalism, where “one news gatherer acts as both camera operator and reporter, and sometimes editor” (Wallace, 2009, pg.685). This transformation in journalism has been aided by the replacement of heavy cameras that were difficult to operate with “lightweight digital video cameras that allow journalists to move freely about the room, in order to get closer to their subjects, to spend more time, to become far more intimate” (Tompkins, 2011). Today, in cable news operations “it is common to expect journalists to write stories, shoot video, and edit it themselves. This is a sharp contract from traditional broadcast news stations, where reporting, news photography, and video editing are discrete professions” (Kawamoto, 2003, pg.68).
Into the future…
Ten years into the future, convergence will continue to impact on journalism in both ways that it is impacting today. Firstly, news coverage will become increasingly interactive and personalized as all forms of media combine to provide more instant and accurate information. Secondly, the age of the backpack journalist I predict will be in full swing, all though as Kawamoto discusses, specialists will always be required in the journalism field, it will be the individuals that can perform on multiple platforms and think beyond simply print, video or the Internet and converge these medias will be the most successful (2003, p.72).
Gentile, B. (2010, December 9). Backpack journalism today [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9jQLqQQ-iw
Kawamoto, K. (2003). Digital journalism: emerging media and the changing horizons of journalism. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., USA.
Kolodzy, J. (2006). Convergence journalism: writing and reporting across the news media. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., USA.
Stevens, J. (2003). Backpack journalism is here to stay. In Online Journalism Review. Retrieved from http://www.ojr.org/ojr/workplace/1017771575.php
Tompkins, B. (2011, January 3). Backpack journalists: where did they come from? [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://brandontompkins.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/backpack-journalist-where-did-they-come-from/
Wallace, S. (2009). Watchdog or Witness? The emerging forms and practices of video journalism. Journalism, 10, 684. doi: 10.1177/146488490910653