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Managing Convergence

Last week, I was at a conference known as Unity 2004, where almost 10,000 journalists from across the country mingled. One of the things I got out of it is what’s called “convergence,” which involves journalists working across broadcast, print and online media.

Last week, I was at a conference known as Unity 2004, where almost 10,000 journalists from across the country mingled. One of the things I got out of it is what’s called “convergence,” which involves journalists working across broadcast, print and online media. For example, a newspaper reporter returning to base from assignment is asked to write a brief for the newspaper’s Web site or a piece for the afternoon broadcast on the local television network or for a radio bulletin. Before the paper hits the newsstand the next morning, the story is already covered by other media.

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The premise of convergence is that there is more than one way of telling a story, and that readers/viewers/listeners have the right to choose.

As a result of convergence, the medium lines are blurred; deadlines are multiple, and traditional division of labor doesn’t apply. What’s interesting is how to manage a multimedia team — how to help newspaper reporters to work across the platform; how to teach photographers to use a video camera; and how to prepare a print columnist to comment on television.

Panelists at the conference gave a couple of tips:

  • Build trust among different teams. Drive home the point that Web sites or TV do not “steal” print stories but serve as an ad for the print version.
  • Find a star multimedia reporter and get others on board. Provide cross training to team members.
  • Keep ties, jackets and makeup kits in the office in case print reporters are called on to air at a short notice. (A newspaper writer was said to apply lipstick for the first time when she was asked to dub as a TV reporter.)

The leadership lessons of convergence, however, go beyond the journalistic context. Technology and the Internet have changed the way news is delivered, as they have other industries are run. FC Now readers: What changes have you seen in your field? And how do you think they should be managed?

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