Media Convergence and why it Matters
By- Jack Speer
Journalism is in a state of flux. We have digital journalists, backpack journalists, bloggers, even journalists on Twitter covering “ all the news that’s fit to print” in 140 characters or less. Does all of this affect our SAG-AFTRA members? You bet it does, and at times it can seem almost impossible to keep up.
As has been noted by media theorist Clay Shirkey in “Here Comes Everybody” …in the past… “When it was easy to recognize who the publisher was, it was (also) easy to recognize who the journalists were…now that scarcity is gone.” There is no journalism license after all, and the blurring of the lines with the emergence of new technology not just a problem for print reporters its affecting broadcasters as well.
Communications theorists have likened the emergence of the Internet and digital media to Gutenberg’s printing press and the dawn of television. No one is clear where it is taking us, what’s next, and perhaps most importantly which applications will survive. Also, unanswered is whether the newspaper industry as we have known it, words on paper, will be able to weather the intense changes now roiling the industry.
And it’s not just the newspapers. The industry changes are affecting broadcasters as well. For example, the iPhone many of us carry around in our pockets can be used to gather audio in the field. It can also take pictures and record HD video. This level of technology, because it formerly cost a lot, was limited to radio, TV and film professionals. Now an 11 year old can make a movie, record a song or anchor a version of the nightly news.
So if anyone can now carry out some of the technical functions of journalism what sets us apart? I believe the answer is the ability to produce content backed by serious reporting, fact checking and sourcing. There may not be a “journalism license,” but there is more than ever a need for someone to explain it all and put it into context for viewers and listeners. That is where professionalism matters.
As a result, it’s incumbent that we remain open to working with new technologies across a variety of different media platforms. To some in our profession the term “convergence” has become a dirty word. We need to rethink that. When two things come together, the popular definition of convergence, it often creates a third thing that is new and distinct from what came before. That’s where our members need to be.