In years past, journalists have been able to write an article and still have the time to fact check, investigate, and focus more on the piece rather than divide their attention with attempting to make their piece accessible in the multimedia world. This is attributable primarily due to the fact that in the days before the internet and before everyone owned or had access to a personal computer, the news industry ran at a slower pace, and was forced to rely on information obtained from primary sources and hard investigation. In today’s society, all one needs to do to obtain information is open a web browser and search Google. In 2010, in a decade when everyone is tied to their computers and personal time has become more strained, it is unacceptable, not to mention unprofitable to limit media to only printed text. Consequently, convergence journalism, the act of distributing media in multiple forms via print, online, video, and photography, has arisen as the common means of circulating news to the public. The goal of convergence journalism is to educate the public by making news more readily available. However, has the convergence of journalism inadvertently led to the depletion of article quality, and thus a reduction in the amount of informative material conveyed?
Before I discuss the drawbacks of convergence journalism, I would like to discuss the advantages. Especially in light of the depressing economic conditions in this country, it is a harsh reality that people’s time has become more constrained. Many are forced to work more hours than usual, and possess less free time to educate themselves and access media. In this way, convergence journalism has truly helped benefit the public by providing faster, more concise formats for people to obtain information quickly, without having to expend more of their limited time. Additionally, the convergence of journalism into multiple forms of media has made it more accessible to more people, not only by reducing the amount of time required to read the news, but also by providing more comprehensible and interesting media forms. As a result, many people who prior to this would not have been interested to a read a long print article, or perhaps were even unable to understand many of the words used in these articles, are now able to access videos, photos, and blogs to translate the information into more appealing, colloquial terms. According to Christana Xamis of School Tube,
“Convergence journalism also adds more elements and details to a story through the use of more than one outlet to tell the story. Now, when you go to websites to read an article you will more than likely see a video clip within the article. It is much more appealing for the reader to see pictures and videos while reading a newsprint article; this is the formula for convergence”
While it is undeniable that distributing information to more people is a benefit to society, one fears the consequences if the quality of this information is impaired and questionable, because the reporter was focusing on too many media outlets. This brings me to the main drawback of convergence journalism, a decline in the quality and legitimacy of information written. There are two reasons for this I believe. Firstly, now, more than ever, the news industry has chosen to focus more on marketing and profit, than on educating people. Journalists, therefore, are forced to worry more about how many hits their blog will get, rather than if the content of their blog is worth viewing at all. This crazed focus on drawing a wider audience, and thus procuring more profit, has led to a decline in information quality. According to Matt McColl,
“It is important to note news publications that focus on a smaller audience tend to define quality differently than those whose audience is larger. Larger newspapers are apt to value staff enterprise, staff professionalism, comprehensive news coverage, and interpretation, while smaller newspapers favor local news, community values, and community leadership. Thus, perceived audience may influence definitions of quality”
The second reason is that journalists’ time has become more divided than ever. It used to be that journalists had the time to fully research and probe into their subject matter to provide their readers with well-researched, well-edited, fact-checked material. Now, however, journalists are too busy trying to convey their information in text, photo, and video, to focus on the quality of any one type of media. Xamis believes that,
“This new form of journalism requires the journalist to be skilled in more than one discipline. For example, a convergence journalist could write an article for a newspaper and produce a broadcast package on the same story all in one day”.
As a result, much of the information distributed to the public is poorly researched and contains many factual errors. Convergence journalism is not bad in itself. However, journalists need to find a way to be less extended in their work, and more focused on the subject matter of their piece, and the purpose of their position, which is to provide factual information to the public.