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Kent State’s case study in converged student media

One of my old professors Fred Endres, who teaches online journalism at Kent State, sent me a link to a package he produced about the student media operation today. More specifically, it’s about Kent State’s “marriage” of print and broadcast media into one newsroom and one Web site.

Sadly, as I’ve lamented before, I missed this convergence by a semester. I was part of the initial student media discussions, but graduated just as things were getting good. But I’ve been back to visit several times, and while it’s not nearly as homely and cozy to me as the former Daily Kent Stater digs were, it seemed pretty streamlined. And the technology was top-notch. I can’t even get Excel on my machine at work (OK, so actually after two years I’ve finally managed that … any day now), but these kids have everything from the Office suite to Final Cut Pro at their disposal.

I was never there to see the new combined news team react to breaking news, but I can imagine it was the same as it was for the Stater alone: A flurry of activity and a dash of figuring it out as you went along. These days, however, there’s an added discussion beyond who will write the story for online and then tomorrow’s paper. Who is going to shoot it, both still and video — perhaps at the same time — and ready the script for Black Squirrel Radio and TV2 to broadcast?

Anyway, check out the link Fred sent me to thekentnewsroom.com. It’s an interesting, and entertaining, look at how the marriage happened — and some of the stumbles along the way.

On developing the multi-media mindset:
Students from the newspaper staff talk more to students from the television station. And both talk to the small Web staff. On some days, those conversations lead to creative and productive cooperation and content. On other days, the students may say hello to each other. There is no consistency to the mindset yet. After three semesters in the newsroom, it’s pretty clear that the multimedia mindset is BE-set by some lingering turf issues, lack of trained bodies, too-busy schedules and indifference.

We sometimes wonder whether the move to real convergence can be led and maintained by busy students who spend a year or two in student media and then graduate or move on to other interests. It’s like having speed bumps in the newsroom. Energy spurt — screeching halt — progress — slow down. It’s frustrating for students, advisers and faculty. Consistency and continuity may be issues that confront every university attempting convergence where students truly run the newsroom, as they do at Kent State.

We do remain optimistic about developing the mindset, however. More importantly, so do the students.

An interesting case study for anyone considering a converged, collaborative or shared newsroom. (There’s even tips and lessons learned.) Or, since there’s so much debate on what journalism schools are or aren’t, should or shouldn’t, be teaching, anyone interested in seeing one school that is trying something new.

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