It’s a pity sociologistsÂ seem to have stopped studying newsrooms, New York University professor Eric Klinenberg laments to his academic colleague in a paper titled, “Convergence: News Production in a Digital Age.” I stumbled across aÂ 17-page PDFÂ of this paper. ItÂ was publishedÂ in the January 2005 Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences. But now I am unable to reforge the link.
Oh, well, there’s another pity. Unless someone can help out with aÂ pointer to the fullÂ version, you’ll have to rely on my brutal summary of this very nuanced work. But as I read it, KlinenbergÂ makes two principal findings:
that futureÂ newsroom workers will have to be skilled across media and expected to produce “content” in multiple forms under constant deadline; and
and that “the mythical walls separating the editorial and advertising are mostly down.”
Klinenberg arrives at the first conclusion through an in-depth study of a mythical paper called the Metro News which he describes as a “second tier media corporation” considered a model for “integrating different forms of media.” He notes how the installation of a television studio in the middle ofÂ a print newsroom in 1999 symbolized the company’s cross-mediaÂ intent. He writes that:
“In the new media newsroom, journalists have to be flexible laborers reskilled to meet the demands from several media at once.”
Newsrooms have always been subject toÂ the pressure of a news cycle. But 24-hour television and the Internet haveÂ createdÂ what he calls aÂ news cyclone. News-junkies demandÂ heaping mounds of fresh content served hot and steamingÂ for print, audio, video and/or mobile consumption. OneÂ Metro News writer tells Klinenberg:
“There’s a writing process that’s just constant, constant, constant . . .Â in everything we’re doing we’re dealing with the clock. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. And that clock just goes on.”
I’ve seen the Metro News print product. Have you? It’s visually gorgeous. Packed with ads. A few short stories for light reading on the bus. None of that public watchdog stuff. If the reader didn’t happen to know that the U.S. foreign trade deficit hadÂ hit a new record for the umpteenth month,Â the Metro version would get acrossÂ the gist.
Klinenberg’s sociological take on the “convergence newsroom” seems rightÂ in line with my Monday blog itemÂ on the Medill graduate student’s study of newsroom skills at 538 online newsrooms. Cross-training a must; content processing valued over content discovery (i.e. reporting and writing); copy-editing, page design and photo manipulation, a must.
Klinenberg’s second findingÂ revolves aroundÂ the “dramatic . . .Â penetration of market principles and marketing projects into the editorial newsroom.” Among other points he notes that in 2003 managers at the Dallas Morning NewsÂ “began handing out $100 bills to reporters who memorized the company’s five business goals and could recite them upon demand.”
HeÂ alludes toÂ corporate concentration of ownership. In 1945, “80 percent of newspapers were privately-owned,” he writes. “By 2000, 80 percent were owned and operated by publicly-traded chains and media corporations” (who now say, as I blogged yesterday, thatÂ they’reÂ fightingÂ Big Internet and need to get bigger still to justify theirÂ news-gathering costs).
In short, it’s not your daddy’s newsroom. KlinenbergÂ quotes one writer as saying:
“The whole idea of giving reporters time and space to explore just doesn’t seem like an effiicient way to do business.”