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What is a fully converged journalist? – NCTJ Journalism Skills Conference 2010

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Liveblogging from a bench - is this convergence journalism? Photo:

Regional editors and journalism lecturers came together this morning to discuss what makes a journalist ‘fully converged’.

As part of day two of the National Council for the Training of Journalist’s (NCTJ) Journalism Skills Conference, I took part in this discussion alongside Ed Walker, communities editor at Media Wales, and Kevin Leonard from BBC Cardiff (see my presentation here).

It should be noted that in the last year myself and Ed have worked closely alongside each other in Cardiff – sometimes collaborating on online projects (maps for example) and running the Cardiff blogger meet ups and Cardiff social media surgeries together. It’s pretty safe for me to say we were coming at the question ‘What makes a fully converged journalist?’ from the same angle.

Firstly Ed pointed out that neither of us actually use the word ‘converged’ or ‘convergence’ when we talk about what we do. This puzzling term, which has no real definition, seems to be a hangover from a time when newsrooms were trying to work out how to umbrella the variety of media they were using.

When asking my followers on Twitter what they thought a ‘converged journalist’ was, a current student journalist said being fully converged meant not having to think about using multimedia.

Personally I think we should stop using the term right now – and focus more on how we can use media and online tools to enhance the journalism we do. Talking of ‘convergence journalism’ runs the risk of pigeon-holing a way of working – which could lead to skewed recruitment methods, newsrooms which continue to belittle online practises, and alienation of reporting and news gathering habits.

Today’s audience at the skills conference seemed to be impressed with a display of skills which daily employ the use of a number of online tools, tech and media into journalistic practises. But finding and telling the story remains at the heart of what we do.

Kevin Leonard summed it up:

“You’re a journalist full stop, and that means working across all platforms. Let’s not lose site of being a journalist.”

Ed went into some detail of how his work patterns make use of all available tools and media to best present the story. See his presentation here.

Questions after the presentations were disappointing – focusing on stats, figures, money and ‘the death of newspapers,’ rather than new working habits and skill sets.

In my NCTJ examinations I remember there being a question on using multimedia for a story – the required answer was dated and tokenistic. But being a multimedia journalist is not shooting video for the sake of it, or talking about ‘multimedia newsrooms’ to tick a box.

We need to stop worrying about what convergence is and instead get out and be doing it – because you can be sure the new generation of bright young journalists will be doing ‘convergence’ without needing to be taught it.

Special thanks to Joanne Butcher and the NCTJ for putting on the conference and Professor Richard Tait from Cardiff Centre for Journalism Studies for chairing the discussion. Read reports from day one of the NCTJ conference here and here.


5 Responses

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  1. I couldn’t agree with you more on the point about not using the term convergence journalist. Too often, we spend too long talking about what makes someone something when all we should be doing is making sure we exploit all the tools out there to tell the story in the best possible way.


    December 3, 2010 at 2:24 pm

  2. Thanks for the comment David – talking about something is often the easy part – and doing it less easy which is why sometimes we can get stuck discussing these things. I just want to point out too this isn’t a criticism of anyone using the term – more pointing out the pitfalls of replacing the actual ‘doing’ by referring to the word.


    December 3, 2010 at 2:36 pm

  3. Hannah, some really great points there and wish I could have made the conference.

    I agree with David’s point, that the ‘C word’ is used all too frequently.

    Being ‘converged’ is just being a modern-day journalist.

    It’s new terms and buzzwords (you know how I hate my buzzwords) that end up alienating the newsroom stiffs, who swim against the current, and create a further divide from the journalists who embrace the tools available to them.

    And we all know that even a dead fish can go with the flow.


    December 3, 2010 at 2:47 pm

  4. Very aptly said Mr Cuff. Too many buzzwords can leave ‘new fangled hyperlocal convergence digital native entrepreneurs’ sound like superhuman entities – when it’s just about good ol’ fashioned journalism albeit done in very different ways but which balance on the crux of traditional values. Thanks for your comment!


    December 3, 2010 at 3:03 pm

  5. […] hyperlocal, but a converged news service still feels like the realm of early adopters. I think Hannah Waldram has a point – let’s not over-think what convergence […]

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