Mainly used to refer to news, cross-media production is the coordinated reporting of events in several media outlets (press, radio, television, Internet, mobile phones, and other mobile devices). The production can occur at a single integrated newsroom or involve collaboration among newsrooms from different media. The concept can also apply to other media products systematically designed for and delivered in different media formats. Practitioners and scholars use the term convergence to refer to the process of developing cross-media strategies in newsrooms.
The first newsroom-wide tests of cross-media production began as media businesses adopted digital technologies in daily news production and tended to concentrate in big multimedia conglomerates in the late twentieth century. The starting point in many cases was the exploration of a tighter relationship between the production of the newly developed Internet outlets and traditional formats (press, radio, television). The greatest challenge for cross-media production, nonetheless, is coordinating the different journalistic cultures of print and broadcast newsrooms.
Advocates of cross-media production argue that coordinated reporting may enhance the quality of coverage for an event and optimize the use of human resources in newsrooms, as each outlet provides the information that best suits it. At the same time, this global strategy facilitates cross-promoting different outlets from the same company. Their aim is to offer comprehensive, ubiquitous, and continually updated news, using the different media of the company to allow citizens to receive the best coverage at any time or place through the most convenient media device.
However, several scholars and professionals point out the risks to news quality and media diversity if reducing production costs drives the convergence process. An early case study found that journalists felt stress and considered their stories less elaborated when doing cross-media production (Cottle & Ashton 1999). Newsroom coordination may diminish the diversity of approaches that the separate media take toward a community, may ignore intrinsic differences among media formats that contribute to heterogeneous journalistic discourse, and may make immediacy prevail over analysis.
Two theoretical models attempt to differentiate cross-media efforts, although the concrete forms around the world show extraordinary variability: coordinated newsrooms, where each outlet retains an autonomous newsroom and a multimedia desk fosters strategic coordination among the teams; and integrated newsrooms, where a single team produces stories for any medium.
At Newsplex, an experimental cross-media production initiative, researchers in 2002 began developing four new professional roles for converging journalism (Northrup 2004). These roles are bundles of tasks in the cross-media production workflow, and one person may perform more than one role, depending on the structure of the newsroom.
- News flow managers decide what human and technical resources to devote to each event.
- Story builders coordinate reporting on a single event and decide which materials to gather (video, audio, photos, data) and the best cross-media publication strategy.
- News resource workers help journalists find and process archive and database information.
- Journalists gather information using multiple tools and skills (such as audiovisual recording, still photography, note taking, database mining) and combine multipleformat elements into a story or adapt the materials to different outlets. Multiskill roles may give reporters more control over the final products of their work, but may also overload them with technical procedures, leaving less room for journalistic interpretation (Bromley 1997).
Successful cross-media production requires teamwork, a challenge to the individualistic work of journalists that demands training and flexibility (Deuze 2004). Companies cannot expect convergence to serve as a cost-saving strategy. Convergence may instead allow growth, resulting in better-quality and better-coordinated content in the outlets of a media group, and fostering loyalty and visibility among audiences who have new information-seeking behaviors (Quinn 2005). Another key to fluent cross-media production is adequate knowledge management (Quinn 2002), backed by efficient database software and online systems that store and retrieve the data journalists use and produce when they report events.
Empirical research has concentrated on the perceptions of professionals involved in cross-media production. General attitudes toward convergence are positive, but journalists perceive a lack of training, time pressure, and business-driven strategies as the main barriers to success and quality in cross-media production (Singer 2004; Klinenberg 2005). Media regulation, resistance from unions, physical distances between the newsrooms, lack of management commitment, and poor organizational flexibility also constrain convergence (Quinn 2005). To assess the relationships among newsrooms and the processes and consequences of convergence, research may need to use media groups as the unit of analysis (Boczkowski & Ferris 2005).
- Boczkowski, P. J., & Ferris, J. A. (2005). Multiple media, convergent processes, and divergent products: Organizational innovation in digital media production at a European firm. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 597(1), 32 – 47.
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