‘Convergence’ by The Union is set for Election Day
A couple of years ago, I visited Tampa, Fla., where a bold experiment in journalism was taking place. The city’s daily newspaper, the Tampa Tribune, and the local NBC affiliate, WFLA-TV, were owned by the same company, but their buildings were miles apart, and they had treated each other like competitors, both for eyes and ad dollars.
But in 1999, there was a new term in the news business: “convergence.” In an age of media fragmentation and technological change, many news organizations are seeking to maximize their resources by using multiple media to reach news consumers. For instance, the Tribune Co. in Chicago owns a newspaper, a broadcast TV station and an all-news cable channel, AM and FM radio stations, a city magazine and a successful news Web site. And Tribune journalists may present their stories on all of them.
In Tampa, the television station needed a new building. So it was built next to the newspaper, and was designed to include the newspaper’s print and online news staffs. The TV studios are on the ground floor, the online staff and TV offices are on the second, and the newspaper’s newsroom is on the third floor.
A central atrium overlooks a “universal news desk” staffed by representatives of all the media, who collaborate in reporting breaking news to the Tampa-St. Petersburg area. Newspaper reporters do live reports for TV; television reporters write features for the newspaper; and all of them come together in offering unique content for the Web.
I mention this trend because at The Union we are engaging in our own tentative effort at convergence. Next week, on Election Day, in addition to the traditional practice of preparing stories for the next morning’s newspaper, our reporters and photographers will be filing updated stories and fresh photos to our Web site, http://www.theunion.com.
We experimented with this in the primary earlier this year, and for the general election we’re taking it a step further, planning to upload campaign updates and photos all day long. This will be possible because our energetic Webmaster, Dayna Amboy, will be on hand to do the digital coding that is necessary.
The need to have her available for this task has hampered us from going “live” more often. But soon we’ll be installing new software that will allow us to put stories online with a click of a key.
That will be a huge advantage to us, because Nevada County seems custom-made for developing a 24/7 Web news site. The area supports a large and growing number of techno-savvy residents who already have made theunion.com the most-visited news Web site in the county. And while other media such as KNCO and KVMR radio, Foothills Cable Access Television and YubaNet.com provide some excellent news programming, The Union’s professional news staff is hard to beat.
There are other reasons that strengthening our Web news ability is important, such as the fact that more and more young people – our future – are getting their news and information online.
So we hope that if you have one eye on your favorite broadcast or cable television station for national or state returns on election night, the other will be on http://www.theunion.com for updated local election results, reaction and photographs. Then let us know how you think we did, and how we could do it better.
Richard Somerville is the editor of The Union. His column appears every Saturday.
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