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Uncovering the Quality of Converged Journalism
— A Content Analysis of The Tampa Tribune News Stories —
Moshood A. Fayemiwo
Dr. Edgar Huang
Department of Journalism and Media Studies, FCT 230
University of South Florida St. Petersburg
140 7th Ave S
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
Office phone: 727-553-4047
Email: [log in to unmask]
Summer contact info
10 Arrowae Apt F
Carmel, IN 46032
Home phone: 317-574-9132
Home email: [log in to unmask]
The authors thank Joe Wisinski and Donna Self for participating in the data
collecting process of this study.
Uncovering the Quality of Converged Journalism
— A Content Analysis of The Tampa Tribune News Stories —
A content analysis, coupled with an in-depth interview, was done in this
case study on The Tampa Tribune, a component of The News Center in Tampa,
in an attempt to answer the question whether converged journalism has
jeopardized journalistic quality. After comparing the quality factors shown
in the Tribune stories before, at the beginning of, and three years into
convergence, this study has found that media convergence has overall
sustained the quality of news reporting.
Converged journalism refers to the practice of reporting news for multiple
media platforms such as television, newspaper, the Internet and radio. A
reporter could practice converged journalism either voluntarily or as
encouraged or required by his or her company that either owns multiple
media platforms or cooperates with a company that owns another media
platform (Huang, et al, 2003a).
Over the last decade or so, the burgeoning practices of converged
journalism have caused heated debate among media owners, news professionals
and scholars on the impact of converged journalism on the quality of news
reporting (e.g. Blethen, 2002; Haiman, 2001; Stevens, 2002; Stone, 2002;
Carr, 2002; Finberg, 2002; Luzadder, 2003).
Opponents of converged journalism worry that, with less profound
professional knowledge in a non-primary platform and with limited time for
filing a story for multiple media platforms, a reporter might not produce
quality journalism. Andy Barnes, president and CEO of The St. Petersburg
Times says: "I don't think you're going to get the best newspaper report if
someone is, in the first hour after the event, filing for a different
medium" (Palser, 2002). Stone (2002) believes that most backpack
journalists are a "[J]ack of all trades, and master of none," and that they
can "only deliver mediocre journalism." She says: "In time, the message
that quality comes from those journalists who practice a defined job, be it
writer, videographer, photographer or editor, will be clear" (Ibid.).
Opponents focus on news content rather than on channels. William Dean
Singleton (2003), vice chairman and CEO of MediaNews Group, says,
Right now, few priorities are more important than providing our readers
with the high-quality content they seek no matter if it's in our print
edition, online, via a mobile phone or Palm Pilot, or by some other means
not yet invented or tried. How we deliver the news is not nearly as
important as what we're delivering. And with apologies to James Carville,
let me remind you, "It's the content, stupid."
Also, opponents are afraid that the quality of reporting will suffer if
media companies place their focus on reducing cost, cutting staff and
making more money rather than focusing on how to better serve the audience.
University of Wisconsin-Madison journalism professor James Baughman worries
that big media companies become so pre-occupied with turning a profit that
they sacrifice good journalism to save a buck (Gabettas, 2002). Thomas
Kunkel (2003), dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the
University of Maryland and president of American Journalism Review
magazine, says that ending the ban on cross-media ownership is not a good
idea, which he says could cost good journalism. Responding to a newspaper
editor who takes better marketing as the reason for promoting converged
journalism, Robert Haiman (2001), President Emeritus of the Poynter
Institute, raised a serious question, "but you are supposed to be an
editor. So why aren't those two words, 'better journalism?" Haiman (Ibid.)
believes that converged journalism will drag down the journalism quality,
but "quality content will be king," he said.
Proponents of converged journalism, on the other hand, argue that quality
journalism is the focus of converged journalism, convergence has improved
and will continue to improve quality in news, and it offers the potential
to serve the community better. Keith Hartenburger, manager for the news and
programming for Tribune Co. Intergroup Development, which comprises 11
newspapers, 22 television stations, four radio stations and numerous Web
sites, says, "Our goal is to provide quality journalism around-the-clock on
any medium available to the user" (Barney, 2001). Kolodzy (2003) says that
"competition hasn't always brought diversity and quality in news.
Convergence can — if done right… Convergence means cooperative
relationships between television, online, and print media. In places where
this already exists, good journalism still flourishes." WFLA-TV Assistant
News Director Deb Halpern says, "This is an opportunity to tell your story
to more people" (Gabettas, 2002).
Responding to the charges of convergence focusing on profiting and
exploiting employees, Diane McFarlin, publisher of The Sarasota
Herald-Tribune says: "For me, convergence is not about doing more with
less, but about doing more with more. Efficiencies? That's not why we're in
it. We are losing money from convergence. Don't ever expect to make a lot
of money from convergence" (Palser, 2002). Lou Ferrara, general manager for
electronic media at The Sarasota Herald-Tribune, says that the quality of
journalism ultimately is improved since the convergence between the
newspaper and the local SSN Channel 6 TV Station was launched in 1996
(Luzadder, 2003). Ferrara agrees with Halpern: "Convergence provides
reporters more points of entry to a story, the technology to do more
in-depth reporting, and in a more timely way… Convergence does not lessen
journalism in any way, shape or form. It should improve it" (Ibid.) He does
not think that "convergence has, or will have, much impact" on "basic
journalism quality" (Ibid.). Talking about workload, WFLA Managing Editor,
Susan DeFraties says: "Reporter workloads will be carefully managed. If you
put in extra hours one day, you'll get time off on another" (Gabettas, 2002).
Keen insights are not hard to find on the quality journalism issue from
these polarized opinions and claims, but they all cry for evidence. Gut
feelings, anecdotes or personal experiences should not become the support
for such serious exploratory endeavor.
In June 2003, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) relaxed its earlier
rule on media cross-ownership. This relaxation has paved the way for more
opportunities of converged journalism in the years to come. All indications
are that newspapers will remain thriving and profitable in the years to
come (Gates, 2002; Roat, 2002). Gates (2002) believes that "convergence
with broadcast and online media is the shape of things to come for
newspapers." With such a large background, it is important that thorough
investigations be done to ensure that the practices of converged journalism
will retain, if not improve, the quality of journalism.
The authors of this study conducted a content analysis on the news stories
carried in The Tampa Tribune, a component of the converged journalism
model, The News Center in Tampa, Florida, in an attempt to find out how
media convergence is related to journalistic quality. It is not our
intention to establish a causal relationship between media convergence and
quality of reporting. A content analysis is unable to do such a job. Editor
Gemoules further pointed out "not all changes that have happened at the
newspaper or the television station are driven by convergence." Our effort
in this study was to make objective observations about the quality of
journalism at the Tribune before, at the beginning of and three years into
convergence. The goal of the study was to provide empirical evidence from
the perspective of newspaper journalism to the important ongoing
conversation about quality reporting issue in converged media environment.
The authors also conducted an in-depth interview with Craig Gemoules,
deputy managing editor of the Tribune, to enrich and cross-examine the data
from the content analysis.
Nowhere in the country has the media convergence experiment been more
noticeable and pronounced than at The News Center, which includes The Tampa
Tribune, WFLA-TV and TBO.com. These three news organizations are owned by
Media General Incorporated, a multi-million media outfit with headquarters
in Richmond, Virginia. Before 2000, the three organizations maintained
separate offices, and different working professionals separated a mile
apart. But in March 2000, all that changed. The three hitherto independent
entities, relocated to a glittering five–story edifice overlooking the
Hillsborough River in downtown Tampa, dubbed "The News Center." From here,
journalists from the three organizations began to hold joint editorial
meetings, jointly gather news stories, or as Gil Thelen (2002), the then
executive editor and vice-president of The Tampa Tribune, put it:
We began to socialize, spend time together… creating a spirit of trust,
shared values and experimentation [where] print reporters learned TV
fundamentals from WFLA professionals and… TV reporters learned print skills
[while] photojournalists learned to be ambidextrous with still and video
In January 2000, before The News Center was officially established, The
Tribune's Florida Research Group surveyed 429 adults in West Central
Florida to gauge the opinions and awareness of the partnership (Bowles,
2000). The study found that the respondents were very positive about the
new services and quality of news coverage the partnership would offer.
Across the Tampa Bay, The St. Petersburg Times, a nationally renowned
newspaper, is closely watching what happens to the Tribune. Paul Tash,
editor of the Times, concedes the newspaper/television/ Internet
triumvirate holds rich promotional opportunities, but remains skeptical of
its journalistic value (Ibid.).
The decision to take The Tampa Tribune as a case study was double-barreled.
First, The Tampa Tribune was chosen out of thousands of newspapers in the
nation because it is under The News Center, a model of media convergence
that has come under close scrutiny in the nation over the last three years.
Since The Tampa Tribune, WFLA-TV and TBO.com were housed under the same
roof in March 2000 to disseminate news across platforms, much has been
written about this news entity (e.g. Luzadder, 2003; Fliegler, 2002; Gates,
2002; Carr, 2002a; Carr, 2002b; Bradley, 2002; Thelen, 2002; Colón, 2000;
Smith, 2000), but little has been done to measure the relationship between
convergence and quality of news stories.
Second, The Tampa Tribune was chosen out of the three converged media
entities at The News Center because, traditionally, newspapers have been
regarded as the leaders of quality journalism among all media. Newspapers
have the longest history of all news media. William Dean Singleton, vice
chairman and CEO of MediaNews Group, regards newspapers as "the strongest
media on the planet" and the "cornerstones of convergence" (I Want Media,
2002). Rosenstiel et al (2003) write: "The newspaper in town usually is the
news gathering organization with the greatest resources, the most
reporters, the strongest expertise, the deepest beat system, and often the
most active investigative teams." All other media have relied, to different
degrees, on newspapers both for information and for leadership in quality
journalism. "There is an old joke," says John Morton of Morton Research
Inc., a Silver Spring-based media consulting firm and a columnist for the
American Journalism Review, "If you want to see television stations panic,
go to a town where the newspapers are on strike" (Gates, 2002). Studying
the quality in news in The Tampa Tribune provides a suggestively
characteristic profile on the quality of news generated by this convergence
For three years from 2000 to 2003, The Tampa Tribune, WFLA-TV and TBO.com
"hacked through the wilderness without benefit of a map or GPS" (Stevens,
2002). They followed their lofty ambitions of making "better journalism,"
as Forrest Carr, news director of WFLA-TV, put it (Luzadder, 2003). Carr
says, "We can put a story out, have it on TBO.com, The Tampa Tribune and
TV, thereby creating a voice that just wasn't there before for our
journalism, so that our stories have more reach, more power, and greater
effect" (Stevens, 2002).
Stevens (2002) reported:
When the Tribune announced that it would be converging, the reporters went
into a panic, says Cheryl Schmidt, the Tribune's special features editor.
They thought they would have to file for TBO.com and appear in front of
WFLA-TV's cameras. A few do, but most don't… Tribune reporters were given
an option to take part — unless they are on a breaking story and need to
work in the other medium, but new hires will be expected to do stories for
all three outlets.
An Associate Press story reported in 2000: "Some print reporters find it
intimidating and call it cheap labor, since they are not paid extra for the
additional duties. But some are going with the flow."
Up to 2002, cross-reporting was not yet a norm though the three media were
physically housed under the same roof. In April 2002, Stevens reported that
only a small group actually crossed over the media boundaries on a regular
basis at The News Center in Tampa. "What's become more common," she said,
"is that reporters and editors share information." Stevens (Ibid.) further
reported, "Although The News Center's editors and producers hope and
anticipate that more reporters will cross media lines, they're fairly
content with reporters sharing information to enrich stories across media
platforms." This observation was confirmed by the comments of Rich Gordon,
who chaired the New Media Program at the Medill School of Journalism at
Northwestern University and toured much-touted converged newsrooms in
Orlando, Tampa and Sarasota, Florida, in 2002. "What I saw there was that
jobs haven't changed very much," he said. "Print reporters are still
focused on print. TV reporters are still focused on TV" (South and
Nicholson, 2002). Forrest Carr (2002a), news director of WFLA-TV, confirmed
their observations by saying, "In most cases, this [convergence] simply
comes down to the sharing of tips and information."
To ensure good quality, The News Center developed the Citizens' Voice
project in October 2001 to address reader questions, explain news
decision-making and ask the public to hold Tampa journalists accountable
(Fliegler, 2002). Forrest Carr (2002) says, "Convergence creates a more
powerful form of journalism. With greater power comes greater
responsibility — and the need for greater accountability." Six months after
the launch of the project, editors extended "The News Center Pledge" to
readers and viewers. The pledge published the core values of The News
Center's journalism, including correcting mistakes, giving voice to the
voiceless and acting as watchdogs for the community (Fliegler, 2002). The
document acknowledges the partnership among the three platforms but commits
to separate and independent editorial decision-making. It promises, among
• Accuracy and fairness;
• To promptly correct mistakes;
• To give voice to the voiceless and cover our community in all its diversity;
• To conduct ourselves with compassion and sensitivity to privacy;
• To be a watchdog for our community and hold the powerful accountable
In an attempt to evaluate the quality on news in The Tampa Tribune, Donna
Reed, now former editor of The Tampa Tribune, says that convergence has
"changed the dynamic of the newsroom. Deadlines are constant. We have a new
way of thinking, visually, because TV and online are so visually dependent,
and newspapers are not. So, I think it's made us a better paper visually;
it's made us smarter in being timely and succinct" (Stevens, 2002). Reed
says, "The goal of convergence is not and never was a reduction in
numbers," and points to stories that Tribune and WFLA reporters work on
together, rather than one reporter doing the job of both. "Simply, two
brains are better than one," she says (Stevens, 2002).
All such evaluations, self-evaluations and self-disciplines are necessary
in helping with the healthy growth for The News Center. But how can we know
whether such endeavors on the side of the journalistic practitioners have
converted to quality journalism? How can we measure the quality of
journalism? What counts as quality journalism? Little literature has been
found in defining and measuring quality journalism, especially quality
journalism tied to media convergence.
Defining journalistic quality has been a problem. Picard (2002) has a
The quality concept is problematic when applied to journalism because it is
nearly impossible to articulate what elements makes (sic) up the concept.
As a result, quality tends to be defined not by its presence but its
absence and observers are in the position of saying "we can't define good
quality, but we know bad quality when we see it."
As a result, Picard proposed that quality be defined by journalistic
activities such as interviews, telephone gathering of information,
attending events about which stories are written, etc. The question we have
about such defining is whether the efforts on the part of the journalists
are necessarily converted to good quality in stories? Take movie production
as an analogy. Haven't we seen many movies of poor quality with a lot of
effort and even money invested in them? Rosenstiel et al (2003) had a
different approach from Picard's.
Rosenstiel et al's comprehensive 2003 study sponsored by the Project for
Excellence in Journalism investigated the quality of some 23,000 stories
from 172 TV stations of different nature including ownership types over
five years. The part from the study that is most valuable to our study is
how they defined quality. The authors conducted a focus group that
comprised 14 respected local television news professionals and station
group heads from a diverse cross section of companies and regions around
the country. All participants believed that the following factors
constitute the quality of news:
1. Covering the whole community,
2. Be significant and informative,
3. Demonstrate enterprise and courage,
4. Be fair, balanced and accurate,
5. Be authoritative and
6. Be highly local.
Based on the focus group findings, the authors operationalized each factor
except for "covering the whole community."
The study found that stations with cross-ownership were more than twice as
likely as stations overall to generate "A" quality newscasts. None of the
six stations in the sample earned an "F" grade in quality, compared with 8%
of all other stations. They also found that cross-owned stations "were more
likely to do stories that focused on important community issues, more
likely to provide a wide mix of opinions, and less likely to do celebrity
and human-interest features. Cross-owned stations were also, however,
slightly less enterprising than other stations." They concluded that
"[s]tations with cross-ownership — in which the parent company also owns a
newspaper in the same market — tended to produce higher quality newscasts."
The authors of the study acknowledged that the small sample size made them
unable to infer much from the data and could have possibly skewed the data.
We found the definition of journalism quality in Rosenstiel et al's 2003
study highly useful to our study. We revised the definition and
re-operationalized it to fit our research needs. We found it, as
Roesenstiel et al did, hard to operationalize the factor "covering the
whole community." The word "community" could mean many things. Therefore,
we dropped this factor.
In 2003, Huang, et al conducted a comprehensive national survey among
newspaper editors, TV news directors, and grass-root news professionals on
how news practitioners were coping with the phenomenon of media
convergence. One of the questions that served as an attitude-finder was
whether the quality of professional productions such as writing,
photography, video or design would deteriorate if news professionals have
to prepare different versions of the same story for multiple media
platforms. Huang et al (2003b) found that opinions split:
Some 38% of the editors and professionals agreed or strongly agreed that
the quality would deteriorate, 40% disagreed or strongly disagreed and the
other 22% were not sure. Editors and professionals showed no significant
difference on this attitude T-test. Such a concern was not prevalent in the
The study concludes:
Both editors and news professionals do care about quality, but they are not
prevalently concerned about the quality of work currently re-purposed for
multiple media platforms. Therefore, there is no reason to be concerned
that future journalists who are being trained on multiple media platforms
and better prepared for convergence will be jacks of all trades but masters
of none or will produce worse reporting (Ibid.).
A few studies focused on the products of converged media environment. For
instance, Pritchard (2002) found on the converged coverage of the 2000
presidential campaign that half of the media outlets had different slants
in their television coverage than in their print coverage. The other half
carried the same slant in both platforms' coverage. Overall, his study
found that "common ownership of a newspaper and a television station in a
community does not result in a predictable pattern of news coverage and
commentary about important political events in the commonly owned outlets."
Since the debate about the effect of media convergence on the quality of
journalism is far from being conclusive, instead of approaching the study
with a hypothesis, we raised a general research question: How does media
convergence relate to the quality of journalism? We attempted to answer
this question through the case of The Tampa Tribune.
To measure the five quality factors inherited from Roesenstiel et al's
study, we created a coding sheet, in which the five factors were defined
and operationalized (See Attachment 1).
We defined "enterprise" as the effort put in disseminating news to the
maximum number of audience/viewers/readers in informative and expressive ways.
As we understand, newspapers use wired stories. A local newspaper usually
does no more than choosing, editing, and laying out such external stories.
The effort put in such external stories is much lower than driving up with
a newspaper's own stories. We distinguish such external stories from the
in-house stories generated by staff to properly credit enterprise to The
We distinguished stories generated by the Tribune staff, WFLA-TV staff and
TBO.com staff to find out to what extent cross-platform reporting had been
Along the same rationale, we counted how many incidents occurred in which
stories on WFLA-TV or TBO.com were promoted in the Tribune. For example, if
the Tribune directed readers to TBO.com or WFLA-TV for more information,
that was counted as being promoted on another medium.
Finally, we counted how many stories were packaged. Packaged stories call
for more effort and show more sophistication in reporting. They are more
visual and report an event or events either in more detail or more
comprehensively. Packaged stories were defined as a group of news items
that contain at least two stories or at least three forms of news such as
textual story, photo, infogrphics, timeline, or a fast facts box, that are
about the same topic.
We defined story significance as the extent to which stories touch on
underlying themes, ideas, trends or issues. To measure significance of
stories, we categorize all stories to be counted into nine categories:
1. Business stories
2. Government stories
3. Tragedies/Malfeasance stories
4. Education/Family stories
5. Health/Environment stories
6. Science/Technology stories
7. Culture/Entertainment stories
8. Sports stories
Each category contains multiple examples (See Attachment 2). We held the
same conviction as Roesenstiel et al (2003) did that "[i]ssues of public
malfeasance are considered more important than stories about celebrities."
We attempted to find out where the primary effort went in all the
Fairness and balance
For fairness and balance, we counted how many sources each story used.
Usually, more sources mean more points of view. We classified stories into
the ones using no source, one source only and two or more sources.
Authoritativeness refers to whether the newspaper used in a story anonymous
sources only, person-in-street and/or anonymous sources only, or used
expert, authoritative or first-hand sources.
This concept examines to what extent stories can be related to the lives of
local residents. We defined "local" as all the counties in the Tampa Bay
area including Tampa, St. Petersburg and vicinities. We categorized stories
as local interest stories, non-local stories with local impact explained,
and non-local stories without local impact explained.
To make comparisons chronically so as to detect any effects that
convergence practices had on the quality of news stories, we used a revised
version of "composite week" sampling technique described by Wimmer and
Dominick (2003, p. 147). First, we decided on three points to make
comparisons: before convergence, at the beginning of convergence and three
years into convergence. Each point contains six-months-worth of newspapers.
Next, from each six months, we sampled one week out of each month. If, in
March, for instance, the first week was chosen, the second week would be
chosen from April. Newspapers from Monday to Friday from each chosen week
As a result, 30 issues of newspapers were selected from each period. In
total, 90 issues of the Tribune were selected from all three periods for
comparisons. We noticed that the sample was small and sampling error could
cause potential bias in the data.
We counted the number of stories in each issue excluding columns, op-ed
pieces, letters to the editor, "briefs," and certain short sections such as
"Daily Calendar," "Today in History," "Corrections," "Florida Lottery," and
more. Then, each story was assigned a symbol from each category of measurement.
All four coders were involved in the coding sheet design and went through a
two-week coding training provided by the primary investigator. The
intercoder reliability index using Scott's Pi was 0.91.
For the interview, the authors came up with a list of questions based on
the findings from the content analysis. Three authors participated in the
Figure 1: The average number of stories
3 years later
The Average Number of Tribune In-house Stories
The Average Number of None News Center Stories
We have noticed that, in 2003, the Tribune used more wired stories than
in-house stories though the average number of in-house stories remained
comparatively consistent over the years. In 2003, The Tribune used seven
more wired stories than in-house stories on average. In comparison, the
uses of wired stories and in-house stories were pretty even before
convergence (see Figure 1). Gemoules explained that this change is not
necessarily convergence related. He said that the Tribune had experienced
an enormous thirst from readers for international news because of the war
against terrorism and also because of the presidential election on its way.
"We would have been derelict if we hadn't increased our wire coverage," he
Figure 2: Total number of News Center stories contributed by WFLA-TV and by
3 years later
WFLA-TV Reported for the Tribune
WFLA-TV cooperated with the Tribune
TBO.com reported for the Tribune
Over the three 6-month periods, extremely few cases were found in which
WFLA-TV or TBO.com reporters' names were printed either alone or together
with a Tribune reporter's name in the bylines on the Tribune. Eight
stories in total were found in which a WFLA-TV reporter wrote for the
Tribune. Four cases were found in which a WFLA-TV reporter cooperated with
a Tribune reporter to report on the same story. TBO.com contributed only
two stories to the Tribune in the ninety issues of Tribune in the sample
(see Figure 2). In 88% of the issues, the Tribune was the sole provider of
in-house stories. In those issues that contained cross-reported stories,
96% of the stories were from the Tribune.
After various experiments at the beginning of convergence on how to
cooperate among the three entities in reporting, Gemoules said, The News
Center administration decided that sharing tips and information was the
best strategy. "When you are on an important story, you are no longer just
talking to your editor, you are also talking to somebody from TBO, and you
are also talking to somebody from Channel Eight… There is a lot of exchange
of just tips and information," Gemoules said.
Figure 3: Total number of cases in which WFLA-TV or TBO.com stories were
promoted on the Tribune
3 Years later
The cases in which stories from WFLA-TV or TBO.com were promoted on the
Tribune or the Tribune stories were said to be carried in WFLA-TV or
TBO.com were few. Most of such cross-promotions occurred at the beginning
of convergence. In all the 25 issues in which there were promoted
non-Tribune stories, 23 issues carried just one such promotion. In total,
26% of the newspapers in the sample carried cross-promoted stories. The
stories that got promoted most on the Tribune were sports stories. There
were 10 such stories, which took 36% of all the promoted stories (see
Figure 4: Average number of packaged stories
3 Years later
Finally, we found that there was not much difference in packaging stories
in the early months of convergence and before convergence. But the number
of packaged stories soared three years later (see Figure 4). This drastic
change is statistically significant (p=0.001, f=8.4, df=2). Gemoules said
that the use of more packaged stories was largely related to "The Power to
Grow Readership: Research from the Impact Study of Newspaper Readership," a
study conducted in April 2001 by the Readership Institute under the Media
Management Center at Northwestern University. Gemoules said: "It came
out with eight recommendations for a newsroom to make a newspaper better.
One of the recommendations was a culture change, to make the newsroom more
collaborative… I think the convergence experience helped us become a more
collaborative newspaper." Taking advantage of the Tribune redesign in
2002, Gemoules said, the newspaper staff increased story packaging to boost
readership. "Packaging in a way helps people navigate from the surface to
the depth… We tried to use the physical change of the paper as a lever to
be more enterprising across the board," Gemoules said.
Figure 5: Average number of categorical stories
3 years later
Over the nine categories of news stories, and over time, the Tribune
reporters have almost always reported sport events the most except for the
initial stage of convergence, when the Tribune reported about an equal
amount of government stories and sport stories. Other categories of stories
that the Tribune staff reported on frequently included government,
tragedies/malfeasance, and business stories (see Figure 5). Over the years,
we have observed no dramatic changes in terms of reporting effort
inclinations though the Tribune has carried fewer sports stories after
convergence than before convergence (p=0.001, f=10.7, df=2).
Gemoules mentioned that as an experiment, the sports reporters both from
WFLA-TV and from the Tribune had become one team. All of them reported both
for the newspaper and for the television. Therefore, they are the most
converged reporters at The News Center and have been making the improvement
of the quality of sports reporting as their priority. The fact that there
has been prominent sports reporting at the Tribune has to do with the
proportionally prominent status sports have in the Tampa Bay area. Gemoules
said that the Bolts were on a winning streak; the personnel changes of the
football team were news as a result of the former Super Bowl victory;
sports are big economic engines in the community; the facilities cost a lot
of money for taxpayers, and sports need to be covered strongly.
Figure 6: Average number of stories that used different number of sources
3 years later
Used no source
Used one source
Used more than two sources
Fairness and balance
Figure 7: Average number of stories that used different levels of
3 years later
Used anonymous sources only
in-street or anonymous sources only
Used expert, authoritative or first-hand sources
We have observed a consistent pattern of using more than two sources in
reporting among the Tribune reporters on a daily basis across the three
stages of comparison. Few stories used only one source, and extremely few
stories used no sources at all (see Figure 6).
Again, we have observed a consistent pattern of using expert, authoritative
or first-hand sources in reporting among the Tribune reporters on a daily
basis across the three stages of comparison. Extremely few stories used
person-in-street or anonymous sources only, or only used anonymous sources
(see Figure 7).
Figure 7: Average number of stories with local interests
3 years later
Non-local in-house stories without local impact explained
Non-local in-house stories with local impact explained
In-house stories about local interests
A pattern of focusing on local interests on a daily basis was found among
the Tribune reporters across the three stages of comparison. In the few
non-local stories, often, reporters attempted to explain the local impact
an event could have (see Figure 8).
Discussions and Conclusions
Media convergence is still evolving at The News Center. Three years of
convergence practice at The News Center may not be enough to show a
complete picture media convergence, but it has certainly come with some
results. The findings of the study have demonstrated an overall positive
picture of the quality of news reporting at The Tampa Tribune after
Three years into convergence, The Tampa Tribune has not only benefited from
sharing tips and information with its TV and Web operations, but also has
retained its editorial autonomy. Gemoules has noticed the following three
big changes at the Tribune since March 2000.
1. A higher sense of urgency. Gemoules said that the Tribune reporters now
tend to plan ahead to the next day, think about what other angles they can
pull out of a reported story for the next day, and what more they are able
to do today.
2. Broader reach to readers. Gemoules reported an increasing awareness of
the size of the megaphone that they have coming out of the building. "When
we do a story, I think we have a higher sense of awareness that it's going
to hit more ears and it's going to have a bigger impact in the community
than if it just appeared in one platform alone," Gemoules said.
3. More creativity in reporting. "If we feel we've broken something online
already or on television already, we may be more creative in the way we
write the story," said Gemoules. They now tend to report more on ordinary
people and put them in a lead, for instance, after all the authoritative
sources have been quoted in the earlier braking news. The Tribune reporters
try to "hit the sweet spots," to use Gemoules's words, which mean, to tell
stories in the best approach and let the community own the stories.
The content analysis on the Tribune stories over time shows that the
quality of news reporting at the Tribune has largely been sustained in
terms of being fair and balanced in sourcing, using authoritative sources,
and localizing stories. The Tribune is not only still producing pretty much
the same number of in-house stories, but has also significantly expanded
its wire coverage to include more international and national stories to fit
readers' needs. The Tribune reduced the number of sports stories after
convergence though such stories were still dominant in 2003. It has
continued focusing on reporting important issues related to government
affairs, tragedies and malfeasance and business affairs. Three years into
convergence, the use of packaged stories has gained an astounding leap
forward. To some extent, convergence has helped the Tribune reporters
cooperate and collaborate to package stories so that stories have more
depth and attract more readers. The Tampa Tribune has become more visual
and more sophisticated in presenting news. Convergence, to some extent, has
motivated the Tribune reporters to make greater effort in driving up with
better quality news reporting. This study legitimizes the finding from
Huang et al's 2003 study that the concern for the collapse of quality of
news because of convergence is not prevalent in the media industry.
After the study was completed, we checked the Tribune's readership over
time to corroborate our quantitative findings. By the end of 2003, when our
content analysis was completed, the readership of The Tampa Tribune on
Sundays increased 14% during a 12-month period, and the readership of the
daily Tribune (Mondays through Saturdays) increased 4% during the same
period. By comparison, the readership of The St. Petersburg Times, a
non-converged newspaper, during the same period followed the national
downward trend: its Sunday readership dropped 5%, and daily readership fell
These readership data have not let down the Tribune readers' expectation
for the Tribune's new services and quality of reporting when they responded
to the January 2000 survey sponsored by the Tribune's Florida Research
Group. The readership increase at The Tampa Tribune has also corroborated
the content analysis data that the quality of reporting at the Tribune has
been retained, if not improved in certain areas such as story packaging,
three years into convergence. Gemoules says, "There are many factors that
cause people to buy and read newspapers, but convergence certainly has
played a role in providing urgent, enterprising and in-depth coverage."
On the other hand, not much cross-reporting was going on three years into
convergence at the Tribune. The Tribune reporters are still almost the sole
news provider for the Tribune. Cross-reporting, which has been often
reported on and touted in trade magazines, is anecdotal and not a norm at
The Tampa Tribune. In 2002, South and Nicholson reported that convergence
mostly stayed on the level of sharing tips and information. That still is
the case in 2003. The reporters at The News Center do more cross-platform
story promoting than reporting for another platform. Whether staying on the
level of only sharing tips and information justifies the cost of housing
the three media under the same roof in the name of media convergence is yet
to be seen in the years to come. We suggest that future studies be done on
whether cross-platform reporting at the grass-root level on a daily basis
can raise instead of sustaining the quality of reporting. We also suggest
that comparisons be done between the quality of reporting from converged
news production environments and that from non-converged counterparts. It
might be interesting to use the same coding sheet from this study for other
converged and non-converged media and compare results. As convergence
continues to evolve and change the media landscape, more studies need to be
conducted on the impact of media convergence on the quality of journalism.
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Your name initial: _______________
Total number of stories for today: _______
Total number of in-house stories: ________
Total number of stories for today: _______
Total number of in-house stories: ________
2. How many stories were generated by Tribune staff?
3. How many stories were generated by WFLA-TV staff?
4. How many stories were generated by TBO.com staff?
5. How many stories were cooperated by Tribune WFLA and/or TBO.com staff?
6. How many stories were generated by non-News Center media outlets?
7. How many story packages are there?
8. How many i-h stories were about local interests?
9. How many were i-h non-local stories w/ local impact explained?
10. How many were i-h non-local stories w/o local impact explained?
11. 1. How many i-h stories were business stories?
12. 2. How many i-h stories were government stories?
13. 3. How many i-h stories were sports stories?
14. 4. How many i-h stories were tragedies/malfeasance stories?
15. 5. How many i-h stories were education or family stories?
16. 6. How many i-h stories were culture/entertainment stories?
17. 7. How many i-h stories were health/environment stories?
18. 8. How many i-h stories were sci/tech stories?
19. 9. How many i-h stories were of other interests?
20. How many i-h stories used expert, authoritative or first-hand sources?
21. How many i-h stories used person-in-the-street or anonymous sources only?
22. How many i-h stories used anonymous sources only?
23. How many i-h stories used no source?
24. How many i-h stories used only one source?
25. How many i-h stories used two or more sources?
26. 1. How many i-h business stories were promoted on another medium?
27. 2. How many i-h government stories were promoted on another medium?
28. 3. How many i-h sports stories were promoted on another medium?
29. 4. How many i-h tragedies/malfeasance stories were promoted on another
30. 5. How many i-h education/family stories were promoted on another medium?
31. 6. How many i-h culture/entertainment stories were promoted on another
32. 7. How many i-h health/environment stories were promoted on another medium?
33. 8. How many i-h sci/tech stories were promoted on another medium?
34. 9. How many i-h stories of other interests were promoted on another medium?
35. How many i-h story packages were promoted on another medium?
"i-h" means "in-house."
• If you have observed any cross-promoted items, please give a brief
description here or on the back.
• Also, take a note on anything that deserves special attention.
Definitions of categories of news
Growth and development
Professional or non-professional
National or local
Other minority issues
 By looking at the e-mail address in each byline, we could tell from
which medium a story came and whether a story was cooperated on.
 From this paragraph on, all the stories mentioned in comparisons refer
to the Tribune in-house stories.
 This study can be found at
Thelen, the then editor of The Tampa Tribune said: "We're using the study
in a number of ways: 1. Its principles underpin our redesign. 2. It's a
basis for the work of the company-wide readership taskforce, one of the
company's five strategic priorities for 2002. 3. We're incorporating the
recommendations into our daily scorecards for sections of the Tribune"
(quoted from "The impact of Impact: How newspapers are putting the study to
work" by the Readership Institute, which can be also at the URL in this
 The eighth recommendation of the study reads: "[N]ewspapers that have
adaptive, constructive cultures tend also to have higher RBS (Reader
Behavior Score) – that is, more time, frequency and completeness…
Constructive cultures tend to be more outward-looking and responsive to
changes in the environment. They expect achievement at both the individual
and group level. Collaboration and coordination across departments are not
optional – it is how they operate."
 The data are from Scarborough Research, Release 2, 2003.