Merging sources Cloning the news 

Media convergence creates the same old hay on every station

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We heard it over and over as children: "Informed citizens are the cornerstones to a functioning democracy." The ideology continues into our adult lives: "The ideal citizen is an active participant - paying diligent attention to the day's news, forming his or her own opinions on the controversial issues of the day, and then expressing those opinions at the voting booth, in public forums, and among neighbors." But for most of us, this ideal has more to do with our grade school textbooks than our everyday lives. We come home from work, half-drained, and catch the local news on TV, maybe skim the paper, and - if we're feeling really ambitious - go online for a few minutes to catch up on national events. By all accounts, we should be getting a wide variety of news sources - enough to form reasonable, intelligent opinions about politics, government, and important issues.

But what happens when the stories you read are the same? Through the magic of media convergence and syndication, San Antonians see recycled news as though it were fresh.

Media convergence happens when different news organizations (not necessarily owned by the same company) work together to cover or develop new stories. This can mean cooperating on breaking news to sharing story planning, to working together on investigative projects.

For a local example, check out stories from the Express-News (owned by Hearst) that are replicated on, a venture between the paper and KENS (owned by Belo), which can use the same stories on its nightly news if it so wishes. The result is a lack of originality in the news - despite what the troubleshooters might have you think.

Media convergence happens when different news organizations (not necessarily owned by the same company) work together to cover or develop new stories.
In Austin, the American-Statesman (Cox) shares content with ABC affiliate KVUE (Belo). According to the American Press Institute, KVUE puts a camera in the newsroom, and the two media outlets share news and weather.

In Dallas, the newsrooms of ABC affiliate WFAA and the Dallas Morning News (Belo) are in "constant contact," according to the Institute. They regularly exchange information, share reporting, and work on joint projects. The two also created a cable partner, TXCN-TV. Belo stations in Dallas, Austin, Houston, and San Antonio also contribute.

The problem with media convergence is that it decreases the number of stories - thus voices and viewpoints - that make it in the paper or on the nightly news. Stations indulge in media convergence to score bigger profit margins; if they share stories and resources, they don't have to hire as many reporters, photographers, and editors.

Further diminishing the variety of local news stories, media outlets often repeat stories from wire and syndication services. On Sunday, January 11, the Express-News ran a story (page 14A) about a man who had made himself part cyborg - by wearing a computer camera over one eye. On Wednesday, January 14, featured the same story on its homepage under a different title. It was the same story - reported by the Associated Press (AP).

The state of mainstream news has become so homogenized and diluted that young adults are relying more on nontraditional sources for updates on the Bush campaign. According to a recent study of more than 1,000 adults conducted by the Pew Research Center, about one-fifth of adults age 18-29 surveyed regularly learn about the presidental campaign not from their local stations, but from the good folks at The Daily Show and Saturday Night Live.



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