Convergence was the buzzword at the turn of the decade in our industry.
It was in many ways a misnomer for what was being tried. Many other "co" words might have been better: consolidation was in some ways the ambition for the cost-cutters, concentration perhaps for those seeking a stranglehold on a market, or collaboration by those who sought a looser arrangement that tried to make more than the sum of its parts out of a converged newsroom.
I had my experience with it running CTV News and trying to reach out to our print counterparts at the Globe and Mail and our online sisters at Sympatico.ca. I had high hopes because I knew many journalists wanted to, and could, work across different media and reach a larger audience as a result. When two media combined on a series of stories, the impact was substantially better.
But there was no economic incentive to do so, nor any imperative of a collapsing business model. Times were good and convergence was suspected as a way of diluting brands --- print folks on TV, anchors writing columns, and so on. Efforts to jointly sell advertising often provided multiplatform ads at a discount, and any editorial initiatives often felt forced upon one party.
The notion dissipated. In some cases senior executives left key roles in directing the effort; in other cases, a string of failures made enough leaders believe it couldn't ever work.
But it's coming back with a new verve in the United States, where the newspaper newsroom model is under siege. And it's encouraging to see Steve Yelvington, no small authority on newsrooms, canvass ideas and arrive at new views on the concept of convergent journalism. Only these days the convergence is more print/online than print/TV.
Yelvington posts that it's wise to converge staff, that a rethinking of news structures and workflow should accompany the initiative, that it's important to be careful not to lose practices along the way, and that the online staff can be the more difficult of the two cohorts in the process.
His array of views is tempered with a feeling from those he surveyed that digital thinking and practices aren't well enough understood. He puts particular emphasis on the positive qualities and notes the foot-dragging is ending.