Convergence confab

WHAT DOES "convergence" mean? Besides reporters being told to take pictures for blogs and record and edit podcasts? Irish Organiser Des Fagan tells us that the forum held in Dublin on 20 October looked at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the concept - particularly the way that it's deployed under the exigencies of late capitalism.

Lower barriers to entry to building a global 24-hour media presence may have far-reaching effects. Advertisers, instead of funding reporting to gain an audience, may build their own "pseudo-media" - as car companies are doing.

There are exciting opportunities for journalists who welcome new and varied work; and their work can reach younger and wider audiences.

But threats like the practice of posting material directly without sub-editing are just part of the process that can lead to rumour-based news replacing factual verifiable news-gathering. And less time is allowed to investigate stories, with reflection on what they mean being relegated to (unpaid-for) blogs.

Will the public become unable to distinguish between fact and fiction as news content is diluted? Google News gathers headlines from 4500 "news sources" which include press releases (though, oddly, it refuses to index the Freelance on the grounds that it's "self-promotional").

The forum came up with suggestions similar to those of the union's convergence commission: "We should ensure that the terms and conditions of all our members are being maintained and improved. The health and safety and working conditions of our members can only be protected by organised and active chapels and branches." The Freelance would be interested to hear more about discussion of how union organisation can improve to take account of the needs of all members affected - not just the staff on the paper and/or website but freelances including photographers.

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