Students Converge in New Newsroom

October 16, 2008  

By Alan H. Rose
arose@smu.edu

When students returned to the Division of Journalism this fall, they thought they’d see a new state-of-the-art convergence newsroom. Instead, they arrived to a work zone with yellow tape roping off an empty room filled with construction materials.

Tony Pederson, Belo Distinguished Chair in Journalism, said the construction was to begin in June. However, it started in mid-July.

“Of course, it’s no surprise that things on a college campus run a little bit behind,” Pederson said. “It was supposed to be ready before school and the construction (schedule) that we were given was about five weeks.”

The project encountered a few more delays during the first half of the fall semester. Meanwhile, students worked in a temporary lab to launch The Daily Mustang, a multi-platform news site.

“It’s the ceiling where we ran into a little bit of trouble with the air conditioning ducts,” Pederson said.

This week, students began working in the newsroom. It contains three flat-screen televisions and a 10-foot news ticker that will provide up-to-the-minute headlines. Multiple computer terminals are available for journalism student use.

Junior Nicole Jacobsen, a journalism and advertising double major, said she was excited when she heard about the convergence newsroom.

“I think it’ll be a great opportunity for students to get their work noticed,” she said.

Eventually, lights and a camera will be suspended from the ceiling, allowing a single student the opportunity to conduct a quick interview without firing up the traditional studio. Throw in a flash set, and you have a state-of-the-art convergence newsroom.

The cost of construction, furnishings, and equipment total about $200,000. The funds were raised over the past several years from several donors, according to Pederson.

Ann Wyatt Little, a recent SMU journalism grad, said she wishes she had these resources available to her. She believes that the opportunity to be in an environment were you can do everything on your
own is where the profession is going.

“The ability to bring all of the different aspects of journalism together to create one great product is incredible,” she said.

The new lab replaces an area which contained cubicles with desks; a dry-erase board for signing up to crew The Daily Update, the student-produced daily newscast shown on SMU-TV and online; and the home of the Web site Smudailydata.com.

The site recently got a facelift and a name change. Recent hire Jake Batsell is the faculty adviser to The Daily Mustang. Batsell joined the SMU faculty this year after working in convergence media for The Dallas Morning News.

“We are trying to establish a real-time newsroom environment that is multi-platform,” Batsell said. “It is designed to prepare journalists for the real world of converging newsrooms.”

He plans to help students tackle the news of the day in a convergent way.

The next step is converting to high-definition equipment. While few colleges are hi-def at the moment, Pederson said he feels that being behind on technology is not acceptable.

The convergence of media is the idea that web, print and video can all be combined to create a more interactive news experience.

“We are teaching students to develop professional content for delivery across multiple media platforms, and it’s a venue that can do that very easily,” Pederson said of the new newsroom.

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