Convergence evolves newsgathering methods preventing the spread of COVID-19

Local journalists across Wisconsin utilized convergence to develop ways to report from home preventing the spread of COVID-19 beginning in March.

Media outlets reporting from the Wisconsin State Capitol, Lambeau Field and the Lake Michigan shoreline rapidly improve newsgathering methods through social media when writing stories. Multimedia journalists distribute the weight on the frontline providing footage to anchors, website portals seek viewers to share found footage, while newspaper senior editors require photojournalists to mix and produce found footage. Convergence with viewers happens when newspaper and television mediums accompany their stories with blogs, websites and social media outlets during breaking news.

     “We’ve pretty much gone the direction of multimedia journalism. Multimedia journalists basically shoot and write and edit their own stuff,” said Ryan Logenstein assistant manager of WMTV NBC 15 in Madison, Wisconsin.

Covergence happens when breaking news connects viewers with journalists who are reporting from home trying to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Over Logenstein’s 22 years in television, he is witnessing a rapid change in the reporting field. Logenstein observed viewership utilizing social media to deliver leads with both citizen and multimedia journalists. During stay-at-home restrictions, Logenstein utilized multimedia journalists to create weekly stories, while a citizen journalism portal offered a bank of uploaded material from phones on the NBC 15 website.

“If you look at the NBC 15 website you will see there is a link where you can submit video. We get a lot of video from that,” Logenstein said.

Northeast Wisconsin local news source WLUK Fox 11 puts social distancing first when on the job. Assignment manager Brian Kehrin required ride sharers to take separate vehicles, which is now a standard practice. Kehrin converges press releases with viewers on social media through blogging to live stream information from the Green Bay Packers public relations who enforce the use of Zoom meetings for social distance interviewing.

“We can’t just ask for Packer players like Jake Kumerow from UW Whitewater upon request anymore. You only get who the team selects,” said Kerhin.

While 57 percent of viewers choose television as their primary news source, only 20 percent utilize newspapers. Convergence newsgathering connects both mediums interacting with viewership on the frontline. Multimedia convergence in journalism requires newspaper reporters to possess social media skills, while multimedia journalists from the television industry connects both worlds to produce, write and report stories independently.

     “For the last 15 years, all photographers hired by the Sentinel have had to be able to shoot and edit video. ‘Convergence’ is actually an old story—at least to me,” Greg Borowski senior editor of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said.

Borowski’s newsroom has changed over the past decade. Social media reporting has taken priority, which is Borowski’s way of updating subscribers at the scene of breaking news. Journalists are tweeting text and video, offering interactive maps, charts and photo galleries for subscribers to view.

     “Convergence challenges professional journalists in many ways. I feel we are up to the challenge, provided readers rise to the occasion too,” said Borowski.

When COVID-19 breaking news hits, convergence between newspaper and television media intersects on the web. Citizens and subscribers connect with journalists who use multimedia producing skills from their home base. New methods of newsgathering have developed the newsroom through multimedia journalism benefiting all sides of the news spectrum.

WDVA seeks eligible Warhawks for grant funding

The Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs allocates grant money to the University of Wisconsin System and non-profit organizations during the month of September.

   The State of Wisconsin opens doors to nonprofit community support across the state for grant funding annually. The window to apply for grants ends September 30th.

Grants offer opportunities for all veterans, spouses and dependents through a tuition fee remission called “the Wisconsin G.I. Bill.” The WDVA also offers an annual grant for non-profit organizations like Disabled American Veterans, which rely on donations to purchase hospital transportation vans each year. The grant process starts with notifying the public through administrators like Donald Placidi Jr. and ends with a consultation from the Walworth County Veteran Service Officer prior to enrollment.

“The Wisconsin G.I. Bill is a state-funded program to allow veterans and their dependents tuition coverage. The Wisconsin G.I. Bill is the most generous grant you can get. My wife and I both use it,” said Placidi.

Donald Placidi Jr., division administrator of the Division of Veteran Benefits, oversees the administration of grants, state veteran programs and award nominations. Placidi distributes program information through County Veteran Service Officer training across the state. Placidi’s primary job is to oversee the operation of support services.

The Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs is located at 2135 Rimrock Road in Madison, Wisconsin.

“We have a support service through a place called the Veteran Benefit Resource Center. I am the coordinator. My job is to connect our services across the state,” said Placidi.

Placidi is a benefactor of the Wisconsin G.I. Bill. Placidi is also a veteran returning to school, along with his family, who is actively pursuing his master’s degree. Veterans, spouses and dependents receive 128 credits-worth of state funded tuition.

“I believe it was a year ago when I was reading the Military Times. They were going through some of the best benefits across the country. The Wisconsin G.I. Bill was mentioned as one of the best benefits regarding student tuition,” said Placidi.

Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs is currently closed to public visitation. The State Revenue Building hosts the headquarters of WDVA where Placidi distributes information. 

WDVA provides updates and training through its State Service Officers. The instruction is for County Veteran Service Officers who receive a 427-page Veteran Service Officer Training Manual. Each County Veteran Service Officer works with WDVA to track all who utilize the Wisconsin G.I. Bill in school, helps families file claims and explain information applying for grants.

            “The Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs offers accredited training of at least 40 hours of both federal and state benefits,” Walworth County Veteran Service Officer Nathan Bond said.

Bond began in 2014 and became a County Veteran Service Officer in 2016. WDVA helped him develop a detailed understanding of the proper filing of WDVA documents.

            “County Veteran Service Officers all go through an accredited process like the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars,” said Bond.

Bond also assists dependents and families who are eligible for the Wisconsin G.I. Bill by determining eligibility through records on file. Bond’s training and continued interaction with WDVA officials like Placidi seek to improve claim filing solvency. Walworth County Service Officers are one of the first points of contact for veterans, their spouses and dependents when applying for state benefits in the Whitewater community.

            “If your spouse or parents served, received an honorable discharge, you should see a County Veteran Service Officer before you apply for school. If a person separates from service, I can help them,” Bond said.

Not only does WDVA work with the county, the agency assists the Disabled American Veterans organization with funding and benefits as well. An annual grant for $200,000 provides enough to purchase seven vans to shuttle disabled persons to the hospital for care. The not-for-profit agency applies for seven grants per year to purchase vehicles from the Ford Motor Company.

Grant funding from WDVA offer safe rides from an all-volunteer fleet  transports members to the William S. Middleton Veterans Hospital in Madison, Wis. Veterans in need of disability lift transportation call the Disabled Veterans Organization for free rides.

            “We Average 900,000-miles-per-year with our transportation,” said Wisconsin Disabled American Veteran Commander Matt Kempainen.

Kempainen’s organization works to increase disabled veteran mobility. Disabled American Veterans is 100 percent volunteer-operated, who donate up to 65,000 hours annually. WDVA seeks the help of organizations like these to spread the word about state grants who share how programs benefit their members.

            “We are here to empower veterans to lead high quality lives. Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs does the best they can to make sure our voices are heard,” Kempainen said.

The Wisconsin G.I. Bill is an on-going benefit available every semester. The WDVA Non-profit Grant deadline ends Wednesday, September 30, at 4:30 p.m. For more information, please stop by Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs’ website at

To view the published version, please visit the University of Wisconsin Whitewater Royal Purple link.