The future of news, from the past

Watching the three in-class period pieces on the future of the journalism industry was pretty interesting, especially considering how close all of the segments were to nailing how the news industry would progress over the years. Obviously they all missed a lot too and weren’t spot-on, but for coming out decades before the technology they predicted was even widely available, their accuracy was impressive.

Starting with the KRON piece, it seems San Francisco papers anticipated the rise of digital newspapers 15-20 years before having a home computer or laptop was commonplace. Of course, many (wealthier and more tech-savvy) people had computers in the 80s, but not enough to build a large-scale business model around. Still, editors, advertisers, and marketers at papers around the country correctly predicted that home computing and the long-distance transfer of data would catch on and be something people would want to combine with their news intake. Of course, today’s digital papers are equal to and sometimes surpass their print editions in terms of readability and interactivity, something the 80s developers may not have seen coming, and the statement that “we’re not in it to make money” seems funny today (although journalists themselves are still not usually focused on the financial aspects of their publications), but the basic concept of a digital edition simultaneously available in users’ homes was a pretty good prediction.

The Knight-Ridder tablet segment also did a pretty good job of figuring out how people would want to consume the paper in the future, and is closer to where we’re at today. Of course the systems portrayed in the video are a more archaic than where we’re at in 2017, but the basic concept is correct. I’d think that mobile articles and papers are probably more important today than tablet editions, but iPads and Surface-like devices are still popular and widely used for reading the news. The concerns voiced that newspapers were “dinosaurs” that were on the way to becoming obsolete wasn’t entirely correct either, but the sentiment that established publications would have to change with the times would prove correct, and we still don’t really know where papers are headed – so that idea was an accurate concern from that time looking forward.

The more dystopian view of the news industry’s future presented in the EPIC prediction video also featured some pretty good analysis, although it was perhaps a bit more grim than the real-life situation is today. Their targeting of ad tracking, news aggregation and crowd-based journalism/interactivity are all issues that are developing in the modern time. And while a lot of the news industry has dealt with struggles and many papers are folding, there isn’t a “Googlezon” poised to take everyone out and write targeted AI news without a heart. Yes bigger companies are having a say in some aspects of reporting, and it’s interesting that Amazon did end up getting involved in journalism through the Washington Post/Bezos connection, but I’d say these predictions were the most off-target of the three despite still getting some general concepts right in the end.

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