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The not-so-distant future of online and print media


Copyright 21stC - used with permissionWhen asked by a reader to gaze into a crystal ball and foresee the future of news, The Poynter Institute's columnist Dr. Ink responded, "Dr. Ink will only make one serious prediction about the future: That anyone who tries seriously to predict it will one day look foolish, especially if he or she is lucky enough to live beyond the prediction. Still, the Doctor is nothing if not foolhardy."

Dr. Ink is not the only foolhardy journalist in the industry. Due to the realization that online media is here to stay, speculation about the future of print journalism is a popular topic of conversation among media professionals.

This section highlights a few journalists' views on the future of the industry.

The view from the ink well: Poynter's Dr. Ink predicts

Dr. Ink himself seems to have adopted a rather humorous, the-more-things-change-the-more-they-stay-the-same philosophy. He wrote:

  • "There will still be people called 'writers.' The term 'content provider' will be on Esther Dyson's dusty old shelf. The writers will still tell 'stories.'
  • In spite of new technologies, we will be drowning in a sea of paper.
  • All networks and newspapers will be owned by two international companies, which will control all the black helicopters in the world.
  • Newspapers will prosper, but will be smaller in size and weight, easier to use, and not require the destruction of so many trees."

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Big plans for a hometown paper

For the 100th anniversary of his paper, Mark Briggs, new media editor of The Everett (Washington) Herald, made predictions for the next hundred years. He said,

In five years:

  • "There will be more reliance among readers on electronically delivered news content than today."
  • News will be published for various wireless and portable devices as well as for the Internet, and it will no longer be free. However, it will be more tailored toward the individual's interests.
  • Convergence will continue until newspapers, TV and radio have "transformed into broad-reaching news companies."
  • "Internet and satellite radio will be common in new cars... Newspaper reporters routinely file audio reports" making the newspaper accessible to people in their cars.

In ten years:

  • "Reporters will use a handheld, digital, wireless computer that will record interviews, shoot photographs, work as a cellular phone and connect to the Internet. This will be part of the a 24-hour publishing cycle that will connect news consumers to the news."

In twenty years:

  • Newspapers will be manufactured from a synthetic material to be retrieved from consumers and directly recycled by the newspaper company. Only 20 percent of materials will come from trees.

In 100 years:

  • Newspaper and the aforementioned "newsplastic" will be replaced by e-paper which will look and feel much like paper, but content will be downloaded onto it each day from a device delivered to and serviced for newspaper subscribers.
  • In spite of new technology used to assemble and communicate the news, the news gathering process will remain the same: reporters will still follow leads, consult sources, interview and research to develop strong and accurate news stories. "The narrative story was with us long before newsprint, and it will remain with us long after."

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USA Today looks toward tomorrow

Beau Dure, assistant sports editor for USA Today tackled the question of the future of news from a best and worst-case scenario perspective. He wrote:

Best-case scenario:

  • Convergence will lead to truly interactive news, allowing viewers more choices.
  • Newspapers will provide more depth and analysis and run more features, as the daily paper will no longer be able to be the first with a story.
  • The newspaper will be a "digest" or a condensed version of the Web site, plus have the aforementioned features and depth coverage.

Tabloid parody graphic, 8k.Worst-case scenario:

  • The "tabloid mentality" takes over. The Web and cable news host more "pundit arguments" and "anything with depth fails to find funding."
  • "Reporters remain stuck framing every story in terms of conflict while ignoring the 80 percent of Americans in the political middle, building up hostility in this country to a breaking point that unleashes complete anarchy. The ensuing violence is lovingly detailed by a press corps that will have long ago lost its soul and chased any thoughtful employees into academia or nonprofit work."

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The author puts in two cents

After reading various journalists' perspectives on the future of news, the author of this site has developed a few ideas of her own regarding the coming age of online media:

  • The idea held by some that newspapers will become completely obsolete is silly. People will always desire the portability and convenience of paper -- even if that "paper" is a synthetic material to which readers download information. After all, if people can't have something compact to read on the subway or while eating a bowl of cereal at the breakfast table, there will be rioting in the streets.
  • Instead of the newspaper company delivering and servicing a special port to subscribers, as Mark Briggs suggests, I think the news will be downloaded to the e-paper and other portable devices from a standard home computer. (The same computer, incidentally, will be the central hub of a household, allowing for control of electronics and connected to personal computers... but that's another topic altogether.)
  • Convergence will fail. Emergence will reign. Explore The Present State of Online News Media to understand the difference between these two concepts.
  • Whatever time frames are placed on predictions will be an overshot. If a predictor says something will happen in ten years, it will be here in five. Technology is moving faster than we could ever possibly hope to rope a lasso around.
  • Regardless of how huge media conglomerates get and how much domination one newspaper has over a particular market, big powerful papers will still feel threatened by small, independent startups. That's the power of the press.

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References and related work:

In this section:

The view from the ink well: Poynter's Dr. Ink predicts

Big plans for a hometown paper

USA Today looks toward tomorrow

The author can't help putting in her two cents


Online Journalism Review moderates the futurists' talk

Copyright - Online Journalism Review - used with permission.Online Journalism Review provides an outlet for the ongoing discussion concerning technology and its impact on journalism in their section "The Future of News."

There, experts, including editors, professors, writers, publishers and other media professionals, weigh in with their views and perspectives for OJR. The site also pulls relevant articles from other sources for reproduction in the section.

The result is a great exchange of ideas from a broad spectrum of journalists. Readers may respond to the articles, posts and columns using OJR's forum.


Just where did these guys come from, anyway?

Beau Dure is a sports editor for

Mark Briggs is new media editor for

"Dr. Ink" is a regular columnist with



Copyright © 2002 by Michele K. Jones.
Site last updated: April 17, 2002.