The not-so-distant future of online and print media
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
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."
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:
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
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."
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
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.)
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.
Online Journalism Review
moderates the futurists' talk
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.