The (Past) Future of Journalism

Looking at past insights into the future of journalism is sort of like watching an old sci-fi movie: they dance around correct ideas but also get many, many things wrong. It’s also a good way to come up with a few new ideas for technology and journalism, using the the creativity and the past and the abilities of the present and future.

Take, for example, the 1981 KRON Internet Report. The idea of reading the news on the computer — something we do today and my personal primary source of consuming news media — is not so far-fetched, though it’s also referred to in the news report as an “experiment” or “only the first step.” They also mention in the report that they expect a time when all magazines and newspapers can be read on computer without hinting (as is done in many other reports) that digitized news media may replace newspapers entirely. Of the three reports, this one gets the most correct by simply hinting at a new technology without making assumptions about its use in the future.

Comparatively, the report on the Tablet Newspaper is a bit more assumptive. The report speculates that the tablet shown in the report will replace news media and the computer itself completely, rather than as a secondary item. As for the actual tablet technical specs, they’re pretty accurate to those of an iPad, smart phone, or even a MacBook Air or Samsung Ultrabook: lighter than 2 lb, extremely portable, part of daily lives, and with a lifelike display (if you splurge for the retina screen). However, the technology of how to get the news onto your tablet (through the purchasing of cards) is both correct and incorrect. It shares the same traits as purchasing a physical copy of a video game, though one can also purchase a cheaper copy for digital download online. It’s also odd that this item would rely on a physical piece to produce news media when this report existed in time with a very crude version of the internet, while the 1981 report made the more correct assumption though with a lesser technology (using the phones to update the reports).

Lastly, EPIC 2015 should always be looked at through a more sci-fi perspective than for a realistic view of the future. Some ideas are on the nose, such as the thought that all people would be able to share their media freely online, but it also makes the assumption that news media would be demolished completely. Clearly, this is not true at all, but it’s interesting to see that print news was assumed to disappear while now closed companies stayed afloat.

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