Monday, May 5, 2008

The Future is Exciting - and Bleak

Spend any amount of time talking with journalists about the state of their industry, and you'll walk away thinking the news business is going to hell in a hand basket. Newspapers closing over here. Massive layoffs over there. Bloodletting all around.

It's true that newspapers are dying. It's no longer a question of whether, only a question of when. (Me, I'm giving them 10 years, max.) But journalism, which I define as the gathering and disseminating of information, will continue. I'll even get more specific if you like: the gathering and disseminating of information that is important to geographical and civic
communities will continue.

I know this because, in addition to having had a career in the daily news business, I've also had a career in Silicon Valley. Anyone who's worked in technology knows that functions persist, even as forms morph. We still write letters, make calls, take pictures, and listen to music today, just as we did 20 years ago. Those are the functions. The forms, however, have completely changed. The devices we use today are totally different than the ones we used before. The ways in which we perform those functions are also different. Ever taken a picture of yourself trying on clothes at a department store and then emailed it via cell phone to a friend to get a thumbs up or thumbs down? You definitely weren't doing that 20 years ago.

And the same will hold for daily news. 20 years from now, people will still be getting information about what's going on in their communities. But the way they get that news-- and the ways in which it's written--will be totally different than the newspapers most of us have been used to reading until now.

So here are my four core beliefs about the future of news:

-- Journalism will survive
-- It will look nothing like the news we traditionally associate with newspapers
-- In the long term, awesome new ways of delivering news will appear
-- In the short term, there's no guarantee that anyone working in the news business will be able to support themselves doing this work.

The future is bleak for anyone who wants to be sure of a paycheck in this shakeout period. But if you want to create the future, it's an exciting time to be in the business.

Photos courtesy of joanofarctan and

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