Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Years ago, before I made the leap from the News Department into Sports and golf, a journalism industry magazine asked me to write a story about the future of newspapers. This was 20-plus years ago, when home computers were still a novelty and nobody had ever heard of the internet -- not even Al Gore.
Somewhat to my surprise, the editor of that magazine specifically asked me avoid interviewing a bunch of newspaper editors. He wasn't interested in their predictions about shorter, snazzier stories, zoned editions, less investigative reporting, sports as business or the coming rage of color weather maps. He wanted to know what futurists -- those guys with their heads in the clouds -- foresaw for newspapers.
What those futurists told me was that I probably wouldn't retire from the Philadelphia Inquirer or any other newspaper. By the time I hit my 60s, they said, the kind of papers that thud on your doorstep would be seriously changed, probably diminished, possibly gone. While different futurists I interviewed had different ideas about exactly what the future held, they all agreed it would involve a technololgy younger than the 17th century. Who knows, they said, I could spend the autumn of my career working for a company, in a medium, that didn't yet exist. They were certain about one thing: there would still be jobs for people who do what I do: report, write, intrepret and edit the news.
I'm starting to think those futurists were right.