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What the Future Holds

Dear Coach,

This question is on everyone's mind: Should we as young journalists be afraid of the future? Young reporters are being laid off right and left, even those with video and Web experience. It’s scary. What should we do? What do we have to look forward to? Where is the newspaper industry headed? -- Fearing the Future

Dear Fearing,

The journalist, author and teacher Hodding Carter III sums up your concerns this way: “This is the most creative time ever to be a journalist – if you are not in search of the past.”

Where’s it all heading? Nobody knows. Some of the best minds in journalism and future-think work night and day trying to figure it out. Whoever gets it right first will be rich.

In the meantime, this is a cyclical period of shakedown. Happens all the time, without fail, in times of great change and uncertainty. What is shaking down (and out) is the old: The traditional newspaper business model, newsroom structure, reporter and editor roles, the role of the reader/consumer/citizen, to say nothing of the traditional mode of delivery – i.e., hulking Sunday papers, stuffed with ads, on a truck.

I, for one, agree with those who say that the paper part of newspaper will one day be a nostalgic memory. But the news part -- and thus, the need for good journalism -- is more important than ever, given the complex world we inhabit.

News is as vital to a democracy as air is to a living being. What news looks like is changing as we speak. I urge you to look at Everyblock.com (http://www.everyblock.com/about/) as an example of how “news” and its delivery are changing.

As Adrian Holovatay, the “computer-programming journalist” and EveryBlock creator, says: “Isn’t news what appears on the front page of The New York Times? Isn’t news something produced by professional journalists? Well, it can be — and we include as much of that on EveryBlock as possible. But, in our minds, "news" at the neighborhood or block level means a lot more. On EveryBlock, ‘Somebody reviewed the new Italian restaurant down the street on Yelp’ is news. ‘Somebody took a photo of that cool house on your block and posted it to Flickr’ is news. ‘The NYPD posted its weekly crime report for your neighborhood’ is news.”

For other glimpses of what the future might hold, go to the Knight News Challenge winners Web site: http://www.newschallenge.org/winners/2008. Here you will find entrepreneurs solving problems by figuring out how to deliver news to communities in innovative ways using the latest technology.

Finally, remember: Communication has gone through numerous upheavals and revolutions, from the printing press in the 1440s, to the telegraph in the 1830s, to the personal computer in the 1970s and ’80s, to the digital revolution of the 1990s. Each shift caused great uncertainty. Each brought a shakedown. We have survived every time.

Embrace it. This is, as the Old Bard put so well so long ago, a Brave New World indeed!

About the column
Ask the Coach is updated regularly. Have a suggestion for a future column, contact Mary Ann Hogan.

Read Mary Ann Hogan's biography.

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Last updated: Monday, Oct. 20, 2014 | 17:08:08