Taking a Look Back: The future of newspapers is found in its past.

Author:Gallagher, Tim
Position:Business of news

If we all had the gift of prescience, we would have: bought property along the California coast 60 years ago; purchased Apple stock in 1998 when it was $1 a share; and bet the Chicago Cubs would win the World Series in 2016.

But none of us--including those in the newspaper industry--have that gift. It is enlightening, however, to study the predictions we made about the industry over the past 20 years and see how those proposed solutions have held up.

It's 2000, and futurist Frank Feather predicted the top news sites of 2010:

* Knight Ridder.com

* USAToday.com

* WSJ.com

* WashingtonPost.com

* TheNewYorkTimes.com

That's not bad, but, of course, a lot has changed since 2010. Only the New York Times cracks the 2018 Top 5. The others in rank order are Yahoo! News, Google News, HuffPost and CNN.

Feather thought news content sites would rule, but that has not held up as aggregators own the top two spots. What if we had seen that coming and created our own newspaper industry aggregated site?

It's 2003. More than half the country has the internet at home. Journalism is stinging from the revelations that Jayson Blair of the New York Times has fabricated stories and quotes and plagiarized his work from other newspapers. There is no You Tube (introduced in 2005), no Twitter (2006) and no iPhone (2007), but a book called "TechTVs Catalog of Tomorrow" makes some correct predictions about where we would be in 15 years. (The book is a collection of essays by futurists, visionaries and technology commentators.) Matt Novak wrote about this in a 2013 Gizmodo article.

* Citizen journalism would be big and it would improve the quality of journalism. The Catalog describes a scenario in which an earthquake in South Korea is reported by video on a citizen's cellphone and transmitted to a blogger (although they still called them web logs). From there, collective activity adds a GPS overlay and several people add--and others correct--information and misinformation. "The collective efforts of a loosely joined group of amateurs can complement, and occasionally trump, the most powerful news media organizations."

* But even The Catalog knew that citizen journalism has its limits. "Quality is extremely varied, and insights are often couched in political rants and questionable rhetoric."

* "No single news organization can compete with huge wired communities. Perhaps they'll even put 'bloggers' in their employ." 2008-09

It's 2009 and the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on...

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