There are very few things in life that are constant. Developments in science and technology happen all the time. New news headlines are printed every day. At least for now.

Print journalism feels like somewhat of a novelty these days, but 35 years ago digital versions of the newspaper were just starting to appear. Early reports on the changing landscape of news reporting, and more specifically consumption, envisioned big things to come.

In 1981, KRON in San Francisco reported on an “experiment” that news organizations were trying. That experiment was the beginning of digital news. By calling a number on the phone, readers could download a digital copy of the news to their home computer. The two-hour download time and the high cost associated with such a long phone call made the digital copy of the news impractical.

By 1994, the optimistic future of journalism was coming more into view. Coming out of the Knight-Ridder Information Design Lab was the vision of a portable tablet newspaper. The people at Knight-Ridder didn’t get everything right about the future, but they touched on some important areas.

Clearly, their focus was on the development of how the news would be delivered to consumers and how consumers would interact with the new medium. Though, they were correct in the thinking that the future would bring new ways in which readers could interact with their “newspaper,” the conception that the news itself would change as a result of rising technology was not directly addressed.

The interactive media that the tablet would be introducing to the masses included features like the ability to watch video clips in slow motion and to get a more in-depth look at a map. In the relationship between what journalists are writing and how consumers are reading, the proposal for the tablet reader looked more closely at the latter question: how are consumers reading the news and how will that change?

What about how journalists are writing the news and how that has changed? I would argue that the advancements in technology, and more specifically the availability of immense collections of data, has contributed tremendously to the value of news today beyond the vessel that delivers it.

This video from 2004 (updated in 2005) attempted to look at how technological advancements would impact information sharing in the future, and it got much closer to the ways in which the news itself would evolve.

The creators of the video envisioned a world in which the news would be collected by everybody and curated by large corporations. Though the ultimate vision that they had was pessimistic overall, it brought up the idea that news gathering itself was bound to change. Information is coming from all members of society and news is being reported on by all members of society, not just the journalists.

Data and technology are changing the world and as the world changes, journalists are adapting and learning to report on it in new ways.


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