December 3rd, 2012
In 2004 a short video about “the future of news” laid out a pathway that has proven to be chillingly accurate. The 8 minute piece ends with saying by 2014 the NY Times will have been relegated to being little more than, “a print-only newsletter for the elite and the elderly.” Another round of “buyouts” there, suggests the prediction remains on track.
EPIC 2014 predicted the merger of Google and Amazon into Googlezon, which of course hasn’t happened, but the Big Brother spirit of the internet continues unabated.
THE FUTURE OF THE NEWS
This is a fitting topic for my 250th essay here. This will be short because I’m in Colorado all week running our S Team Storytelling Workshops with the National Park Service staff (then at Florida State next week doing the same).
I was deeply struck in 2005 when I first viewed the 8 minute EPIC 2014 video created by two producers as a critique of the news industry. I mentioned it in my book. It opens with an authoritative graphic saying it is a production of The Museum of Media History. As if such an institution exists. It took me a while to realize it doesn’t. Very clever.
I learned about it in late 2006 when Michael Hirschorn of The Atlantic ran a great article about how the producers debuted the piece at a gathering of top newspaper editors at the (real) Museum of Television and Radio in 2005. The article said the newspaper people, who had spent the previous few years horrified at the potential threats to the future of their institution, had finally developed the feeling that the worst was over — that newspapers and the internet had settled into a pathway of compatibility. Only to have this little video say nope, the future is actually worse than you feared.
At the time of Hirschorn’s 2006 article the NY Times had just announced plans to cut 1,000 jobs in the next two years. It’s 6 years later and the trend continues with today the NY Times announcing another round of downsizing.
It’s pretty ominous and true. Listen to the end of EPIC 2014 as they hit the “decline of intelligent media” nail on the head:
“At it’s best, edited for the savviest readers, EPIC is a summary of the world, deeper, broader and more nuanced than anything available before. But at it’s worst, and for too many, EPIC is merely a collection of trivia, much of it untrue, all of it narrow, shallow and sensational. But EPIC is what we wanted. It is what we chose.”
It’s that last line that is so haunting — it is what we wanted and what we chose. Truly.