The Times 2085? (from 1985)

Thanks to my wonderful ex-colleague at The Birmingham Post, John Cranage, I have some fantastic Christmas reading to do in the form of The Times’ 200th Anniversary publication:

I’ve already had a flick through the 166-page annual from 1985 and the whole thing looks marvellous. However, there was one advertisement that stopped me in my tracks. It was from Ben Johnson Ltd. Back in 1985 it appears they were the colour printers for The Times. They used their advert to imagine just what the newspaper might look like by 2085:

This is the (non-advertising part of the) text:

What will your great great grandchildren be looking at in a hundred years from now to mark three centuries of The Times?

Will there even be a Times then? The need will still be there for the same objective reporting of contemporary events coupled with interpretation and comment. But will it appear daily in the form of black text and pictures printed on paper? Probably not. It may, for instance, appear on a hand-held screen with direct access to a news databank transmitting constantly up-dated text and pictures of selected subjects of interest to the individual reader.

The equivalentof this commemorative book may be a disk, a series of holograms harking back to the quaint old days of paper and ink or even, as an exercise in nostalgia, a genuine book.

iPhone Apps? Kindle? News aggregators? The semantic web? We’re only a quarter of the way to 2085 and – apart from perhaps the holograms – these are all perfectly practical suggestions for today. Giving away a book as a disc is actually a pretty outdated idea.

How fast we move.

And what are Ben Johnson doing today? Nearly 25-years on they are still in business as Ben Johnson Office Solutions providing “fully-supported office IT, print and document management solutions”.

How should we tech out a newsroom?

I’ve been thinking back over my job interview over the last few days and the skills I thought it was necessary for a multi-platform, multi-media journalist to have.

It got me thinking.

It’s all very well deciding how you want journalists of the future to think about producing stories, but what is the best envrionment in order to enable that to happen?

Last year Mark Glaser over at MediaShift outlined his vision of how a multimedia “new newsroom” (NNR) might operate.

He talks of journalists being platform agnostic – choosing different mediums dependant on the qualities of the story and community input.

Not every story would get the multimedia treatment. That determination might be made by editorial staff at the start of the story idea, or it could be made on the fly depending on what media comes in from the community. The important overriding credo is that NNR will deliver the news in whatever way the community craves and is economically feasible, including online video, audio, print, online, mobile, TV or radio. Each locality will decide what’s necessary to meet their needs.

This pretty much aligns to my idea of the newsroom of the future – not everyone will be able to create media on all platforms equally well, but they will all have a good idea of the pros and cons of each and how they benefit a story.

But understanding the benefits of multiple platforms needs someone to use these platforms regularly. Training only goes so far. If you do not use YouTube or Facebook, for example, how can you really understand how they can be used in story telling?

The same is true of different hardware. Learning how best to tell a story through a PC, may have some differences to communicating it via a Mac. And it will certainly be different to telling it via a Nokia mobile and different again on an iPhone.

But when a large organisation invests in IT, there is usually a bulk deal agreed to supply one particular type of technology to all staff.

This might lead to homogenous tech landscape in an office which, I think, may put journalists at a disadvantage when it comes to innovating.

So, what platforms should be made available to journalists in their newsrooms?

Well, being someone who LOVES gadgets and will also be working in newsrooms I am, of course, a bit bias.

I’d like to see an array of Macs and PCs, lots of podcasting tools, access to iPhones and other mobiles and (and here is where I might be going a bit too far) access to a range of gaming platforms.

I’d like to see newsrooms have Wiis!

And yes, ok, that might be so I can play Wii Sports during my lunchbreak. But gaming consoles are also no longer just for gaming – many people watch DVDs, listening to music and surf the Internet through them.

Perhaps it isn’t such a mad suggestion that journalists should be learning how people might experience their work over these platforms as well?

Regional News: The Future?

Media Guardian writes that Trinity Mirror has announced plans for a single, multimedia newsroom at its regional papers in Wales:

Under the new plan, each print title will retain an editor, who will be responsible for all electronic and print channels carrying his title’s brand.

Deputy editors – re-styled as executive editors – will oversee the hour-by-hour operation of the newsroom, working across all media.

I’ve also heard ten jobs will be lost as part of the changes, but I can’t find confirmation of this at the moment. Thoughts?

[Edit – here is a Press Gazette story about the redundancies. Thanks Martin.]