INSIDE THE BELTWAY: In the future there will be a 20 hour work week, food in the form of tablets and no newspapers

For the past 50 years or so, visions of the future have occurred in what we used to call the press, written by scientists and pseudo-scientists, by experts in various fields and - once they had coined the word - by futurists.

For the past 50 years or so, visions of the future have occurred in what we used to call the press, written by scientists and pseudo-scientists, by experts in various fields and - once they had coined the word - by futurists.

For the past 50 years or so, visions of the future have occurred in

what we used to call the press, written by scientists and

pseudo-scientists, by experts in various fields and - once they had

coined the word - by futurists.



Now, as we approach the millennium, we can laugh at some of those

predictions, even as we may be missing some clear and ominous signs of

others.



First, the fanciful. Since my junior high days I could read and be told

what the world would be like in the year 2000. We would commute in

individual helicopters and the workweek would be down to 20 hours, so as

to allow plenty of time for educational recreation. Mealtimes would be

cut short (three nutritious pills a day would be sufficient), housing

would be communal and we would all (men and women) be clad in

pastel-colored togas.



We may have to wait a few hundred more years for all that, if indeed we

want it, but some things are creeping up on us, fast. Take a look,

considering our business, at the state of newspapers, whose number,

influence and revenues are decreasing rapidly. Recently, this has been

due to the influence of television, which rapidly eliminated the appeal

of afternoon papers, now able to be counted on the fingers of one

hand.



Television news - a glaring oxymoron - has now left newspapers with

hardly any news at all.



Thus, The Washington Post front page (August 30) contains no news

stories at all, except for a thumbsucker analyzing the voting turnout in

East Timor and a teaser sending the reader eagerly inside, to learn more

about the impact of a Mozart sonata on IQ test performance.



The New York Times’ page one is similarly bereft of news, save for a

report on vacations wrecked by Hurricane Dennis. But inside, the Times

has a vital tale to tell about the increasing decimation of the great

cash cow of American newspapers - the classified ads.



In a superbly reported business page article, Felicity Barringer traces

the past and presages the future decline in classified advertising -

sales of automobiles, residences and Help Wanted ads - under the

spreading impact of the Internet. People no longer circle, clip and

pursue promising employment leads, she observes; they instead use

computers at work to narrow the search.



Why look through all the car ads when the Internet will turn up a good

selection at the touch of a mouse? This represents serious erosion of a

source of more than 40% of newspaper advertising revenue.



Question: Can we take our laptops on the individual helicopter?



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