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
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
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
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?