Editorial: The Force is Still Strong


As 2016 came to an end, I read plenty of trend pieces predicting what the journalism industry would look like this year. Trust and accountability seemed to be one of the biggest issues. How the media will report during the Trump presidency was another key factor. Mergers and acquisition deals, also a hot topic. And let’s not forget how digital platforms like Facebook and Snapchat continue to grow among users.

But what really caught my attention was the annual Tech Trends Report produced by the Future Today Institute. According to founder Amy Webb, the report is now in its 10th year and “focuses on mid-to late-stage emerging technologies that are on a growth trajectory.” The report isn’t light reading either—it features more than 150 trends across numerous industries. You can download the report at futuretodayinstitute.com/2017-tech-trends.

For the news, journalism, media, and publishing industry in 2017, the report indicated that key trend themes include artificial intelligence, recognition, digital frailty, accountability, video, mixed reality, security, privacy, Big Data, social payments, drones, automation, and internet mobs and trolls. Some of the items are new to the list; some are making a return. As I read through the list, I wondered how many newspapers are prepared to address these trends. Some media companies have already started experimenting with AI, social payments, and drones, but how soon will they become the norm? Whether you agree with their list or not, you absolutely have to pay special attention.

The Tech Trends Report is just one source of predicting the future of journalism. This month, we also wrote about what we consider will be the media disruptors of 2017. They include some of the items already discussed here, but I hope you will take a look at the story and let me know if these disruptors are good or bad for the industry.

Newspapers have had to deal with various disturbances for years, but what makes 2017 different? For one thing, we have a new president who took two months to hold a proper press conference after he was elected. Trump’s preferred way of communicating with the public seems to be with tweets rather than one-on-one with journalists. 2017 will also see the rise of real-time fact checking. Now that the public can receive its news anywhere, journalists will have to work even harder and faster to decipher through the lies to get to the truth. It’s still their jobs to report fairly and accurately.

Guess who else is joining them? Facebook. In a December interview, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg admitted his social network is a media company (although not a “traditional one”) and that it plays a big part in how news gets distributed. That same month, Facebook announced it was taking several precautions, such as developing easier ways to report hoaxes and using trusted third parties to fact-check stories, to prevent fake news from spreading. Who would have thought that a tech giant like Facebook (once and probably still seen as the biggest media disruptor) would want to work alongside “old media” companies toward a common goal of distributing correct information? I believe it’s a good start to this new era of news reporting.

As I write this editorial, the latest “Star Wars” movie, “Rogue One,” is still fresh in my mind—and it’s a perfect metaphor of where, I think, the newspaper industry is heading this year. “Rogue One” was about a small group of rebels going up against the must larger and much dominant empire. Before going into battle, one of the rebel leaders gives an inspirational speech to his small army: “Make 10 men feel like 100.” So, how about it? Let’s make 10 journalists feel like 100 because no matter how many disturbances occur within the force we call journalism, newspapers must prevail.

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