Eric Newton on the Future of Journalism and Media

Eric Newton, Senior Adviser to the President of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, shed some insightful light on the future of journalism and media last night during the Cronkite School’s Must See Monday. His presentation was titled, “A history of the future of news: what 1767 tells us about 2100”. It outlined what his 35+ years of working and researching has taught him. There were four major points.

The first point is that realistically, no one knows what news will be like in the next 100 years. It will be a newly found digital age that we have yet to even wrap our mind around. He showed us a pattern that’s been happening in our society for quite some time: every 80 years there comes gigantic crises and also exponential awakenings. To demonstrate this pattern’s history to us, he used examples such as The Civil War, Third Great Awakening (major metropolitan newspapers starting), the Great Depression and World War II.

Second, and to me the most fascinating fact he pointed out all night, was the fact that according to his established and invested opinion, science fiction is doing a far better job at predicting the future of media than the experts are. Look at the cell phone, Star Trek was the first we ever saw that idea. And skype? Why, we saw that on The Jetsons! The new iPad was first thought of in the sci-fi movie phenomenon A Space Odyssey. Newton gave us two key roles of advice to follow, and one of them was to simply watch more science fiction.

Next, he really stressed that each generation grows up with a different form of media on the rise. These are undiscovered patterns – the forms of media we cannot predict. People in their 20s (he pointed to us, with a serious “pay attention now” look on his face), play key roles in inventing news media. The people of our age are going to be the ones that can adapt best to the new forms of news media (or media in general), and will be the generation that has to act quick when it comes time for the projected “WW3.0” and “WW4.0”, the two predicted World Wars in our future.

I was absolutely fascinated by the event put on by Eric Newton. It was easy to tell he was very well-respected, had a lot of experience, and had so much passion in the realm of what he was speaking about.

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