John Leo

The year is 2014. The press as we know it no longer exists. Traditional reporting has collapsed. News is churned out by the media giant Googlezon (Google has taken over many companies and joined forces with Amazon). The news consists of blogs, attitudes, discoveries, preferences, claims and random thoughts, gathered and shaped by computers and human editors, and fed back to ordinary people who produce the continuing conversation. The New York Times is off the Internet. It still publishes, but the newspaper has become a newsletter read only by the elite and the elderly.

    This is the finding of a clever eight-minute mock documentary, ?EPIC 2014,? produced some months ago by the fictional Museum of Media History (in reality, journalists  Matt Thompson of the Fresno Bee and Robin Sloan of Current, a new cable news channel in San Francisco).Thompson and Sloan recently added a short section taking the history up to 2015. This mockumentary is starting to reach a mass audience at a time of unusually high anxiety for the news industry. The news business has been hobbled by a string of scandals and credibility problems. Skirmishes between reporters and bloggers seem like the beginning of a long war between old media and new. Newspaper publishers are nervous?some would say paralyzed with fright?over polls showing that young adults are not reading papers.

Their audience is dying off. A lof of young people say they get their news on the wing from a brief look at headline news or from late-night comedians.

     Rupert Murdoch, speaking at the recent convention of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, advised the group to encourage their readers to use the Internet more as a supplement to print coverage He warned that newspapers risked being ?relegated to the status of also-rans? if they don?t make use of the Internet. Columnist Rick Brookhiser had a blunt comment in the New York Observer: Murdoch was just being polite--what he meant is that newspapers are dead. The older electronic media are nervous too. According to Advertising Age, Google and Yahoo will take in as much ad money this year as the prime-time revenues of the three major networks combined. Another sign of the times: Bloggers are now trying to set up a consortium to draw heavy advertising themselves.

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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