Beware the Flying Cars of Progress

"If you invest more in the newsroom, do you make more
money? The answer is yes. If you lower the amount of money spent in the
newsroom, then pretty soon the news product becomes so bad that you begin to
lose money."
Esther Thorson, Director of Research, Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, which for me is
especially disturbing since I only post a few times a month anyway. This would
be worse, of course, if I actually had readers – so no harm, no foul.

Nevertheless, the guilt of these blogless days weighed heavy
upon my soul. So many stories have come and gone, passing me by faster than
Sanjaya Malakar’s fame. Yet the demands of Powerpoint presentations, conference
calls, travel and listening to Gomes go on and on about Linux left no time for
me to add another grain of digital sand on the endless of beach of Person
Created Content (PCP for short – hmmm, on second thought, that’s perhaps not the best acronym.)

I thought about writing a long essay about the future of
journalism, or a 140 character Haiku about Twitter, or a witty satire about a
social media something. But the first option would take too long, the second
required too much creativity, and the last almost certainly would have been
taken too seriously by Shel Holtz. In the end, I decided to write about flying

When my sister was young – a long, long, long time ago – a
teacher told her that by time she was old enough to drive, everyone would have
a flying car. She did get a Ford Cobra II, but every time she tried to fly the
California Highway Patrol brought her back to Earth.

I heard the same thing when I was young, but my Chevy
Cavalier often never moved, much less flew. And just the other day, a friend’s
eight-year-old daughter echoed the generational promise: “When I get older, everyone will have a flying

There’s nothing wrong with dreams – but if your head is
always in the clouds it become hard to see the way forward. Put another way, I’m
all for chasing the next new thing, whether it’s viral video, micro blogging,
widget mania or any number of technological advances that are the “flying cars”
of the social media age. But none of these tools replace the need for
intelligent storytelling, critical thinking or core communications skills.

For example, in many newsrooms today, reporters are now
required to shoot video or maintain blogs as part of their reporting duties.
Yet shooting video alone doesn’t necessarily make for better journalism. In
fact, a study out of the University of Missouri shows that
investing in well-trained journalists increases newspaper circulation – I’m not
sure the same would be true for investing in DV cams.

So beware the flying cars of progress. Don’t let the
promises of the future betray your responsibilities to the present. Technology
can’t help you if you don’t have anything to say.

One thought on “Beware the Flying Cars of Progress

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