Seattle journalist finds his ‘remarkably prescient’ future-of-news memo from 1993


Veteran Seattle journalist Chuck Taylor writes about finding a 1,000-word future-of-newspapers memo that he wrote as a Seattle Times reporter in 1993. ( His blog post about the memo is from 2008; it was sent to me this week, on the 20th anniversary of the open World Wide Web.)

The memo, says Taylor, “predicts the demise of print, the use of mobile devices for information access, including video, and the likelihood that if newspapers didn’t seize the opportunity online, others would and might come to dominate journalism.”

What he wrote 20 years ago:

— “We have returned to the pamphlet journalism of the 18th Century. As never before, the people will be setting the civic agenda.”
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— “We are on the verge of a massive liberation from limitations that presently define for us what constitutes news.”

— “Space will not be a problem. Electronic newspapers will be capable of always offering users a hierarchy of options for every story or topic — from headlines to capsules, full-blown stories, transcripts, encyclopedic background and biographies.”

— “The deadline will always be now because of electronic dissemination. Text journalists will need to react as broadcasters do today.”

— “Printing will become an anachronistic hobby-art form. Printed news media won’t immediately vanish. But they will languish as younger generations, bored by media that aren’t three-dimensional and interactive, shun comparatively unstimulating newspapers and magazines.”

UPDATE: I asked Taylor who, if anyone, received the memo. He writes in an email:

I’m quite certain I must have sent it to someone, probably via Atex message. I was a pain in the ass when it came to sounding the alarm about new tech. But I can’t verify that I sent it and I don’t recall the response.

In the early 1990s, the Seattle Times actually was pretty cognizant of the Internet and launched a very early text-only dial-in product, the name of which escapes me. I remember creating a Mac client for it using the telecom software application MicroPhone. I also remember getting pretty excited when the Mercury News launched on AOL. That seemed to be a real breakthrough, just before the Web was born.

I was totally into that stuff. Here’s a story I wrote around that time.

* A 1993 Seattle Times memo (seattleposttimes.typepad.com)
* Howard Weaver: The digital revolution I saw coming but didn’t do enough to prepare for (howardweaver.com)

Just for the heck of it, I did a search to see what I was doing online 20 years ago. What I found:

obscure

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