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Media in Transition
by Pat Hickey
ou could buy one from the newsboy, the newsstand or have it delivered to your home. And for those who still enjoy their printed word sitting at the kitchen table or somewhere else, that prerogative still exists.
But today, computers via the Internet have opened up a new world of personalized digital opportunities for a different kind of home delivery of your favorite publication. Computers have revolutionized the production, the delivery and even the content of written news. With the advent of networked systems, traditional publications have found they can go on-line on the information superhighway with new digital versions of their productopening up a vast array of journalistic possibilities. (Readers of Nevada Journal, for example, can check this publication out on www.npri.org).
Thirty years ago Marshall McLuhan saw dimly what was the future of mass media when he predicted that Xerox-type machines would make a publisher out of everyone. But even McLuhans visionary projections pale in comparison to the prospects the new technologies of cyberspace are providing millions of todays computer users.
The problem, noted by not only McLuhan but Christ, is how to pour "new wine into old wineskins." The contemporary challenge for media managers is how to impose the form of the old on the content of the new. Vintage wine is a treasure worth storing. So, too, is a good publication, in whatever wineskin its put.
Paul Saffo, research fellow at the Institute of the Future, writes of the positive synergy between traditional printed information and the new digitized ways of delivering news:
Only time will tell if digital publishing will one day rank along with the invention of writing and Gutenbergs printing press as a milestone revolution in mass communications.
Also, its no small step for print publications to veer off onto the information superhighway. The on-ramps themselves are daunting and costly. Electronic publishing requires significant reorganizing and a psychological shift on the part of publishers. Jerome Rubin, chairman of the Times Mirror Companys publishing group, correctly points out:
Owners and publishers need to be prepared to take calculated risks based upon a careful study of media trends. At the same time, they must guard against falling lazily behind, or leaping foolishly ahead in any misguided multimedia direction.
Still, all the readily available information can truly be overwhelming. Media managers can easily become mesmerized by technological illusions that may soon disappear in the face of consumer fickleness. At the same time, playing it safe to the point of being sorry could well be the death knell of a print industry already embedded in transition.
In the case of Nevada Journal, this publication is attempting to operate well in both the print and digital worlds. On NPRIs website youll find electronic copies of our past issues as well as computer links to other excellent policy organizations and national publications.
To print or not to print, is ultimately not the question. Providing reliable analysis of Nevada policy issues that you the reader can use is the best way to serve our reading public, however the future dictates we package it. NJ
Pat Hickey is a former Nevada assemblyman and former editor ofNevada Journal.