Part 1: Some sci-fi visions of news
From the comic to the serious, science fiction offers glimpses of possible futures for news and the practice of journalism. ... Many sci-fi creators seem to think that the newspaper will survive long into the future. They must be joking.
- In the comic science-fiction film Back to the Future II (1989), Marty McFly goes forward in time to 2015 (then back to 1955). The movie's vision of 2015 includes flying cars, hoverboards, and head-mounted display goggles, but printed newspapers are still around. As you'll see as we go on, the printed newspaper seems to be revered, since it shows up even centuries in the future.
- This is George Jetson reading the newspaper on his Televiewer, on an episode of the animated cartoon The Jetsons (1962-64). Since George is living in 2062, it's amusing to think that newspapers still exist, with the same print format and design but on a screen. It's understandable how 1960s writers might think bigger TV screens are the future; but why would they want future humans to squint to read tiny text on-screen?!
- From The Jetsons' 1980 TV remake: Well, look at that. The Jetsons imagined the 3-D food printer (coming to your home kitchen soon)! I'll take a guess and suggest that George Jetson's printed newspaper came from his home printer, rather than by a rocket-bike riding newspaper carrier. Still, print editions in the 2060s? Not probable.
- Seriously? In the critically acclaimed Battlestar Galactica TV series (2004-09), again we see a newspaper: The News-Review, again probably printed on board the Fleet spaceships. Oddly, "The newspaper is not a daily, but instead printed and released at different points during the week," according to the Battlestar Wiki. Editions? Well, that's probably because constant data communication with the Fleet vessels could tip off those crafty Cylons to the Fleet's location. In BG's era of advanced space technology, the best news innovation we get is newspapers with clipped corners. (Still, the latest BG was great sci-fi!)
- In the Babylon 5 TV space opera (1995), again we get newspapers in space. The timeframe is 2257-2262, and in the image above we see characters Delenn and John Sheridan getting the latest copy of Universe Today from the ship's automatic printing machine. (Newspapers can be personalized, and the printer recycles the paper after it's read to produce an updated edition.) Sample headline: “Pros & Cons of Inter-Species Mating.” ... Likelihood of future printing in space? Newspapers: 0.001%; 3D printed objects and materials: 99.9%.
- Here's what reading the news looks like in Minority Report, the 2002 Tom Cruise sci-fi blockbuster. The year is 2054, and in this scene we see a transit commuter reading ... a newspaper?! Actually, it's what today we'd call an "e-paper," since its content is updated wirelessly. If the reader in this clip looks above his digital paper-like USA Today after the top story has updated, he'll see Cruise's character sitting a few feet away. Minority Report did predict some technologies that are here now or are coming soon, such as driverless cars and personalized billboards and video ads. E-paper likely will evolve to work as well as in the scene above. But e-newspapers the same size as traditional broadsheet newspapers? Impractical (especially on public transit!) and unlikely. And will the news 40 years from now stil be presented in traditional newspaper design? Again, not bloody likely.
- The Harry Potter books and movies are fantasy, not science fiction, but they're worth including in this list nevertheless. Above we have the Daily Prophet, the wizarding community's newspaper, which looks like an early 20th Century publication, except for images which are moving. Reference the Minority Report item above and imagine an e-newspaper or e-magazine with on-demand video and looping animations, a la today's animated GIFs and short-repeat videos made with Vine or Hyperlapse. (But I really think the future of news design will break away from the old look.)
- Remember 2001 A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick's 1968 sci-fi film masterpiece and accompanying Arthur C. Clarke novel? At least the director and author didn't put printed newspapers on the mission to Jupiter. Instead, decades before the iPad, Space Odyssey astronauts used Newspads, which had many uses including watching TV news reports (although the "BBC 12" news report in the video above looks like one from the 20th Century) and reading headlines from any "newspaper" published on planet Earth. Clarke envisioned Newspads receiving content transmitted from satellites, such as the latest news from newspapers and news syndicates. Clarke was amazingly prescient about the future, for a guy writing in the late 1960s. Here's an except from the novel about Newspad, written in 1968:
- "Floyd sometimes wondered if the Newspad, and the fantastic technology behind it, was the last word in man's quest for perfect communications. Here he was, far out in space, speeding away from Earth at thousands of miles an hour, yet in a few milliseconds he could see the headlines of any newspaper he pleased. (That very word "newspaper," of course, was an anachronistic hangover into the age of electronics.) The text was updated automatically on every hour; even if one read only the English versions, one could spend an entire lifetime doing nothing but absorbing the ever-changing flow of information from the news satellites.
"It was hard to imagine how the system could be improved or made more convenient. But sooner or later, Floyd guessed, it would pass away, to be replaced by something as unimaginable as the Newspad itself would have been to Caxton or Gutenberg."