Reality Check For the Paper World

These days, gasoline prices aren’t the only thing hitting all-time highs.

Newsprint.

Seriously, do you think this stuff…grows on trees?

Well, okay, maybe it does, but at $625 per metric ton, every inch costs real live money.

Meanwhile, the machines of progress are pushing toward real live e-paper and e-ink.

[UPDATE: Siemens shows off e-paper ready for newspaper and magazine use this week in Frankfurt.]

In my lifetime, for sure, no questions asked, we’ll walk around with a digital screen rolled up in our pocket or under our arm. We’ll run down the stairs to catch the F Train, slide between the doors, wedge ourselves betweeen a few well-perfumed fellow commuters, and snap open our digital newspaper. It’ll bring us text, images, video, and perhaps audio if we bother to put our bluetooth headphones on, but we’ll probably all have those tuned in to our iPods anyway. (Yeah, some things won’t change.)

In this future (ours, soon), wireless Internet access will be everywhere, constant. Your deadline, as a journalist, is Always. The newspaper, television, and radio have all become mobile.

Then again, I’ve complained before that this is a completely elitist, classist deal, unless the access is free and the e-paper is cheap. Hence, my usual disclaimer, that no matter how many suits do the digital NY Times Crossword with a stylus on the F Train, there will still be a whole mess of blue collar folks at the other end of the car with the real-paper NY Post, at 50 cents a pop (and still losing money).

So. What do you think of this future? What skills do journalists need to have in order to be prepared for this future? Let’s take as a given the usual litany of journalistic principles and practices. (Keep teaching those, please.) What’s next on the list of must-teach, must-learn information to survive in a newspaper industry where the elite papers in the world publish only digital editions, accessible anywhere?

[tags]journalism, j-school, singularity[/tags]