Every newsroom should have its own seer. Not to predict the next breaking news story (that’s half the fun of being a journalist, surely?) but to foresee how the newspaper model will change and adapt in the future. Keeping a news title abreast of the latest technological and economic challenges is part and parcel of an editor’s role, and is a task that has been rendered all the more urgent over the past two decades as technological advances and a difficult economic climate.
Even without the services of an in-house sibyl, editors have long been second-guessing how content production, publication and delivery will evolve – sometimes with alarming success. The Kaiser memo, written in 1992 by then- managing editor of The Washington Post, Robert Kaiser, is startlingly accurate in many of its predictions. After being told of an impending digital revolution by leading lights in the world of technology, who spoke with certainty of a time when “the PC will be a virtual supercomputer, and the easy transmission and storage of large quantities of text, moving and still pictures, graphics,” Kaiser recommended that the Post get ahead of its competitors by designing “the world’s first electronic newspaper… with a series of ‘front pages’ and other devices that would guide readers the way our traditional cues do -- headlines, captions, story placement, etc.”