Thursday, August 18, 2016

The future. And how not to avoid it.

I love my job.

I love to write, and in this job, I get to write in what sometimes seems like dozens of channels. I get to write TV commercials, print ads, websites, banner ads, social tiles, tweets, speeches, and more.

But like many people who make their living with words and who care passionately about them, I worry. 

I worry about the future of words.

Most specifically, I worry about print. Especially the efficacy of print as an advertising medium in a world where it seems no one anymore reads an actual paper newspaper.

Last night, I walked east, to Eighth Avenue and The New York Times building, where I attended a panel discussion called "Journalism of the Future."

Given that title, I was hoping for a comprehensive look at various techniques on how to engage readers in the digital age. I was hoping for, maybe optimistically, some advice about changing reading habits.

What I got was a 90-minute POV on the Times' pioneering use of Virtual Reality in their paper. The panel, lead by Jake Silverstein, Editor in Chief of The New York Times Magazine, included Sam Dolnick, who's in charge of the Times' digital transformation, Jenna Pirog, who's journalism's first "Virtual Reality Editor," and Graham Roberts, a Senior Graphics Editor.

I've always been skeptical about virtual reality--I am a traditionalist by nature, and, as a reader of the Times for almost 50 years, I hold the traditions and the standards of the paper almost sacrosanct.

But the panel convinced me.

They could put you among refugees in South Sudan. They could bring you to Pluto--or to the Kabaa in Mecca. They could show you the place on the Mexican-American border where a border patrolman shot a Mexican kid to death through a chain link fence.

Virtual reality, to hear the Times' panel tell it, is essentially a word-less medium. Which worries me. But that doesn't mean it isn't backed by the standards of the Times and a certain writerly fastidiousness.

I, for one, will never hold a cardboard box to my face to consume my journalism. Like I said, I am no early-adopter.

But I left the Times' building last night at a little after 8PM, feeling that something new is happening, something big and important.

You can learn more about it here.

And you probably should.

No comments: