Rather than get an early start on the transition process, your community has worked like print journalists. Taking time to get it right, releasing nothing until it’s been proven. In a world where Wikipedia and Twitter and bloggers give us instant gratification, print reporters and old school IT pros say, “People can tell the difference between an apt enhancement and a new solution.”
The newest choices were not on our menus when we started our careers. Radio and TV told stories in chunks of 30 minutes or far less. News reports that could deliver insight surfaced on the pages of magazines, written weeks earlier, or in newspapers crafted by writers on long deadlines. That was the miracle of creating with slower tools: the sight of polished work rolling off trucks or streaming out of minicomputers onto terminals.
Before this becomes a bald paean to print and line-by-line programming, let me be clear. The superior tools of today create a better, richer life. But that’s most often true when they are used by seasoned craftsmen. On our May issue’s “inside back,” as we call pages 22-23, I preened a bit about the 1,000 blog articles now on our site. But each time I sit to write one of these, I express thanks for the ability to think fast and write tight, because print would permit us journalists to do nothing less. Maybe you feel the same way when you call on end-user interview skills or testing to deploy a helper app with Linux and open source.
Since we sent our February print issue into the mails, Denver has lost a 155-year-old newspaper and Detroit readers can’t pick a paper off their doorsteps four days a week. Print is perishing, little by little. But the demise of paper will be a very slow process, with steps as subtle as erasing pages from issues or printing smaller newspaper pages, like they’ve done in San Antonio’s paper. We like our paper. And people love computer solutions that just work, all the time, like that dial tone on the land-line phones.
Newspapers will leave us someday, but journalism will drive information as long as logic skills spark computing solutions. You can add all the Twitter follows, RSS feeds and cloud computing you want to your product. If you have nothing unique to offer, it won’t do the work of news. If the report doesn’t match the data, it might as well be a story. Imagination is served by youth, but going beyond data, to information, to knowledge, and finally arriving at wisdom — that demands a patient, print-like pace for information systems.
I feel proud to have survived in my craft long enough to see the negatives and plates of newspapers revered in State of Play, to say “I once heard presses in the back room creating a paper with my story on the front page.” The pride feels fine, but we must use our experience to embrace what’s improved even while we practice the fundamentals.
Your community is in a state of play this year and all through the next. Keep looking for those truths that the powers that be will try to avoid. Alternatives, be they transition timelines or bedrock solutions, offer essential value in challenging times.