Only Yesterday

reporting on their own demise…

In 1981, KRON4 (of all people) ran the story embedded above.

It was about a radical new experiment.  A newspaper in San Francisco was putting its newspaper online.

As the story says, it was not going to read by a lot of people. Only 3-4,000 people in the San Francisco area even had a home computer.  500 had registered an interest in reading the paper online.

That story aired 28 years ago, which is about right for the impact of a new technology to be felt.

Had you wandered over to the SF Examiner in 1981 and told them that these new computers and their green screens would one day destroy the entire newspaper industry, they would have told you that you were out of your mind. Yet sitting there, in the newsroom, like some kind of weird virus, was indeed the engine of the destruction of an entire 350 year old industry.

Go to any television newsroom and tell them the same thing, and they will probably react the same way the folks in the Examiner newsroom would have in 1981.

It’s just not possible.

It is.

And it is going to happen.

As surely as online publishing destroyed the entire business model for newspapers, online video which is just getting started now (a bit, but not much more advanced than online text was in 1981), is going to make the entire television news business model a museum piece.

Can television news operations prepare better for what is surely coming than newspapers did?

Don’t know.

Not sure anyone can.

It just requires too much letting go what is well-known and established.

When the Titanic had only just struck the iceberg, the ship’s architect, upon examining the damage, already knew that the ship was fated to sink to the bottom of the ocean.

For those on board the still stable ship, having dinner, dancing in the ballroom, the notion that they should take to the lifeboats (or maybe start building them) would have seemed ridiculous.


5 responses to “Only Yesterday

  1. back in those days the (UU)NET relied on printers – you didn’t read the articles on screen you read computer printouts. 1n 1981 a 100MB hard drive was enterprise class.

  2. What a depressing, frightening scenerio you paint for Television stations.

  3. Yes, but unfortunately I think it is also inevitable.

  4. After watching that video clip…. WOW. Don’t you love television news!

    That story captured the reality of what was happening, recorded it, preserved it, and now its being used as a historical artifact and resource! Very cool TV news report.

    Two quotes caught my ear:

    “We’re not in it for the money,” said David Cole.

    First mistake. Fatal mistake.

    Second quote about the ability to “copy and paste” information. ” The future of the type of interrogation an individual will give to the newspapers.”

    That’s a little hard to understand, but it nailed it on the head….


    That is what people have the ability to do… is make a decision for themselves on what they want to do, watch, be, etc… Viewers interrogate the “product” and now are turning away from newspapers…

    And yes, TV stations are vulnerable as well.

    But really, TV and newspapers are the same as apples and oranges. They are different products.

    That is one of the coolest videos I have seen, because of its historical importance.

  5. And I noticed only some of it was shot from a tripod. Some things at KRON never change.

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