Kevin Slimp: A Blast from the Past. I still believe Upton Sinclair had it right

by Kevin Slimp

First published March 11, 2014

There was a time when I was one of the few national figures speaking and writing about the role of “converging media” in journalism. Folks like Rob Curley and I were spreading the word about the world beyond print.

I remember walking into a room, set up for maybe 200 folks, in New York in the early 2000s and watching the room fill to the brim. Publishers, editors and other journalists were sitting on the floor, standing against the outside walls and squeezing in wherever they could to hear me speak on the relatively new topic, “Converging Media and Newspapers.”

I knew it was an interesting topic, but I was surprised by the crowd. Surprised, that is, until a publisher sitting in the front row asked me a question just before I stepped up to the microphone.

“Are you going to tell us the same thing the luncheon speaker told us?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” was my response. “What did the luncheon speaker tell you?”

“He told us we’re all going to be out of business within five years if we don’t drop print and move everything online.”

I assured him that my presentation would be entirely different. My purpose was to show these industry leaders how to utilize digital tools to enhance their products, not replace them.

Fast forward a few years to 2008. While spending a day with the dean at a major school of journalism, I was surprised by a question early on. He explained he had spent the day before with the head of a major news bureau. In their conversations, I was told, the idea that there would be no printed newspapers left in the United States in ten years was posed. He asked what I thought.

My answer, “That may be the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” seemed to take him by surprise. “Why do you think that?” I remember him asking.

“Because if there’s not one newspaper left in the United States, I’m going to start one and make a fortune.”

He went on to explain that he agreed with his visitor from the day before. Printed newspapers would not exist, not one, ten years in the future.

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