TProfessors of ForesightU: Finding a Place for the Future in Journalism
Richard Somerville, doctoral candidate, University of Missouri
10A Neff Hall, School of Journalism, Columbia, MO 65211
Phone: (573) 443-3493; fax: (573) 882-5702
E-mail: [log in to unmask]
A paper submitted to the Graduate Eduction Interest Group for the annual
conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass
Communication, Aug. 4-7, 1999, in New Orleans, La.
TProfessors of ForesightU: Finding a Place for the Future in Journalism
Abstract: The study of the future has grown into a valued tool for business
planners, government and non-government organizations, and many areas of the
social sciences. Yet despite the need for reporters and editors who can inject
foresight into the news -- and despite studies showing that Rfutures thinkingS
not only can be a useful tool for journalists in a rapidly changing world, but a
vital one -- the use of futures studies in the teaching of journalism and mass
communications is found to be an underused resource.
TProfessors of ForesightU: Finding a Place for the Future in Journalism
As the digital revolution washes over the news media industries, journalism
professionals as well as educators are trying to keep their heads above water by
trying to meet the needs of a new paradigm. Newspapers have developed Web sites,
embraced Rpublic journalism,S experimented with reporting teams or launched
studies on ways to regain lost credibility. Meanwhile, broadcasters have formed
cable and online alliances, expanded Rtabloid journalismS and broadened cults of
In education, programs of journalism and mass communication have sought to keep
pace with change in the same way they have since early this century: new skills
courses in computer use, Web design, online reporting and new-media-oriented
integrated marketing. What is being overlooked, however, is teaching student
journalists ways to be ready for change itself.
In a recent Columbia Journalism Review poll of senior journalists, a third of
them said the quality of people entering the field is worse than 10 years ago.
The reason, most said, wasnUt the lack of technical knowledge. In fact, todayUs
recruits were said to be much more skilled in gathering and sorting of
information. But a common theme of the survey was that the newcomers do not have
a basic grasp of history, public affairs and economic issues. More than half of
the respondents said it was Rharder than everS to find talented new journalists,
with many recruits having weak analytical and problem-solving abilities, or
lacking the ability to recognize a good story (Hickey, 1999).
Media critic Jon Katz, a First Amendment scholar at the Freedom Forum, has
observed that Rjournalism has been asleep at the switches. This is not simply a
story about technology, but itUs a revolutionary change in society and culture
and architecture of the world (Kees, 1999).S Newspaper executive Frank Batten
Sr. has warned that Rwe need people in our organizations who are innovators --
people who will stick their necks out and take risks (Batten, 1998).S
But where can mass communications programs turn to for training that fosters
this innovative journalist? The answer may lie in a field that, even more than
journalism, has been on the fringes of academia: futures studies. In a 1932 BBC
broadcast, British writer H. G. Wells broached the same idea:
It seems an odd thing to me that though we have thousands and thousands of
professors and hundreds of thousands of students working on the records of the
past, there is not a single person anywhere who takes a whole-time job of
estimating the future consequences of new inventions and devices. There is not a
single Professor of Foresight in the world. But why shouldnUt there be? All
these things, these new inventions and new powers, come crowding along; every
one is fraught with consequences, and yet it is only after something has hit us
hard that we set about dealing with it (Wells, 1987).
In the decades of the 1960s and 1970s, two fields seemed destined to be joined
together in leading democratic societiesU version of the Great Leap Forward: the
modern field of futures studies and an aggressive Rnew journalism,S imbued with
a freshened mission to be the watchdog and agenda-setter for a chaotic, changing
world. Newly minted RfuturistsS developed creative foresight research
methodologies while founding independent institutes and setting up
futures-oriented university courses -- with an eye to the creation of a whole
new transdisciplinary academic field. In the U.S., as states set up Rcommissions
on the year 2000S -- heavily covered and in some cases even facilitated by
newspapers -- news organizations and journalism schools conducted intensive
studies to chart their roles for the future.
Thirty years later, as we approach the millennium, and the implications of
Alvin TofflerUs Future Shock (1971) have become clear, futures studies has grown
into a valued tool for strategic business planners, government and
non-government organizations, and many areas of the social sciences. Yet despite
the need for reporters and editors who can inject more foresight into the news,
the growth of futures-oriented journalism curricula seems to be dead in the
water, if not in retreat.
An online search was made in early 1999 of course schedules of American schools
of journalism and communications with graduate programs. While schools are
beginning to offer a range of courses in the uses of Rnew mediaS and computer
software tools, none were found that are dedicated to envisioning the forces
shaping the news media in the 21st century and to developing ways for
journalists to use foresight methods P not only in understanding the new
information field and their role in it, but to better serve societyUs need for
context in coping with dramatic and disruptive change.
For Everette Dennis (1997), who as dean of the University of Oregon School of
Journalism in 1984 helped create The Oregon Report on curriculum change, this is
not surprising. RWe have moved from utopianism to fear of the negative
consequences of the future,S Dennis has said. RWe are not being very thoughtful
about change. There is a profound backlash now in opposition to change --
The purpose of this paper is to offer an overview of futures studies, to
outline aspects of foresight that have direct benefits for the field of
journalism, to show that news practitioners and educators alike have recognized
a need for futures thinking, and to explore the reasons for the seeming neglect
of foresight courses in the curriculum.
Roots of Futures Studies
While a comprehensive history of futures studies and the depth of its
methodology is beyond the scope of this review, a basic understanding is
necessary lest it be misunderstood as being on the level of fortune-telling. In
his definitive overview, The Study of the Future (1977), Edward Cornish, founder
of the World Futures Society, has charted the roots to such works as Thomas
MoreUs Utopia in the 16th century, Sir Francis BaconUs New Atlantis a century
later, and Jules VerneUs Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in 1870 (p.
But the modern concept of futures analysis is generally acknowledged to have
had its birth in 1948, when the RAND Corporation for national security studies
was established with the financial backing of the Ford Foundation. As the first
relatively independent Rthink tank,S free to speculate on a host of Rway outS
ideas, RAND indirectly gave birth to a host of other futurist organizations such
as Herman KahnUs Hudson Institute (Cornish, p. 84). By the 1960s, RAND
researchers had added non-military projects to their agenda and developed the
methods of scenario-building, computer simulations, technological forecasting,
the Delphi technique and systems analysis (Bell, 1996, p. 7). Meanwhile, In
Europe, former French journalist Bertrand de Jouvenel used Ford Foundation money
to launch a project in 1960 called Futuribles. His now-classic work, The Art of
Conjecture (1964), provided a philosophical and humanistic counterbalance to the
science-based futurists at RAND. Also in 1964, Marshall McLuhanUs Understanding
Media opened the door to new ways of thinking about media effects on culture and
In the best-selling Future Shock by Toffler (another former journalist) sparked
a wave of national interest in futurism that was bolstered by The Limits to
Growth (1972). This book that helped spawn the modern environmentalist movement
was the first and most influential report by the Club of Rome, an organization
founded by Italian industrialist Aurelio Peccei and Alexander King, who was then
director for science, technology and education at the Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development. Using global computer models, the authors of The
Limits to Growth ignited an international uproar with fears that, unless changes
were made, both population and industrial growth would halt in the next century
at the latest (Bell 1997, p. 40).
Another futurist pioneer whose name will be familiar to mass communications
researchers is political scientist Harold Lasswell, who developed theories of
propaganda and public opinion formation in the 1920s and 1930s (RWho says what
to whom through what medium with what effect?S). (Baran & Davis, 1995, p.
67-69). Wendell Bell of Yale, an early sociological futurist himself, has
credited Lasswell with laying the groundwork for establish futures studies as a
research discipline with an intellectual investigation process he called
Rdevelopmental analysisS (Bell 1997, p. 49-50).
Trying to Define Futures Studies
What exactly is futures studies? Bell has pointed out in his two-volume
Foundations of Futures Studies (1997) that even what to call this
cross-disciplinary field is a matter of debate. Nothing that the Americans
prefer Rfutures studiesS while Europeans have a liking for Rprospective
studies,S Bell has said other votes have been cast for futures research, futures
analysis, futuristics, forecasting, futurology, prognostics, futurics and
futuribles (p. 68-70). Nevertheless, Bell has outlined the major tasks of
futures studies with which most futurists would agree: The study of RpossibleS
and RprobableS futures, not only what is but what could be under specified
contingencies; the study of images of the future that people use to try to adapt
to what they envision; the study of the knowledge and ethical foundations of
futures studies; interpreting the past and orienting the present; integrating
knowledge and values for designing social action; increasing democratic
participation in designing the future; and communicating and advocating
particular images of the future (pp. 75-96).
And where, the reader may be asking, are the predictions? Certainly, such
practitioners such as faith Popcorn or John RMegatrendsS Naisbitt may lead one
to conclude that the main function of futurists is to make predictions. But
Richard Slaughter, founder of the Futures Studies Centre in Australia, argues
that futures people take a risk when they try to foretell events. In The
Foresight Principle (1995), he has noted:
Predictions have been widely misunderstood, but they have two key uses. First,
they can be applied to technical or physical systems which can be measured and
understood. . . . Second, predictions play a ubiquitous and informal role in
Social systems are just too complex to be approached in this way. . . .
Furthermore, any successful social predictions would logically rule out the
active role of human beings as agents and creators of history. If accurate
prediction were possible, there would be no choices and hence no point in
futures study (p. 31).
Slaughter has argued that the whole point of futures studies Ris not to predict
but to understand alternatives. This understanding provides a decision context
from which emerge options and choices (p. 33).S
Futures Studies and Journalism
It would be hard to scan BellUs tasks of futures studies and not find close
agreement with the tenets of journalism, both the libertarian and communitarian
models. Even No. 9 -- where the reference to advocacy may raise the hackles of
the traditional journalist who is antagonistic toward Rcivic journalismS -- can
find common ground with the long-time agenda-setting role given to the newspaper
Those familiar with the watershed work, Four Theories of the Press (1963), will
recognize echoes of BellUs list in Ted PetersonUs description of the first three
of what he has called the six tasks of the press under both the social
responsibility and libertarian theories:
(1) Servicing the political system by providing information, discussion and
debate on public affairs; (2) enlightening the public so as to make it capable
of self-government; (3) safeguarding the rights of the individual by serving as
a watchdog against government; (4) servicing the economic system . . .; (5)
providing entertainment; (6) maintaining its own financial self-sufficiency so
as to be free from the pressures of special interests. (p. 74).
Likewise, the Hutchins CommissionUs 1947 list of requirements for a free and
responsible press seems to embrace foresight values in the call for Rvigorous
editorial leadership, by presenting and clarifying the goals and values of
Edmund Lambeth, in Committed Journalism (1986), has quoted John Hughes, former
editor of the Christian Science Monitor, as declaring that Ra newspaper must
come up with the facts, the ideas, the alternatives, on which solutions to
problems can be based (p. 131).S In making a case for Rcommunity journalism,S
Lambeth has pointed out that Ra just society is one in which the well-being of
many depends on equitable public and private judgments reached over a broad
expanse of human activity . . . . Failure by the press to develop the competence
to cover such fields is itself a breach of responsibility (p. 177).S
On the other side of the debate, John C. Merrill, LambethUs colleague at the
University of Missouri and a long-time advocate for the libertarian perspective,
in The Imperative of Freedom (1974) has expressed disagreement with former
Nieman Fellows curator Louis Lyons regarding the need for journalists with a
capacity to learn -- who can Rdiscover what is outside our reach and . . . bring
it within our ken.S Unfortunately, according to Merrill, journalism education
generally Ris becoming more and more specialized, inward, parochial and
conformist (p. 141.)S
A Journalism Values Handbook (1996) produced by the American Society of
Newspaper Editors examined in detail those core values that it said must be
reinvigorated in order for newspapers Rto find their way back to a respected
place in a community.S The report called for coverage that provides background,
context and perspective; that frames and illuminates important issues; and that
stimulates discussion about public concerns and helps people see possibilities
for moving forward (p. 7).S
Michael Schudson, in The Power of News (1995), has observed that Walter
LippmannUs gloomy view of democracy would have Ra government at one end, a mass
of citizens at the other end, and nothing in between except perhaps the press as
a conduit of information.S Such RrealisticS democratic pictures, Schudson has
said, seem to close off any concept of change. He would have the news media
assume a kind of schizophrenia: to Ract as if classical democracy were within
reach and simultaneously to work as if a large, informed and involved electorate
were not possible.S In one case, the media can help readers arrive at a
political understanding that shows the range of thinking and the areas of
compromise. And even in the cases where an involved electorate does not exist,
journalists can act as stand-ins, holding authority responsible to publicly
agreed-upon goals (p. 211-223).
From these perspectives, then, it can be seen that foresight skills uphold the
highest aspirations of journalism as public service. But even in the area of
modern media management, where top newsroom directors have taken roles in
shaping marketing and profit strategies, futures-thinking is a vital tool. In
The Future of Management (1996), French business executive Robert Salmon has
noted the decline of analytical reasoning -- that the more knowledge expands,
the more we must acquire a variety of viewpoints, use alternative conceptual
tools and enlarge the scope of our consciousness:
The future belongs to those who are able to shift from analysis to synthetic
vision, from conceptual reasoning to polysemous intelligence, and who master the
skills of systemic thinking. Such a logic of the totality views all phenomena as
the result of interacting networks of independent structures. It implies not
only an interdisciplinary approach, but also a revolution in mental frameworks
through which the individual begins to consider himself an integral part of a
whole rather than an autonomous element (p. 172-174).
Assessing a Role for Foresight in Journalism Education
Futures studies most often have come into use at journalism and communications
schools as ways to analyze curriculum revision. In 1979, the faculty at the
University of Missouri produced a comprehensive report that included not only a
wide-ranging scan of information on the future of the field, but also a survey
of experts from inside and outside journalism. The Report of the Communications
Future Committee, in which the authors shrugged at the Rlimits of reliability of
any predictions of social or economic trends,S seems nearly 20 years later to
have been perceptively on target (p. 19).
Several respondents pointed toward futures thinking as crucial elements for
journalism education. Roger DUAprix, then manager of employee communications for
Xerox, urged communicators to see themselves as agents of change, Rsensitive to
societyUs new directions and what this means to their organizationUs future.S
Nicholas Rudd of the Young & Rubicam advertising agency advised the committee:
RIf you believe Alvin Toffler, and in this business we do, [the ability to learn
how to learn] will become increasingly important in dealing with the accelerated
pace of change.S Lee Hills, editorial chairman of Knight Ridder Newspapers,
noted that Rmost journalism schools prepare their students to operate under
conditions that existed in the last decade,S but they Rshould be helping
students now to understand those complex issues that are sure to be critical
ones in the decades ahead (p. 4-70).S
A more widely circulated project was the University of OregonUs Planning for
Curricular Change in Journalism Education (1984), known as The Oregon Report.
Spotlighting the bland sameness of the programs at journalism schools, the
report noted a lack of willingness to Rgrapple with either the conceptual or
practical ramifications of an information society.S it called for the
integration of new knowledge from the worlds of scholarship and professional
practice into the course of study, and for recognition of and action on
technological change in industry and society (p. 33-89).
More recently, in Winds of Change: Challenges Confronting Journalism Education
(1996), a comprehensive study funded by the Freedom Forum, Betty Medsger has
described journalism education as going through a profound identity crisis. The
former chair of the journalism department at San Francisco State University has
offered a detailed formula for RrescuingS journalism education. Included in her
list of recommendations: RTeach in ways that help students develop as
problem-spotters of the issues of both the society they will cover and the
profession they will enter. Teach them to be constant explorers beyond the world
of their own experience, knowledge, interest and comfort . . . Prepare students
to . . . anticipate and experiment with new methods. Prepare them to be
innovative thinkers and planners about the larger issues that affect journalism
In a Scholastic Update article charting the future of education, William
McGowan (1994) has quoted futurist Toffler as calling for a massive overhaul of
the industrial-based education system in order to teach young people how to be
adaptable. RHaving a skills is not the key to the game anymore; it is having the
right skill at the right time, which is more complex.S In the same article,
Wired magazine executive editor Kevin Kelly expanded on TofflerUs view: RThe
skill to develop will be the ability to be at ease in a changing environment. .
. . The only master left is the master explorer, the master learner, who can
master the ability to keep up with new things.S
The University of MissouriUs Lambeth (1993), who is director of the National
Workshop on the Teaching of Ethics in the Classroom, has written that Rsocial,
economic and technological changes are now sweeping the nation in ways that
force us to rethink the way we introduce mass media to our students. Often
depending on their disciplines, academics are either fomenters, mediators,
critics of, or recluses from, such change. The later would be the more dangerous
course for journalism education (p. 18).S
Alexander King (1975), one of the founders of the futurist Club of Rome, facing
the question of whether futures studies is a suitable subject for academia, has
said that the answer
R. . . seems to be to be very simple. If, as I believe is true, the universities
are essential innovators in society through the development of new concepts and
methods of thought, they can hardly avoid taking up the challenge of exploration
of the future which is being forced upon us by the exigencies of our times (p.
Toffler, Bell and political scientist James Dator began teaching courses in the
future in the mid-1960s, and now there are classes at elementary and high
schools. At the university level, there are entire graduate programs in futures
studies. More than 100 periodicals are dedicated to serious futures topics;
associations of futurists can be found around the world; nearly all major
corporations have some formal system of technological forecasting or long-range
planning; and hundreds of consulting futurists are in high demand for speaking
and for applied futures research (Bell 1997, p. 61).
In the news industry, the McCormick Tribune FoundationUs Future of Journalism
initiative is helping to find visionary programs through such organizations as
New Directions for News and the Radio and Television News Directors Foundation.
Future-oriented projects also are being sponsored by such organizations as the
Pew Center for the Public and the Press, the Poynter Institute for Media Studies
and the Freedom ForumUs Media Studies Center. Amid this apparently strong
interest in develop ways to understand and cope with change, the dearth of
foresight courses in journalism and mass communications schools becomes even
A Search for RProfessors of ForesightS
While there are many journalism educators who have an interest in the wider
systemic implications of societal change as it relates to the field, and even
mix some into their new media, ethics or media and society courses, focused
efforts to create KellyUs Rmaster explorerS are hard to find. In a typical
application, students in the introductory graduate course in mass communications
theory at the University of Missouri read Nicholas NegroponteUs Being Digital,
discuss the implications for journalism and write a one-page reflection paper
imagining a media world of the future. At the University of North Texas, the
mass communications survey course includes a session on RMass Media Tomorrow.S
Such nibbles are better than nothing, but donUt go far in satisfying the news
practitionerUs need for foresight skills.
RThere is a module here and there, but itUs pretty thin,S Dennis (1997) -- who
as former head of the Freedom ForumUs Media Studies Center was able to observe
many journalism programs -- has said. He has recalled being a young professor at
Kansas State University during the birth of the futures movement in the 1960s.
RThere was a wave of interest in futures courses in that period, but as we count
down to the millennium, what interest there is today is more negative than
hopeful. Thought about adaptation and change is almost all based on the negative
history of technology and the writings of fanciful futurists.S
Dennis has seen Ran almost virulent anti-intellectualism in the field right now
-- a craving for an industry as it exists today, and a desperate attempt to find
new markets for old technologies.S Noting that innovative research and
development has almost no home in journalism and most journalism schools, Dennis
has observed that Rcurriculum is determined by politics, ideology and grounded
reasoning. ItUs getting little support from an industry that shuns R&D
incubators because it doesnUt have the patience to wait for a payoff. The result
often is cutbacks and consolidations at universities, and the hanging onto old
courses.S Dennis, now at Fordham UniversityUs Graduate School of Business, has
looked toward business schools as likelier homes for futures studies: RTheyUre
doing serious work with market trends and demographics.S
R. Dean Mills (1997), dean of the University of Missouri School of Journalism,
has agreed, pointing to the launching of the Center for the Study of
Organizational Change within MissouriUs School of Public Administration. Mills
has said that Rwith the limits on what we can do with our curriculum, we are
focusing on the impact of the new technologies, and to how they are related to
work in journalism.S Nevertheless, the faculty at Missouri has approved the
teaching of an experimental course, RJournalism and the Future,S that is to
include an exploration of the transformation of the meanings of RnewsS as well
as the adaptation of futures studies research tools to journalism practice
Where professors are engaged in futures teaching, it is more often than not in
departments of communication rather than journalism. One of the leading models
is at the University of North Dakota, where Lana Rakow (1997) wanted to create
Ra place to change the way the field things about changing itself.S What
resulted was an issues-based curriculum intended to shift away from the old
categories of mass media. Within each of the core areas of community,
information and technology are courses that address the future in that topic of
interest (Rakow 1996, p. 11-18). RA lot of schools are trying to achieve
substantive curriculum change, but it is very difficult to accomplish,S Rakow
has said. ROften it is talk, talk, talk, but no consensus. Or where changes are
made, they are often not substantial -- just adding technology courses.S
Tony Parker (1997), a professor of speech communication at Northern Arizona
University, has been teaching a course called RThe Future of CommunicationS
since 1990. Its objectives include familiarizing students with communicationUs
role in an evolving society, developing the concept of communication as a
technology-dependent metadiscipline, and to foresee evolving practices of media
professionals. Parker has said that the course grew out of his own interests,
and that it has found a niche in the curriculum despite having few other models.
RIn 1994, my students surveyed selected communications programs in 50 states and
found only one other similar program -- a TCommunications in the FutureU course
at the University of South Florida.S Parker has helped organize the Speech
Communication Association's Committee on the Future for networking within the
At Roosevelt UniversityUs School of Communication, John McClelland (1997)
developed a RNew Media and TechnologyS course in 1994 that includes a history of
previous sea changes in media and society, as well as speculation about trends
and social values. And at California State University, Sacramento, Shirley Biagi
has developed a course entitled RYou in the New Information Age,S intended to
introduce students to changes in the media industries and the social impact of
Although evidence of futures courses at journalism schools is more sparse, many
educators expressed interest in learning more about ways to enhance
future-thinking in their programs. Medsger (1997), who surveyed more than 400
journalism educators for Winds of Change, has said she is unaware of any
foresight-oriented journalism courses, but assumes that Rthere are numerous
teachers/scholars who think futuristically, even if they donUt use that
Laura Hendrickson (1997) of the University of the Incarnate Word and James
Tankard of the University of Texas at Austin are exploring classroom techniques
for using general systems theory. RTeaching future reporters to think of news
events and issues in systems terms may be one approach to expanding the news
frame,S they have written. Hendrickson and Tankard have suggested that
understanding multiple causation of social problems, unanticipated effects of
suggested policy changes, and effects on the system as a whole are ways
journalists can use systems methodology.
Others are no less interested, but more cautious. Phil Meyer (1997) of the
University of North Carolina has warned students in his ethics courses to be
prepared for changes, but has pointed out to them that such changes are a moving
target, and RIUm not so bold as to try to tell them what those changes will be.
I can only suggest some possibilities and historical parallels.S
The time is ripe, however, for rethinking curricular change. For reformers
thinking about curricula for the future, Dennis (1997) has said that
considerations of course content should include technology history, economic
forecasting, cyclical trends, great forces and factors, inventions (and factors
that will determine whether they stick), and audiences and population.
RI donUt know whether itUs because of the downsizing trend of the media
industry, or whether the embracing of the present and past is due to a fear of
the future,S Dennis has said. RI do know that the new technology is a metaphor
for change -- an attempt at sense-making. ItUs a struggle to absorb new notions
of information, and whether TnewsU itself will survive in the information
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Toffler, A. (1971). Future Shock. New York: Bantam Books.
Wells, H.G. (1932) 1987. Wanted P Professors of Foresight! Futures Research
Quaterly 3, No. 1 (Spring): p. 89-91.
JOURNALISM AND THE FUTURE
Proposed course: Journalism 430 (Topics in Journalism)
University of Missouri School of Journalism
This course will focus on the journalist as futurist, on the alternative
futures of the news industry itself, and on giving journalists the tools to meet
the challenges of a transformational society. It is the proposition of the
course design that, in considering the role of the news media in a rapidly
changing world, the highest value will attach to the journalist who is a leader
rather than a follower, is an explorer rather than a chronicler, a change agent
rather than a change victim.
To that end, it is the intention of this course to help prepare budding
journalists for careers in which they are able to recognize emerging changes and
the macro forces driving them; are able to comprehensively and coherently convey
the possible meanings and consequences of these changes to their audiences; and
to recognize the need for P and be able to respond to P continuous innovation in
their own field.
Phase One of the course will include a basic grounding in future-thinking,
including the general principles of futures studies (with methods including
visioning exercises, emerging issues analysis, systems theory and
scenario-building) and the generation of an idea for a future-oriented project
for the Columbia Missourian. Students with interest in producing a digital or
broadcast version may be accommodated with prior approval of the instructors.
Phase Two will introduce students to future-thinkers from inside the School of
Journalism (media convergence, technological innovation, corporatization,
changing ethics/values and the viability of the advertising model) as well as
experts from elsewhere in the university or Columbia community ( i.e.
electronic justice, nanotechnology, virtual elections, interactive arts).
Phase Three will include the completion of the future-oriented news project,
including an evaluation of its process and effects. At the end of this course,
participants should have a deeper understanding of the dynamics of change in
society, in the world of their readers and viewers, and in their own
professional and personal lives.
The 3-credit-hour course is designed for graduate students. Advanced
undergraduates may be admitted with instructor approval. Prerequisite:
Journalism 306, Broadcast II or the equivalent. In addition to completion of a
major project, students will be expected to do readings on futures studies and
the future of journalism, as well as regular one-page reflection papers related
to the readings and guest lecturers. Also, participants will keep a personal
"log" of mini-scenarios of the future that occur to them during the course of
It is intended that this elective class will meet once a week, in the evenings,
to allow full absorption of the future-thinking process as well as to avoid
conflict with required courses.
Texts and readings:
Wendell Bell, Foundations of Futures Studies, Vol. 1. New Brunswick:
Transaction Publishers, 1997.
Jon Katz, Virtuous Reality. New York: Random House, 1997.
Readings will consist of numerous and diverse -- but mostly short -- articles
across a broad range of future-thinking, both inside and outside the field of
the news media and selected for variety, relevance and timeliness. Also, each
class member will be asked to read a book or view a videotape or CD-ROM about a
future-oriented topic selected from a list, or of their own choice (with
instructor approval). Students will individually critique the work and lead a
brief class discussion.
Attendance and class participation 30%
Reflection papers 20%
Book review/report 10%
Scenario log 10%
Futuristic news project 30%
All assignments must be completed to pass this course.
What futures studies is, and is not. Visioning exercise leading to initial
brainstorming and proposals for a future-oriented news project. One-page
reflection paper. Text: Wendell Bell, Foundations of Futures Studies, Vol. 1,
1-164. Other sample readings:
%Eleonora Barbieri Masini, "Why Think about the Future Today: Principles and
Concepts," in Why Futures Studies? London: Grey Seal, 1993; 1-14. (Motivations
of futures studies.)
%Allen Tough, RWays to Develop the Knowledge Base of Futures Studies,S in R.A.
Slaughter (Ed.), New Thinking for a New Millennium. London: Routledge, 1996;
179-184. (Discusses how can we get from here to a satisfactory future.).
%Richard A. Slaughter, RLooking Forward,S in The Foresight Principle: Cultural
Recovery in the 21st Century. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1995; 29-44. (Asks what
can we know about the future?)
Overview of dominant images of the future: Critique of the images, and
individual scenario-building exercises. One-page reflection paper. Selection of
topic for class project. Text: Wendell Bell, Foundations of Futures Studies,
Vol. 1, 165-317. Sample readings:
%Jim Dator, "Loose Connections: A Vision of a Transformational Society," in
Visions of Desirable Societies, Eleonora Masini (Ed.). New York: Pergamon Press,
1983; 25-45. (Analysis of the difference between eutopia and utopia.)
%John Petersen, RNew Era Requires New Thinking,S in The Road to 2015: Profiles
of the Future. Corte Madera, Calif.: Waite Group Press, 1994; 3-13. (The
explosion of information is changing who we are.)
%Denis Loveridge, "Values and Futures," in Futures Research: New Directions,
Harold A. Linstone and W.H. Clive Simmonds (Eds.). London: Addison-Wesley, 1997;
53-64. (The role of the individual is vital to futures thinking.)
Methods of forecasting: Environmental scanning exercise, culminating in
individual analyses of emerging issues. One-page reflection paper. Brainstorming
of news project strategies including, photos, graphics, design, online
elements/links. Sample readings:
%Peter Schwartz, RSteps to Developing Scenarios,S in The Art of the Long View.
New York: Currency, 1991; 226-234. (A scenario primer.)
%Michael Marien, "Scanning: An Imperfect Activity in an Era of Fragmentation and
Uncertainty," Futures Research Quarterly (Fall 1991); 82-90. (Several
definitions of Rscanning.S)
%Joseph P. Martino, "Technological Forecasting: An Introduction," The Futurist
(July-August 1993); 13-16. (A research scientist shows how itUs done.)
Alternate futures relating to futuristic news projects: Guest reporter or
editor who has done such a project. Written reports on strategies. Selected
readings related to such projects.
Journalism change within the larger context: Two guest speakers on societal
transformation and basic general systems theory. One-page reflection paper. Oral
project reports. Text: Jon Katz, Virtuous Reality. Other sample readings:
%Pamela McCorduck & Nancy Ramsey, RThe Official Future Will Not Take Place,S in
The Futures of Women: Scenarios for the 21st Century. Reading, Mass.:
Addison-Wesley, 1996:; 1-20. (Women in the 21st century are emblems and agents
%Esther Dyson, George Gilder, George Keyworth, Alvin Toffler, "Technopolitics:
The Magna Carta for the Knowledge Age." Internet WWW page, at URL:
http://www.feedmag.com/95.05magna1.html (version current at Aug. 8, 1997).
(Revising Second Wave attitudes for a Third Wave world.)
%Kenneth Boulding, RExpecting the Unexpected: The Uncertain Future of Knowledge
and Technology,S in The Future: Images and Processes. Thousand Oaks: Sage,
1995; 7-25. (Mechanical, pattern, equilibrium and evolutionary systems.)
Change within the journalism context, Part 1: Two guest speakers on news
technology, and on news values/ethics. One-page reflection paper. Oral project
reports. Sample readings:
%Jack Fuller, RHelping People Master Their World,S in News Values: Ideas for an
Information Age. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996; 184-195. (How Rnews
valuesS can continue to guide journalists even in a more competitive
%Daniel C. Hallin, RThe Passing of the THigh ModernismU of American Journalism,S
Journal of Communication 42/3 (Summer 1992); 14-25. (Changes under way already
are shaking up the profession of journalism.)
%Everett E. Dennis, "The Media and Public Trust." Address, 32nd Anniversary
Conference of the National Press Council of the R.O.C., World Trade Center,
Taipei, Taiwan. (Sept. 2, 1995). (What the news media must do to win public
%Katherine Fulton, RA New Agenda for Journalism,S in Nieman Reports (Spring
1994); 15-18. (Staking out the role of news in the emerging technological
%Lou Ureneck, "Expert Journalism." Nieman Reports (Winter 1994): pp. 6-13.
(Reframing the idea of objectivity.)
Exploring alternative futures, Part 1: Three speakers on the possible future of
politics, of health/medicine, and of international relations. One-page
reflection paper. Oral project reports. Sample readings:
%Gerald Celente, Trend Tracking: The System to Profit From TodayUs Trends. New
York: Warner Books, 1991; 3-18. (Techniques for analyzing emerging trends.)
%Marvin Cetron & Owen Davies, RMedicine for the New Millennium,S in Probable
Tomorrows: How Science and Technology Will Transform Our Lives in the Next
Twenty Years. New York: St. MartinUs Press, 1997; 197-228. (The first decade of
the 21st century will be one of the most productive in the history of medicine.)
%Johan Galtung & Richard C. Vincent, RGlobal Problems and News Communication,S
in Global Glasnost: Toward a New World Information and Communication Order?
Cresskill, N.J.: Hampton Press, 1992;
1-29. (Major trends in the structure and process of international news flow.)
Assessment week: Students meet individually with instructors at prearranged
times to review rough drafts of class project. Scenario RlogsS to be submitted
for a non-graded mid-term critique by the instructors, and returned.
Individual book, video or CD-ROM critiques and discussions.
Exploring alternative futures, Part 2: Three speakers on the possible future of
the government, of demographics, of science. One-page reflection paper. Oral
project reports. Sample readings:
%Donella H. Meadows, Dennis L. Meadows, Jorgen Randers, ROvershoot But Not
Collapse,S in Beyond the Limits: Confronting Global Collapse, Envisioning a
Sustainable Future. Post Mills, Vt.: Chelsea Green Publishing, 1992: pp.
218-236. (Assessing the challenge of population growth and environmental
%David Osborne & Ted Gaebler, RCommunity-Owned Government: Empowering Rather
Than Serving,S in Reinventing Government: How the Entrepreneurial Spirit is
Transforming the Public Sector. New York: Plume/Penguin, 1993; pp. 49-75.
(Exploring possible new forms of governance.)
%Kevin Kelly, R The Structure of Organized Change,S in Out of Control: The New
Biology of Machines, Social Systems and the Economic World. Reading, Mass.:
Addison-Wesley, 1994; pp. 352-364. (Machines are becoming biological, and the
biological is becoming engineered.)
Individual book, video or CD-ROM critiques and discussions.
Change within the journalism context, Part 2: Two speakers on the future of
advertising as a news-media profit source, and on ethnic diversity in content
and the news workplace. One-page reflection papers. First drafts of project
stories due. Sample readings:
%James B. Twitchell, RTakes a Licking, But Keeps on Ticking: The Future of
Adcult,S in Adcult USA: The Triumph of Advertising in American Culture. New
York: Columbia University Press, 1996; 229-253. (Why advertising has become the
dominant meaning-making system in American culture.)
%Brooke Shelby Biggs, "Aren't We Precious." Internet WWW page at URL:
http://www.packet.com/packet/biggs/nc_today.html (version current at March 18,
1997). (Elitism could kill the online media.)
%E.J. Dionne Jr., "No News is Good News: Why Americans Hate the Press," in They
Only Look Dead: Why Progressives Will Dominate the Next Political Era. New York:
Simon & Schuster, 1996; 231-262. (The problems of the news media are systematic,
not merely the result of technological change.)
%LynNell Hancock, RThe Haves and Have-Nots,S in S. Biagi & M. Kern-Foxworth
(Eds.), Facing Difference: Race, Gender and Mass Media. Thousand Oaks, Calif.:
Pine Forge Press, 1997; 261-266. (Will computer technology ease or widen race
divisions in the U.S.?)
Exploring alternative futures, Part 3: Three speakers on the possible future of
business/economy, of arts/entertainment, and of the environment. One-page
reflection papers. Return of stories to students with critiques. Sample
%Lester C. Thurow, RAn Era of Man-Made Brainpower Industries,S in The Future of
Capitalism: How TodayUs Economic Forces Shape TomorrowUs World. New York:
Penguin, 1996; 65-87. (Understanding the dynamics of the new, post-cold-war
%Neil Postman, RThe Huxleyan Warning,S in Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public
Discourse in the Age of Show Business. New York: Penguin, 1985; 155-163. (How
politics, religion, news, athletics, education and commerce are being
transformed into adjuncts of show business.)
%Mark Dowie, RThe Fourth Wave,S in Losing Ground: American Environmentalism at
the Close of the Twentieth Century. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1995; 205-257.
(New directions for the environmental movement).
Assessment week: Students meet individually with instructors to discuss
editing, layouts, photos, graphics, online elements/links, final story
Evaluation week: Class participation in a paradigm-challenging, role-playing
exercise. Discussion of how future-oriented journalism can provide a service to
a democratic society. Consideration of methods of scientifically assessing the
impact of the futuristic project on readers.
Culmination: Completion of news project editing and layouts. Turn in "future