Media Of Futures Past

In 2010 there will be no universally-watched media entity in the US that can influence everything citizens do. No, I’m not referring to Oprah’s recent decision to end her show. I’m saying that my favorite films and other media of the 1980s got it wrong!
Throughout the Eighties and into the Nineties, films – particularly in the action genre – portrayed life 25 or so years in the future (that would be NOW) as dystopian societies where a single media outlet controlled everything. Often times, it controlled the government and military.

The All-Powerful ICS Network's Top Show: The Running Man

My favorite example is The Running Man with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Cue the Don LaFontaine deep voice-over: In a world where Arnold is accused of crime he didn’t commit, he must play a deadly game live on the world’s most popular TV game show hosted by the evil and scene-stealing Killian (Richard Dawson). It’s a great view of an oppressed society obsessed with media. We see criminals executed live on TV for big ratings and gems like “court-appointed publicity agents”. I love that last part!

These films were supposed to take place in the future but sure still looked like the 80s as far as synthesizer music, clothes, and smoking habits.


Apple's 1984 Superbowl Ad
Arnold Watches The Only News in Total Recall
The State-Run Media Is Called "The Mouth" In the 1982 Comics and 2005 Film V For Vendetta
The Core of T2's "Skynet" Which Gained Sentience Shortly After Going Online
Jonathan Pryce As A Media Mogul Bond Villian In Tomorrow Never Dies








Fast forward to the present or our past’s future, and we have moved in the opposite direction! Media today has been completely fragmented and splintered into millions of TV channels, online sites, blogs, audio programs, and more. Today’s citizen journalist has the same opportunity to reach an audience as “Killian” did in The Running Man. Better yet, that citizen does more than just broadcast to an audience; he can actually engage with the consumer.

Let’s not be too hard on the screen writers of the 70s and 80s; the Cold War and the rise of certain media outlets along with the distrust of big government would be hard themes not to tackle. We would not have paid to see a movie about the future with someone updating their Facebook page.

Newspapers: Trend or Term?


In an earlier posting, I opposed the current Public Relations industry panic that “the media is dying.” I maintain that the media is alive and well; it’s evolving. Those of us working in the PR world need to promote that fact that despite cutbacks and right-sizing, the media, including newspapers, is more important than ever.


One way to do this may be to update the definition of terms. Let’s start with the word newspaper.


Most people still see a newspaper as news printed on paper. I submit that even those media outlets that stopped printing and distributing news on paper in favor of an online-only model can still be called newspapers.


We’re already using the word publish with an online meaning. When I’m finished writing this piece, I will hit a button labeled “publish” so you can read it via this blog site. Not many years ago, the word “publish” meant physically producing and disseminating printed pages for public consumption. We’re already far beyond that definition in this digital age. We’ve updated these terms in our lexicon:


  • A file is no longer limited to something in a manila folder
  • To dial-in or dial-up does not require the use of a rotary phone
  • A press kit does not – and should not! – need to be a wasteful and environmentally unfriendly box of junk that PR folks send to journalists who throw them away
  • A record can be a compact disc, not only vinyl
  • An album is a collection of songs, not only on vinyl


Those last two are still hurdles for some people! Let’s all say it together….CDs are records…albums are collections of songs….


Here are a few others to think about. Is “The Office” a Television show? Of course it is, though millions of us do not watch it on a Television but via iTunes, Hulu, DVDs on a laptop, or on a monitor on an airplane.


Are companies like Best Buy or Toys R Us only retail stores, or are they suppliers of goods both digital and physical? I say the latter. I’m a huge Toys R Us customer in my nearly three years of fatherhood, yet I haven’t stepped into a brick & mortar Toys R Us location since I was a kid.


So why are we limiting the term newspaper to exclude digital editions? We need to stop hitting the panic button every time a favorite newspaper or magazine goes online-only and realize that the newspaper lives on. And in the digital world, that means lives on forever.