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The future from the 20 under 40 helping shape it

As an “up-and-coming” journalist, I often look at the media world today and am in awe of the amazing things happening out there. I’m always struck by how people end up where they do, how hard work pays off and how much things have changed just in my lifetime. I’m also impressed by the variety of different methods people and news organizations are taking to try and keep up with the Internet revolution.

They say that things are changing now faster than ever. It’s true. A decade ago, the Internet was for nerds and businessmen. In high school, I was the weird one because I had an e-mail address and AIM when none of my friends did. I was one of the first with my own cell phone, which didn’t even have a color screen. By college, that had mostly changed and most people I knew had computers, cell phones, etc. Now, many of my peers have laptops, camera phones with the Internet and video iPods. This is all in a few years.

I often joke that I majored in something that won’t exist in a decade. It’s true. Newspapers on paper are on their way out. Will they entirely disappear? I’m not ready to make that prediction. I hope not. But even if they do, there’s always going to be a need for people to connect the dots, for someone with courage and know-how to uncover wrongs or share inspiring triumphs with the world. There will ALWAYS be a need for journalists committed to finding and producing the stories that matter. There’s always going to be a need to know by the public. That’s what our job is, right? Getting the information people want and need to live a healthy, happy, productive life. Getting them the facts about their world so they can make informed decisions and draw their own conclusions. Newspapers as a medium may become irrelevant, but reporters and editors with solid reputations and ethics will only be more necessary as the public tries to wade fact from fiction and sort through the ever-growing expanse of information available.

The challenge today isn’t getting that information. The challenge is finding out how people want to retrieve it and providing them with it in engaging ways that make the story matter to them. I don’t look at the Internet, cell phones, iPods, etc. as competitors. I think they’re opportunities to tell stories in ways we never imagined before.

Who knows what method will be in vogue in a year or a decade? Certainly I don’t. But I know who I’m going to watch for hints. It’s going to be the 20 under 40 on this list, who have already proven themselves adaptable and innovative, who are committed to excellence and not afraid of a challenge. Maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll be one of those who gets to help shape and sort out the industry’s future. That future, after all, is my future.

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