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Between the Lines

This column by Richard K. Rein was prepared for the November 29,

2000 edition of

U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Someone asked us the other day where we thought our

industry was headed. While posing that global question to people who

spend most of their waking hours hunkered in front of dimly lit


screens may seem a little misguided, we nevertheless came up with

an answer: Nowhere. What you see now in terms of information


processing, and circulation is pretty much what you will see in the

future — at least in terms of community-based, news organizations

such as U.S. 1. The forms that this information takes may change,

and the means by which it is distributed will most surely change —

the Internet springs to mind, of course. And some present day


may stay up with the changes and others may not.

But we think the basic components of the industry — collecting

and disseminating useful business and entertainment news and listings

— is likely to remain pretty much the same as you see it today.

Community journalism, we told our questioner, is not the


industry or genomics. We are not on the threshold of some new brave

new world.

That answer came before we read Doug Dixon’s excellent story that

begins on page 49 of this issue. As Dixon explains in patient detail,

the combination of wireless technology, handheld devices such as Palm

Pilots and cell phones, the Internet, and Global Positioning Systems

paves the way for M-commerce: mobile commerce.

In this brave new world, you could walk into a strange town, log your

Palm onto the Internet, and get the name of the nearest Japanese


and also a map showing how to get there from where you are. Needless

to say, advertisers will be offered all sorts of


to "participate" in this technology. Maybe this won’t add

to the net wealth, but we can certainly see it becoming yet another

medium — print, radio, cable, Internet, and mobile.

All of which ought to make us in the print world a little nervous.

Here at U.S. 1 we like to edit our journal in such a way that it makes

as much sense to a guy who steps off the train from New York for the

first time as it does to a life-long resident. What happens if the

guy from New York can find out what’s happening on Nassau Street just

as quickly by tapping a few keys on his cell phone? And what if those

money-saving coupons now printed in the paper are transmitted to every

mobile phone that passes within a half mile of the restaurant?

In that future shock world what use will anyone have for our little

newspaper? We thought of a few enduring qualities of our newsprint


1.) The paper’s batteries will never run low.

2.) If you want to share information with someone else,

you can tear out a page and give it to him.

3.) The paper works even when the train is going through

a tunnel or you are in a basement.

4.) A rolled up newspaper becomes a fabulous defensive

weapon if you are ever accosted on the street.

5.) Our little newspaper will still be readable even if

it gets wet — you may have to allow it to dry, first. And in a

rainstorm it will double as an umbrella. And that’s certain: In our

industry it’s going to rain from time to time.

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