This past Thursday I was privileged to evaluate fifteen or so student proposals to "deliver news to communities using social media." The contest was conducted through the Mass Communication* School, with the winning proposals receiving a cash grant, presumably to help complete the project.
I learned a few important things. First, this group of Mass Comm. students are ambitious, innovative, and as dedicated as one could reasonably expect of 20 year olds. Their proposals were generally well thought out, though they had a blind spot when it came to creating original content, or understanding why commercial entities would not be excited about someone else aggregating their original content for free.
Another thing I learned was the virtues of being able to do everything on one's phone, without ever having to look up, rely on another device, or interact directly with another person. Seriously, I heard this repeatedly, to the point that I was a little frightened. I knew that these kids relied on their phones more than old people believe can be healthy, but I didn't realize that the people shaping tomorrow's media believe heartily that this is a good thing.
Perhaps the most important thing that was confirmed for me was that reading is boring. I heard repeatedly how tedious it was to wade through New York Times articles, long e-mails (with bullet points, no less!), or even verbose Facebook messages. A minute is entirely too long to watch a video. We should be able to put the salient points of any news story into a clip no longer than 45 seconds, and usually more like 15.
I really don't know what this means for our media future, but I know that it seems like what we see will be shorter, more immediate, and more personal than social media and smartphones have wrought to this point. Good luck, young ones.
* What used to the Journalism School.