The Future is Now

The comic above really made me take pause and realize that the future of media & publishing is being sown today. So, I decided to take a trip to the future, which turns out, is just a subway ride away.

Over the past five years, I have worked with the PS 123 elementary & middle school in Harlem on various volunteering projects that involved publishing, literacy and community. These efforts began with a company sponsored volunteering program at RBI, and events co-coordinated with my colleague Champion Kathleen McNamara.

Through the years, my involvement has grown, and this year, it has taken a leap. A visual history:

This Fall, I have made a personal commitment to the faculty and students of the school, and will be integrating my efforts in two ways:

  • As a curriculum advisor for their 5th, 6th and 7th grade, focusing on publishing and new media.
  • As the advisor for their student newspaper staff.

And I am proud to introduce the student newspaper staff of PS 123:

I have spent nights and weekends preparing for these efforts, and just launched two new products for the newspaper, a website and Twitter feed:

In creating the curriculum for our sessions, I considered the skills these students would need and what their role is in serving their community. I will be meeting with them each week to educate them on how to leverage new media, and use it to serve the needs of their community.

Our first meeting was this week, and I think they were a bit taken aback by how different this year will be compared to a quarterly print newspaper that we did in previous years. These students are mostly 6th and 7th graders, and their growth since last year is obvious the moment you walk in the room.

They each have a clear voice & personality, and are actively shaping their identity day by day. I couldn’t be more excited about working with them and empowering them to reach their goals.

The year will not be without its challenges – not the least of which was a shooting & stabbing that took place outside the school on Monday morning. It involved older teens and was gang related, but clearly, these events echo through the halls of PS 123, underscoring the dire need to support these students.

And these students are the future of publishing and media – I will be learning as much from them as they will from me.

As I consider how the media industry will change from now until they graduate from college, I realize that it is fully in yours and my hands. How are we shaping this future?

This question is not unlike many others posed in this economy… how are we addressing the needs of today, while building a strong foundation for tomorrow, one that looks to create real value, not just economic bubbles, and that learns from its past mistakes?

Which brings me back to the cartoon up top. Surely, businesses need to run with an ever greater efficiency – but this cannot be a single strategy for growth. For a company like Condé Nast, there will be casualties such as Gourmet magazine, but the greater question remains: what is Condé Nast doing to innovate, to address their audience’s needs in new ways, and how are they building a solid foundation that looks at revenue and audience growth beyond the next quarter?

Gourmet magazine’s closing has had ripple effects this week for all in media and publishing – yet another sobering reminder that anything is possible. And like many things nowadays, we are left with compelling questions:

  • Is the problem the lack of great ideas, or the inability to execute well on the great ideas that are already out there?
  • Will iterative & incremental growth be enough to bring stability?
  • Will tomorrow’s media company be comprised of resources, scale and structure that we are familiar with today?

The business leaders of today have a great responsibility in making these decisions to shape things, and these are just a few of the many questions they must tackle.

As I began to work with the students of PS 123 this year, and learned about their skills, their hopes and considered their future, I realized that the future is now. And addressing this is both a responsibility and a privilege.

A HUGE thanks to my manager Traci Young for her support for my efforts with PS 123!

1 comment

  1. Dan, Your efforts, which are clearly “a labor of love” inspire more people than you know. I've thanked you before and I am thanking you again!
    In college I read Claude Brown's “Manchild in the Promised Land”. That book inspired me to read more of that genre over the years. I don't think it's a coincidence that these non fiction books, written by individuals who can't get a break, navigate through all the disadvantages all the way to triumph. Love these types of stories. Just my 2ยข.
    Kudos to you, I know you have made a huge difference in the lives of your students.

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