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Will Reading Become Obsolete?

Will Reading Become Obsolete?

Heidi Butler,

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Randy Parker speaking with students on September 25

As newspapers shrink or disappear and we rely more heavily on blogs and Twitter for information, it certainly doesn't seem that way in the news industry.

But according to Randy Parker, managing editor of the York Daily News, the essence of journalism will never change. It will always be about serving the community, protecting the public, and good storytelling.

It's the tools that change.

Speaking to a room full of high school and college students who gathered in the David A. Reed Community Room at Northampton Community College to hear him speak as part of the series, "What's New, What's News: Journalists on Journalism Today," Parker predicted that within the next ten years, we may learn about the latest civil war or celebrity break-up through our contact lenses or through a chip implanted in our brains,

Does that sound like science fiction? "The way you learn today would have been considered science fiction when I was in college," Parker contended.

As technology changes, "you are going to laugh at Google the way I laugh at the old mobile phones we carried around in shoulder bags."

In fact, Parker said, "we may be on our last generation of readers. There are going to be new ways to share information. What if you could just pick up War and Peace and know everything that's in it?"

In introducing Parker, NCC Professor of Journalism Rob Hays described him as one of the most forward-thinking individuals in the news business.

But don't call Parker a newspaper editor. "The York Daily Record is not a newspaper," Parker says. "It is one tool we use to serve the community."

A few years ago prior to Election Day, the Daily Record put together "a candidates' night to listen." Rather than debating each other, candidates came together to listen to citizens' views on what issues were most important and why. The event was broadcast live over the Record's website and people were invited to tweet their comments. Every so often a political science professor from York College would poll the audience on their views, and the Record reported the results in real time.

"If newspapers had gone away ten years ago, it would have been disastrous for democracy," Parker says. Technology, however, "has given us a gift from the gods - the ability to share our news with the planet."

Ethics are as important as ever, Parker contends. He believes the first rule of journalism remains the same as the first rule of medicine: "Do no harm." He still lives by guidelines imparted by his 9th grade journalism teacher: Be truthful. Be accurate. Be fair."

"But in today's world, it is unethical not to use new tools [such as Facebook and Twitter and cell phone cameras and video] to help hold people accountable," he says. "It is our responsibility to invent new ways to report in new realities to ensure that our business is still here serving our communities 200 years from now."