19th Century Newspaper Editors Imagine Newspapers of the Future

Ronald E. Yates is an author of award-winning historical fiction and action/adventure novels, including the popular and highly-acclaimed Finding Billy Battles trilogy.

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post that discussed how people in the past predicted the future and I promised a sequel. Here it is with another sequel to follow.

Back in 1895, several prominent newspaper editors were asked to speculate on what newspapers would look like in the 20th Century. Some of their predictions were quite uncanny, and some were, well, a bit off the mark.

Here are a couple of examples:

  • Felix Agnus, Editor of the Baltimore American:  “Today I saw a new invention that distributes written messages to its customers, the matter clearly printed on convenient sheets. The inventor tells me he can afford to place these at a very moderate cost in offices or in homes. All it needs is a long roll of paper. It does the rest. Now, what is to prevent the people of the next century from having their news continuously? As soon as an event occurs, it is broadcast over the wires and is immediately printed by the automatic machine. How will a newspaper published once a day compete with a scheme such as that?”

 Sounds a lot like something we used to call a telex machine. They never made it into homes, at least not on a large scale, but they were in just about every newsroom in the world.

  • Then there was this prediction from A.G. Boynton, editor of the Detroit Free Press: Keeping…with the limits of the possible, this much is safe to forecast….there will be great and marked progress in independence—that the newspaper of the twentieth century will not be tied, as the newspaper of the nineteenth century is far too often, to a party, a sect or a creed.”

Sadly, Mr. Boynton’s vision of today’s newspaper has proven to be more