It's 'what we wanted,' what 'we chose'

Four years ago several people e-mailed me a link to an amusing little science fiction video titled "EPIC 2014."

Some gleefully proclaimed that it showed journalists are a dying breed who soon will be replaced by computers, which will scrub the Internet for all manner of information and deliver it in customized packets to people on their personal computers, all without the need for professional news gatherers.

The eight-minute video begins with the World Wide Web being created in 1989.

It tells about the start up of and then Google and then Blogger.

It then predicts a number of logical sounding mergers and acquisitions that lead to something called Googlezon and then the Google Grid. It talks about how everyone's data and interests are online, showing the identification card of some guy named Winston Smith.

In 2011, according to the tale, The New York Times sues Googlezon for copyright law violations but loses in the Supreme Court.

The narrator describes how everyone contributes to EPIC -- Evolving Personalized Information Construct -- via blogs, phone cams, video, even full investigations. A generation of freelance editors is born, who, for a small fee, customize information for subscribers.

Accordingly, the Times goes offline and becomes a print newsletter for elites and senior citizens. Journalism as we know it is dead.

The narrator explains, "At its best, edited for the savviest readers, EPIC is a summary of the world -- deeper, broader and more nuanced than anything ever available before."

How wonderful and enticing.

I was reminded of this tale of prognostication as I looked over the list of award winners in the 2008 Nevada Press Association Better Newspaper Contest. The plaques and certificates were to be handed out last night in Mesquite during the association's annual convention. Among the Review-Journal's more than 50 awards were two for Community Service.

First place went to a team of City Desk reporters and editors, led by writers Annette Wells and Paul Harasim, who have spent months digging into the outbreak of hepatitis C at a couple of local endoscopy centers where staff improperly reused syringes and anesthetic, spreading blood-borne disease.

Second place went to our special projects team, headed by veteran reporter Joan Whitely, who spent months covering unsafe remodeling practices at several local casinos. She interviewed dozens of people and pored over documents, even rented a couple of rooms to verify that remodeled rooms did not match what was shown in county building records.

Both efforts were time-consuming and expensive to pursue. And those were just two of the investigations that the newspaper launched during the past year.

In addition to those hard-core, hard-nosed journalistic endeavors, feature writer Corey Levitan was given a first place in Best Local Column for his usually ham-fisted efforts to do other people's jobs and then report on it in a self-deprecating and humorous fashion.

Music writer Jason Bracelin earned first places in both Best Entertainment Writing and Best Critical Writing for insightful and metaphor-packed accounts of concerts and performers.

Writer Francis McCabe earned a first place in spot news for his account of tourists overpowering a gunman in a casino.

The Review-Journal was recognized for feature writing, headline writing, photography, page design, sports writing, best editorial page, best business coverage and on and on.

I defy any army of a million bloggers with BlackBerrys and cell phone cameras to come anywhere close to the authority, accuracy, thoroughness, tenacity and time devoted by just the newsroom staff of the Review-Journal, much less the reporters and editors of the thousands of newspapers around the globe. It simply will never happen.

Which brings me to a line in that EPIC 2014 movie that somehow gets overlooked when people babble on about its gee-whiz, Orwellian vision.

"But at its worst," the narrator explains, "and for too many, EPIC is merely a collection of trivia, much of it untrue, all of it narrow, shallow and sensational. But EPIC is what we wanted. It is what we chose. And its commercial success pre-empted any discussions of media and democracy or journalistic ethics."

This might well be the future, but it doesn't have to be.

Thomas Mitchell is editor of the Review-Journal and writes about the role of the free press and access to public information. He may be contacted at 383-0261 or via e-mail at tmitchell@