SND Lifetime Achievement Award: Roger Fidler

The Society for News Design is proud to present its Lifetime Achievement Award to an innovator, leader, teacher, founder and friend: Roger Fidler.

Fidler, the digital program director at Digital Publishing Alliance at the University of Missouri’s Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute accepted the award at the awards banquet at the SND’s award banquet at its annual workshop in St. Louis Saturday.

Who thinks they know of a technology that in 25 years will completely transform the news and design industry? Who has a device from the future here with them?

There was a seminar convened in 1988, a time well before the Internet, in the days of huge terminals, 5-inch floppy drives and hard drives as big as a desk, where participants were asked to forecast news and design in the next century, here’s how this person saw himself reading the news in the year 2000:

“The ‘newspaper’ I am using is a new color model manufactured by Apple. It is 9-inches wide by 11-inches deep and about a half-inch thick. There are no moving parts or programs to load so they are compact, lightweight and relatively trouble-free.

“To eliminate the need for a keyboard and mouse, all newspaper displays are tactile. You simply touch the screen to move from page to page and perform any of the available functions.

“Wide-band transmission via fiber optic cables now makes it possible to economically move massive amounts of data almost anywhere in seconds. Travelers have access to their hometown news from nearly any location in the world.

“Designers in the year 2000 are faced with the problem of retaining the essential qualities of newspapers while taking advantage of the opportunities afforded by a new medium.”

How many people can say they beat Steve Jobs to the punch by 20 years?

One is Roger Fidler.

The beginning

Roger started his journalism career in 1962 in Oregon and would go on to work as a science writer, reporter, copy editor, magazine editor, graphic artist, photographer, art director, design director, newsroom systems manager and corporate consultant. In his design career at the Detroit Free Press and Knight Ridder he redesigned 30 papers in a 10-year span.

The tablet

But his lasting legacy has been introducing the news media to new technologies. In the 1980s he founded PressLink, which was the first global intranet used in the industry. In 1984 he also created and directed Knight-Ridder’s Graphics Network. And, of course, before that in 1981 he began experimenting and developing portable, flat-screen reading devices.

In the 1990s Roger created and led Knight-Ridder’s Information Design Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado.

In 1994, Roger’s team produced the following video to showcase this vision:

“The Tablet Newspaper: A Vision for the Future” (SHOW FIRST 1:30 OF VIDEO)

The teacher

Fidler also created a legacy of learning as a tenured professor at Kent State University and now at the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri.

He is a founding member of the Society for News Design, and created the organization’s first newsletter. He also served as the Society’s first vice president at a time when the skeletal structure of SND was coming together.

And he organized SND’s third-ever Annual Workshop and Exhibition, in Miami in 1982. The theme of that workshop? “How New Technology will impact Newspaper Design.”

Thirty years later, he played a big role in helping SND continue to examine that topic at the Workshop in St. Louis. SND owes Roger and RJI and the Digital Publishing Alliance among others major thanks for helping bring this partnership to fruition and presenting a strong new chapter in our understanding of how people access, understand and consume the news.

Steve Dorsey is Vice President / R+D at the Detroit Media Partnership and president of SND. Steven Komives is the executive director of SND.