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Frank Huband

Salvaging the News

All of us have seen various changes in our print media, and many of us have responded with distress or annoyance. Why so little international coverage? Where's this week's newsmagazine? What happened to the book review? Papers have given up whole sections, and magazines disappeared from the newsstands. It's been hard times for news organizations as readers and advertisers desert print media for the Web and ad revenues shrink. Our cover story, "The New Front Page," considers how technology might help to salvage or, at the very least, overhaul the journalism business. Engineers are collaborating with journalists and computer scientists on new technologies to transform how news is reported, distributed, and consumed. As engineering schools become involved, there is hope for innovation and new potential. Yet the problem remains: how to generate revenue for the media when websites give away content for free.

Engineers sometimes have been accused of developing technology that doesn't really work for real people doing real jobs. Prism's article "The Brains Behind 'User Friendly'" examines a field of engineering that is trying to improve the odds. Cognitive engineering studies how to get humans and machines to function better as a team - how to design technology that people actually use. These engineering specialists work on systems that range from voting machines to unmanned aerial vehicles, and they address problems from the battlefield hunt for land mines to motorists who text-message while driving. As more people use machines on the job and in their daily lives, cognitive engineering is being recognized as an important and growing field.

With the enactment of a new GI Bill last year, schools have seen more veterans returning to campus. The new GI Bill offers the most generous educational benefits since the original post-World War II legislation enabled veterans to gain a college education, with lasting benefits for the nation. More than 200,000 veterans have returned from Afghanistan and Iraq and now have the opportunity to take advantage of the educational benefits. Prism's article "The Good Fight" reports on what returning to school means for both the soldiers and the schools they attend. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many returning vets have a strong interest in engineering. But to reap the benefit of this pool of talent, schools need to find ways to assist and accommodate them.

I am always surprised as the year draws to a close at how fast we got here. Please accept my best wishes for a happy and safe holiday season.


Frank L. Huband
Executive Director and Publisher




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