"Futurist in Residence" is the official title. More colloquially the job might be described as an electronic-age crystal ball gazer.
The New York Times – the paper that recently appointed its first-ever "perfume critic" – is again breaking new ground. It has hired a science-writer and novelist, Michael Rogers, to be their in-house expert and adviser on likely future trends in the newspaper industry, especially in the electronic field.
Announcing the new position, a New York Times spokesmen described Rogers as someone with unique insights into the confluence of digital technology, consumer behavior and journalism. He will work in co-operation with the company's Research and Development Unit.
"He will help us to deliver the innovative information products and services our readers expect from rhe Times,” the spokesman said.
Rogers, who studied physics and creative writing at university, wrote for Rolling Stone from 1972 to 1983. That year he joined Newsweek and created the magazine's technology section. Then he joined the Washington Post. He is credited with producing the world's first CD-ROM newsmagazine, which has been described as a prototype for interactive television. At the same time he created a number of Internet sites, including an award-winning Parents' Guide to Children's Software.
He was the founder two years ago of a consulting firm called Practical Futurist. His appointment is seen as an effort by the New York Times, which has lately been under heavy fire for its poor financial performance, to boost its image as a forward-looking paper.
His appointment is initially for one year.