That phrase was the title of one of the presentations at Samir Husni’s recent conference, called “Reimagining the Future (While We Still Have Time),” and held at the Magazine Innovation Center in Oxford, Mississippi. The presentation was made by Thomaz Souto Correa, the vice president of editorial at The Abril Group in Brazil. And while Correa discussed many things, there is a particular idea in that title worth thinking about.

Perhaps the future doesn’t exist because no one, and I mean no one, knows what it’s going to look like even two years from now. Think about one of the biggest debates of the last few years—whether to charge for online content.

When Steve Brill and Walter Isaacson and Rupert Murdoch and others suggested that the status quo was unsustainable, the purveyors of the conventional wisdom came down hard. The cat’s out of the bag, they said. Stop thinking like it’s 1997. Start building a business for the Google economy. There’s no other choice.

Well, one thing none of those wizards thought of was how mobile apps and iPads would change the equation. Now, suddenly, there’s a path to paid content online, because there’s a significant migration away from the free Internet and in the direction of apps you have to buy. Or apps from which publishers sell subscriptions to their content.

The point here is that as the media world changes, what seems dominant today may turn out to be yesterday’s news in short order. Remember CompuServe, AOL, etc.? I could go on, but you get the point.

So while the “Reimagining the Future (While We Still Have Time)” conference provided no real visionary solutions, because that’s impossible, it did offer a mosaic of opinion and perspective, when combined into a whole, provided a good look at where the industry is now and where it needs to go.

The future doesn’t exist because we haven’t built it yet.

And even more important, the students at the University of Mississippi were full participants. Anyone who spent a few days with the young journalists at that conference couldn’t help coming away with a new confidence about the future of the profession. These people are bright, energetic, savvy and ready to take the reins. Here is a list of some of the student participants. I wanted to acknowledge each of them by name, because they were all so impressive.

Undergraduate Journalism Students:

Natalie Dickson
Kirby Sage
Elizabeth Pearson
Alex Pence
Maggie Giffin
Markus Simmons
Katie Williamson
Ja’juan McNeil
Rashell Reese
Addison Dent
Houston Cofield
Ren Turner
Nick Toce (also event photographer)
Alex McDaniel (also event coordinator)