News organizations have all but abandoned their archives

#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/04/04/the-memory-hole-2.html

4 Likes
#2

The “morgue” isn’t a profit center, is it?

8 Likes
#3

This is nothing but old news.

15 Likes
#4

I remember earlier this year having a conversation with a coworker about a recent fire at a nearby restaurant.
“That’s the 2nd time they had a fire,” I remarked, and endeavored to get a time frame. You know it was like pulling teeth to get any information at all about the first fire. I eventually dug up some forum post- there was a blurry 2008-era cell phone photo of the fire, but the date of the post was a few days after the incident. Still could not nail down the exact date the fire occurred.

You’d think a fire would be well-documented, but the Memory Hole swallows all!

6 Likes
#5

This has long been a pet peeve of mine, and it somewhat collides with the other lamentable practice of microfilming old newsprint, and then throwing away the original. If the original microfilm deteriorates and is not digitized, you could be left with nothing. Or worse yet, if there never was any microfilm to begin with, it cannot be digitized. If it does exist, it is often behind a paywall, and not in any public archive. There are exceptions, and various countries do things differently. I recently discovered that a local printshop will scan original newspapers for me at high resolution, and the results are astounding. This is with large format CCD scanners (not a drum or flatbed scanner) that are usually used for blueprints and such, so the scans are quick and excellent quality. I’ve scanned a few dozen pages of rare extra edition headlines that also didn’t get microfilmed, and thus did not get preserved anywhere, apart from any surviving hardcopies. This was completely a private initiative of mine, but I wish we saw more initiatives like it. The Internet Archive is leading the charge here, but only with a fraction of the world’s knowledge.

News archives are one of the most commonly used sources of knowledge, when it comes to writing history or genealogical research. Without them, gaps begin to appear that may never be recovered.

9 Likes
#6

2 Likes
#7

While I have to say I like the idea of having each newspaper having a good, long-term archive, the real question is whether I am willing to pay for such an archive to be kept. And the answer is, sadly, no. Because I’m an old guy, I spend $60/month to keep up my local daily newspaper subscription, and I already wince each month at the price.

But that’s the price of paying real journalist a living wage, sort of. In fact, most journalists have 2-3 side hustles in order to earn a decent middle-class living in an urban area. My $60 is barely even enough to finance even the journalism I get now, stripped of the considerable money that the newspapers used to spend on archivists and paying journalists a pittance. If I really considered journalism that important, I’d be willing to pay 2 or 3 times as much as I pay now, to get much the same coverage, but with decent archives, and good wages. But I’m not. I keep eyeing the $60/month and wondering.

So, once again, I end up with a fairly sad conclusion. If I, as a stand-in for the middle-class, don’t think good journalism is worth paying for, why the heck would I expect anyone else to? If I need to find a villain for the base cause of the decline of journalism, I need only look at a mirror.

6 Likes
#8

Nothing was mentioned about sites that archive stories like Lexis-Nexis or WestLaw.

1 Like
#9

No, it’s the stuff of history.

2 Likes
#10

We are living in what will be known as the Internet Dark Ages. No one in the future will be able to read about what happened, because all the data will be either lost or in a format that can’t be decoded properly. For an example, just try to read a 5 inch floppy or the files on a cassette memory. At least, when that type of magnetic media was created, the paper newspapers were thriving. It is still possible to read those newspapers.

3 Likes
#11

It can be. I don’t know how successful they are, but even the small local paper from where I grew up sells access to its paywalled archives. I know that generally we see paywalls as evil, and they are when they are hiding publicly funded science, but unlike Elsevier and so on, newspapers aren’t exactly rolling in profit these days.

1 Like
#12

I’ve USB external drives for those (yep, I do). :slight_smile: Okay, not for the cassette memory style tape, but for the floppies absolutely. Although you’re also correct because most of those floppies aren’t readable anymore because they’ve corrupted.

In a moment of right-wing capitalism for me, I see an untapped market here. A company that provides archive services for any newspaper that no longer wants to or can afford to, and sells access to historians, researchers, and the public at large for a small price. It’s not going to make a ton of money, because as someone else said, most people won’t have much use for it, but it could be profitable enough to work as a going concern.

My radical socialist nature says government should provide this same service through the library of Congress, archiving as many newspapers as they can and providing it free to everyone. But we all know that shit ain’t gonna happen, at least not in the United States, so why even bother bringing up the point.

2 Likes
#13

Looking at the “quality” of the UK’s print media, I’ve got to ask if their recent output is work archiving. Do we really want future generations to know just how piss-poor our “journalists” got towards the end of the analogue age?

#14

Yeah, about that… Here’s their site: pqarchiver.com

Gone now.

Here are the first 500 links to that site in Wikipedia pages:

There’s probably a query I could do to get the total number without stepping through them all. It’s going to be a very high number.

Eventually there will be editors and their bots that will remove the links, later the citation, and then the paragraph that the citation was supporting…

1 Like
#15

Or you could look at all the people (some of whom may also be with you in your mirror, I concede) who sucked all the ad revenue out of newsprint and sent it online, where the news is viewed via third party “platforms” (never “publishers”) who suck eyeballs there by offering “news” to the sticky eyeballs they attract. The addiction these online entities knowingly generate means fewer and fewer people care about real investigative journalism - or even just plain reporting of facts and events - and mostly think that news consists of soundbites and memes.

Of course, newsprint’s slowness in seeing it coming and adapting by getting online first, was also part of the problem.

So don’t blame it all on yourself (just some of it).

Something, something my lawn, too. :wink:

#16

I don’t think it’s categorical. A cheap paywall for frequent users makes good sense. That’s how PACER works, or at least used to.

2 Likes
#17

This stuff worries me a lot. In my personal life I see digital data as a fundamentally vapid thing, partly so I could get over when I lose mine. But it becomes scary when I realize people doing important things also can’t be bothered backing data up. The library of Alexandria was lost to conquest, and the library of modern time will be lost to human apathy :c

#18

In a moment of right-wing capitalism for me, I see an untapped market here. A company that provides archive services for any newspaper that no longer wants to or can afford to

As I understand it, this is the Internet Archive model: scanning books for libraries to
create digital storage helps support their non-profit activities.

I recently discovered that a local printshop will scan original newspapers for me at high resolution, and the results are astounding. This is with large format CCD scanners (not a drum or flatbed scanner) that are usually used for blueprints and such, so the scans are quick and excellent quality.

@jmv, ithat’s a great tip. I’m hoping you’ll upload those scans to the Internet Archive.

1 Like
#19

Library of Congress does a certain amount of major newspaper archiving and produces microfilm for libraries et.al., but a lot of smaller local papers aren’t covered. I was thinking about our island newspaper which is microfilmed but not indexed (searchable) past 1974, and is an important local history archive. Even the paper itself does not keep back copies, only the local libraries do, and only one library keeps back issues longer than one year.

2 Likes
#20

Have not yet read the report, for anyone who has, does it discuss whether libraries are keeping archives, especially ones local to small town newspapers?