26 June 2015

Will Digital Newspaper Archives for ALL Newspapers Be Available to Our Descendants?

Yesterday we discussed highways wiping out whole neighborhoods.

Today, let’s turn our attention to modern day newspapers disappearing and possibly taking their digital archive with them!

Anyone who has done research into historic newspapers knows that there are newspapers for which NO archives survive.  Just the other day in a post What would you put in a time capsule? I discussed the discovery of an edition of an African-American newspaper for which there is no known archive!

How often do you look through the wonderful Chronicling America U.S. Newspaper Directory, 1690-Present, and find only fragments of a newspapers run survive? Maybe a handful of editions for a newspaper that existed for decades survive!

Sometimes the one glimmer of hope is that I have found in the 1800s that it was not uncommon for newspapers to share news published in other newspapers – I am always thankful when I search a digital newspaper archive and discover a tidbit of news published from another newspaper which I cannot access.  Well, I could if I had a time machine.

I bring this up since it’s easy to think of this as being as issue for just “old” and “long ago” published newspapers.  It’s not.  The Columbia Journalism Review published Can the Boston Phoenix’s digital history be saved?  The article is about a newspaper than was shuttered in 2013 seeking a home for its print and digital archives.

How many smaller circulation newspapers with print and/or web versions are not planning for their possible demise?

All too often it’s the smaller more localized newspapers that really give us stories about our ancestors.  The bigger city and circulation newspapers have to cover a lot of territory.  It’s the local newspaper that gave you tons of social news, covered very event. In many ways, there were not news items too small to publish!  

We still have the same situation today, though it might just be that it’s a web-based news outlet we are reading ...

I sure hope that those smaller and often alternative newspapers are preparing for the future.

I just now checked The Newtown Bee archive.  The online archive may only go back about 15 years and there were some older news items (I imagine subsequently republished) from my high school years ... Phew!

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