Dodging the Memory Hole: Collaborations to Save the News

Dodging the memory hole graphicThe news is often called the “first draft of history” and preserved newspapers are some of the most used collections in libraries. The Internet and other digital technologies have altered the news landscape. There have been numerous stories about the demise of the newspaper and disruption at traditional media outlets. We’ve seen more than a few newspapers shutter their operations or move to strictly digital publishing. At the same time, niche news blogs, citizen-captured video, hyper-local new sites, news aggregators and social media have all emerged to provide a dynamic and constantly changing news environment that is sometimes confusing to consume and definitely complex to encapsulate.

With these issues in mind and with the goal to create a network to preserve born-digital journalism, the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri sponsored part one of the meeting Dodging the Memory Hole  as part of the Journalism Digital New Archive 2014 forum, an initiative at the Reynolds Institute. Edward McCain (the focus of a recent Content Matters interview on The Signal) has a unique joint appointment at the Institute and the University of Missouri Library as the Digital Curator of Journalism. He and Katherine Skinner, Executive Director of the Educopia Institute (which will host part two of the  meeting in May 2015 in Charlotte, N.C.) developed the two-day program which attracted journalists, news librarians, technologists, academics and administrators.

Cliff Lynch, Director of the Coalition of Networked Information, opened the meeting with a thoughtful assessment of the state of digital news production and preservation. An in-depth case study followed recounting the history of the Rocky Mountain News, its connection to the Denver, CO community, its eventual demise as an actively published newspaper and, ultimately, the transfer of its assets to the Denver Public Library where the content and archives of the Rocky Mountain News remain accessible.

This is the first known arrangement of its kind, and DPL has made its donation agreement with E.W. Scripps Company openly accessible so it can serve as a model for other newspapers and libraries or archives. A roundtable discussion of news executives also revealed opportunities to engage in new types of relationships with the creators of news. Particularly, opening a dialog with the maintainers of content management systems that are used in newsrooms could make the transfer of content out of those systems more predictable and archivable.

Ben Welsh, a database producer at the Los Angeles Times, next debuted his tool Storytracker, which is based on PastPages, a tool he developed to capture screenshots of newspaper websites.  Storytracker allows for the capture of screenshots and the extraction of URLs and their associated text so links and particular stories or other content elements from a news webpage can be tracked over time and analyzed. Storytracker is free and available for download and Welsh is looking for feedback on how the tool could be more useful to the web archiving community. Tools like these have the potential to aid in the selection, capture and analysis of web based content and further the goal of preserving born-digital news.

Katherine Skinner closed the meeting with an assessment of the challenges ahead for the community, including: unclear definitions and language around preservation; the copyright status of contemporary news content; the technical complexity of capturing and preserving born-digital news; ignorance of emerging types of content; and the lack of relationships between new content creators and stewardship organizations.

In an attempt to meet some of these challenges, three action areas were defined: awareness, standards and practices and legal framework. Participants volunteered to work toward progress in advocacy messaging, exploring public-private partnerships, preserving pre-print newspaper PDFs, preserving web-based news content and exploring metadata and news content management systems. Groups will attempt to demonstrate some progress in these areas over the next six months and share results at the next Dodging the Memory Hole meeting in Charlotte. If you have ideas or want to participate in any of the action areas let us know in the comments below and we will be in touch.

NDSR Applications Open, Projects Announced!

The Library of Congress, Office of Strategic Initiatives and the Institute of Museum and Library Services are pleased to announce the official open call for applications for the 2015 National Digital Stewardship Residency, to be held in the Washington, DC area.  The application period is from December 17, 2014 through January 30, 2015. To apply, […]

Preserving Carnegie Hall’s Born-Digital Assets: An NDSR Project Update

The following is a guest post by Shira Peltzman, National Digital Stewardship Resident at Carnegie Hall in New York City. As the National Digital Stewardship Resident placed at Carnegie Hall, I have been tasked with creating and implementing policies, procedures and best practices for the preservation of our born-digital assets. Carnegie Hall produces a staggering […]

Personal Digital Archiving 2015 in NYC — “Call for Papers” Deadline Approaching

The Personal Digital Archiving Conference 2015 will take place in New York City for the first time. The conference will be hosted by our NDIIPP and NDSA partners at New York University’s Moving Image Archiving and Preservation program April 24-26, 2015. Presentation submissions for Personal Digital Archiving are due Monday, December 8th, 2014 by 11:59 […]

New FADGI Report: Creating and Archiving Born Digital Video

As part of a larger effort to explore file formats, the Born Digital Video subgroup of the Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative Audio-Visual Working Group is pleased to announce the release of a new four-part report, “Creating and Archiving Born Digital Video.” This report has already undergone review by FADGI members and invited colleagues including […]

Comparing Formats for Video Digitization

The following is a guest post by Carl Fleischhauer, a Digital Initiatives Project Manager in the Office of Strategic Initiatives. FADGI format comparison projects. The Audio-Visual Working Group within the Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative recently posted a comparison of a few selected digital file formats for consideration when reformatting videotapes. We sometimes call these […]

Collecting and Preserving Digital Art: Interview with Richard Rinehart and Jon Ippolito

As artists have embraced a range of new media and forms in the last century as the work of collecting, conserving and exhibiting these works has become increasingly complex and challenging. In this space, Richard Rinehart and Jon Ippolito have been working to develop and understand approaches to ensure long-term access to digital works. In […]

All the News That’s Fit to Archive

The following is a guest post from Michael Neubert, a Supervisory Digital Projects Specialist at the Library of Congress. The Library has had a web archiving program since the early 2000s.  As with other national libraries, the Library of Congress web archiving program started out harvesting the web sites of its national election campaigns, followed […]

Presenting the NDSR Boston Residents, and their Projects!

The following is a guest post by the entire cohort of the NDSR Boston class of 2014-15. The first ever Boston cohort of the National Digital Stewardship Residency kicked off in September, and the five residents have been busy drinking from the digital preservation firehose at our respective institutions. You can look forward to individual […]