Future-Proofing the News: Preserving the First Draft of History examines the history and technology of news reporting in the U.S. and focuses on the decisions that aided or hindered future access. Changing formats of news delivery, business enterprises, and laws have had profound impacts on the ability to find and learn from records of the past.
News coverage is often described as the “first draft of history.” From the publication in 1690 of the first American newspaper, Publick Occurrences, to the latest tweet, news has been disseminated to inform its audience about what is going on in the world. But the preservation of news content has had its technological, legal, and organizational challenges. Over the centuries, as new means of finding, producing, and distributing news were developed, the methods used to ensure future generations’ access changed, and new challenges for news content preservation arose. This book covers the history of news preservation (or lack thereof), the decisions that helped ensure (or doom) its preservation, and the unique preservation issues that each new form of media brought.
All but one copy of Publick Occurrences were destroyed by decree. The wood-pulp based newsprint used for later newspapers crumbled to dust. Early microfilm disintegrates to acid and decades of microfilmed newspapers have already dissolved in their storage drawers. Early radio and television newscasts were rarely captured and when they were, the technological formats for accessing the tapes are long superseded. Sounds and images stored on audio and videotapes fade and become unreadable. The early years of web publication by news organizations were lost by changes in publishing platforms and a false security that everything on the Internet lives forever.
In 50 or 100 years, what will we be able to retrieve from today’s news output? How will we tell the story of this time and place? Will we have better access to news produced in 1816 than news produced in 2016? These are some of the questions Future-Proofing the News aims to answer.
Chapter One: Who Needs Yesterday’s News?
Losing the News
Access to Preserved News
Chapter Two: Newspapers
The Newspaper Industry
Why Newspapers Were Lost
How Newspapers Were Preserved
Newspaper Preservation Challenges
A Newspaper Historian’s View
Chapter Three: Visual News
The Rise of Visual News
Why Visual News Was Lost
How Visual News Was Preserved
Visual News Preservation Challenges
Photo Archive Users
Chapter Four: Newsreels
The Newsreel Industry
Why Newsreels Were Lost
How Newsreels Were Preserved
Newsreel Preservation Challenges
Archival Newsreel Collections
An Artist’s View of Newsreel Archives
Chapter Five: Radio
The Radio Industry
Why Radio News Was Lost
How Radio News Was Preserved
Radio News Preservation Challenges
A Network of Preservation Heroes
Chapter Six: Television
The Television Industry
Why Television News Was Lost
How Television News Was Preserved
Television News Preservation Challenges
Television Archive Users
Chapter Seven: The Digital Turn
Radio and Television
Converting Analog Archives to Digital
Chapter Eight: Digital News
Early Videotex Experiments
CompuServe and Competitors
The World Wide Web
Why News on the Web (and Beyond) Was Lost
Digital News Preservation Today
Dark Alliance Case Study
Chapter Nine: Challenges to News Archive Access
Who Has An Archive of the Content I Need?
How Can I Get Access to the Archive?
Are There Tools That Will Help Me Find Specific Items in the Archive?
I’ve Found What I Need: Will I Be Able to Use It the Way I Intend?
Chapter Ten: What Next?
The Current State of News Preservation
Archival Challenges and Opportunities
Avoiding Historical Amnesia
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About the Authors