User:ThomasW/Notes Capturing and Preserving the First Draft of History in the Digital Environment

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Hansen, Kathleen A, Paul,Nora, Broussard, B, McCain, E, Silverman, Randy (2015) ‘Newspaper archives reveal major gaps in digital age’ Newspaper Research Journal, Vol.36, No.4, Fall 2015 pp.290-298

Special Issue: Capturing and Preserving the First Draft of History in the Digital Environment

Editors’ comments

“Capturing and Preserving the ‘First Draft of History’ in the Digital Environment.” page 1 / 290 //

Newspaper archives reveal major gaps in digital age

By Kathleen A. Hansen and Nora Paul

“The first organization devoted to news librarianship, The Newspaper Library Group, was founded by Joseph Kwapil in 1923. New York Herald news librarian David G. Rogers worked with Eastman Kodak in 1932 to adapt a microfilm camera to film newspaper files.” Page 2/ 291

“Microfilm was declared the savior of newspaper preservation, and by 1946 the Bell & Howell Company made the filming of newspapers a major part of its business. But microfilm poses its own preservation problems. Acetate-based film, which was used up until the 1980s, deteriorates when not stored at the proper humidity and temperature, resulting in the loss of information captured on the film. In most cases, the original issues from which the acetate microfilm was made were discarded” page 3/ 292

“Most large news organizations in the United States continued to build and maintain their clip files until the mid 1980s or even later, when large-scale adoption of digital archiving systems became the norm. At that point, the clip files became a storage and maintenance nuisance and an expense as the square footage to house the filing cabinets became costlier. Most news organizations did not have the budget to microfilm or later digitally scan the hundreds of thousands of newsprint clippings stored in envelopes filed in metal filing cabinets.” page 3/ 292

“Archiving the digital output of the news organization was not even recognized as important as recently at the late 1990s. Conducting research for the book Newspapers of Record in a Digital Age co-author Hansen interviewed the manager of a large metropolitan daily newspaper’s online operation and was told that there was no need to archive the online site because it was a “service, not a publication.”” page 3/ 292



Preserving news apps present huge challenges

By Meredith Broussard

“By borrowing preservation strategies from video games and contemporary art, media scholars can begin to develop an innovative path forward that will allow us to preserve the first draft of news app history.” page 2/ 300

“Rothenberg writes of four challenges for digital archives: “physical decay of media, loss of information about the format, encoding, or compression of files, obsolescence of hardware, and unavailability of software.” 7 He notes that the practical physical lifetime of a magnetic disk is 5-10 years, and the average time until the disk is obsolete is only five years. Today’s news app storage solutions will likely be ported to future technologies, just as newspapers were converted to microfilm and then microfilm was widely digitized” page 3 / 301

“There is some psychology attached to keeping these objects: perhaps the idea is that if the physical storage medium is still in the reporter’s possession, the story could be fact-checked or the data recovered. Cheryl Phillips no longer owns a Zip drive, but she does have the Zip disks and the computer that once ran them. Phillips spoke at NICAR of her reasoning for organizing the panel on data storage and recovery:

“Why do we care about this? Because the data we’re using now is going to be just like this,”25 she said, gesturing at the 9-track tape. We’re not going to have any way to get it because it will be on a USB drive, it’s going to be on little floppies; we won’t be able to access it unless we figure out now a way to save it for future geeks as well as aggregate it for good stories. That’s why we need to document our data, and share it.26

page 8 /306


Ethnic newspaper producers face archiving challenges

By Kristin L. Gustafson

“For example, New York’s 270-plus ethnic and community publications “are surviving—and occasionally even thriving.”19 Loss of records of these community voices that are already marginalized or excluded from dominant media raises the stakes for preservation.” page 3 / 316

“By the time we view a digital archive, its contents have been through a complex process of transformation; the questions we can ask of a digital source are, in this sense, determined before we even login to the database.” page 3/316

“Researchers, including historians, recognize archives as more than collections of texts and material remains of the past. When examined closely, archives reflect assumptions about what matters most to historians, and gaps exist of what might appear unrecognizable in a particular time.2” page 4 /317

“Newspaper archives are especially interesting, as they gather socially constructed collections of socially constructed products. Media scholars describe and examine how news content represents media’s organizational products and also reflects the process of “how something is actually created and put together.” page 4/317

“These producers of hyper-local and culturally valuable news recognize their records’ importance, identify unique barriers to physical and digital preservation and see solutions. The barriers that stymied preservation efforts were

  • lack of physical and digital space
  • need for more people power and time for archiving
  • organizational logistics and habits
  • lack of knowledge of technology and resources

Several newspapers identified lack of space as a limitation to preserving print and online content, and finding space for their growing records seems daunting. They worried less about social media news content. Renting storage space is expensive. Jaime Lim, founder and publisher of The Asian Reporterin Portland, Oregon, said, “Paying office-space rent to store large amounts of paper is not economical.”42 Tony Chu, executive director and president of three Seattle- based publications, has moved several times since starting Chinese Seattle News in 1993 and Seattle Chinese Journal and the Chinese Washington Post in 2005. With each move Chu throws out more old issues: “We just don’t have that many places to store the newspaper,” 43 he said. Julie Jefferson, director for the Lummi Nation Communications Department, which oversees Squol Quol in Bellingham, Washington, said her newspaper needs “a facility that would keep those records safe from air, water, dust—whatever.”44 And online storage space has restrictions. “I’d like to get at least like the current issues we are working on, on the Cloud,”45said Don Pham of Nguoi Viet Tay Bac/Northwest Vietnamese News.But the expense of Cloud storage and back- ups can be a barrier, according to the newspaper’s managing editor, Julie Pham.46 Most people interviewed said that not having enough people or time posed a barrier to their newspaper’s print and digital archiving. “ page 5 / 318

“For example, when El Siete Diaz’graphic designer in Perú got sick, the newspaper stopped updating its website and discontinued its online archiving for ten months.48 Lori Edmo-Suppah, editor of Sho-Ban News in Fort Hall, Idaho, said she would like a person . . . making sure everything’s saved and secured and keeping track of the past issues of the newspaper, our morgues, and figuring out ways to keep them so where they’re secure and in a temperature-controlled area so, you know, they’re not at risk of being destroyed.” page 7 / 320

“Other people presented a lack of knowledge about technology and resources as a barrier. Jefferson said it is a matter of not knowing what methods are “out there”53 besides saving on a hard drive, flash drive or in a file cabinet. “The Cloud—that’s a possibility,”54 she said, but she worries about how information will be accessed in the future, “especially, if we change from one program server to another.” page 6/ 319

“Another editor and publisher, Chris B. Bennett, co-publisher and editor of The Seattle Medium, said he learned recently that that the organization was missing several years of physical copies from its nearly 45-year history, including the first issue, and that it lost about a decade of online content after moving and updating the website. His company responded by moving more of the online management in house. Bennett said he keeps a close watch on onsite backup, saying “There’s no offsite backup.”69 He also said he requires stricter practices to store the newspaper’s hard copies. Now I’ve got to go back and really kind of be more old-school about it—in terms of having something where I can see something. I know where it’s at. I know how we can access it. If something falls through the cracks, it’s based upon a hole in our system.70”

page 8 / 321

Plans to save born-digital newscontent examined

By Edward McCain “ This comparatively passive approach to news preservation seems to have led journalists to assume that someone else will care for their digital publications just as they did for printed pages” page 2 / 338 “ In the past 40 years the use of binary information has permeated almost every aspect of modern life. From NASA’s use of UNIVAC for data calculations in the 1950s to the voice-controlled smartphones of today, digital information systems provide unparalleled access to information. Throughout the history of humankind’s graphic record, from chiseling rock to writing on papyrus and tapping keyboards, increased access has always come at a cost in terms of increased fragility. Thus, all born-digital content has proven to be ephemeral in the extreme: susceptible to bit rot, link rot, technical failures, human error and natural disasters.As a case in point, in 2002 a Columbia Missourian server crashed and wiped out 15 years of text and seven years of photos. “ page 2 / 338

“The task of preserving born-digital news archives on a sustainable basis is too large and complex for any one group. Thus, an essential element of building a successful initiative is to establish connections among stakeholders. Creating strong and effective linkages and access across system components will further improve results for system beneficiaries.” page 5 /341


Retaining hardcopy papers still important in digital age

By Randy Silverman

“The camera’s resolute documentation contradicts such hyperbole—the 50-year-old sheets appear sound and pristine, their slightly yellowed borders framing crisp, white pages. But, as far as we know, the crisis is on. The volume is infected and needs immediate microfilming, if it is to be saved. The technician then places one of the inch-thick slabs of leaves onto the bed of a nearby guillotine cutter, and rotates the circular metal wheel on top to lower the iron platen. The ancient manual clamp clatters audibly as it descends. The technician discloses, It kind of bothers me to guillotine newspaper collections because I know the actual papers are not gonna go back on the shelves. “ page 2 /364

“The actual act of scanning microfilm had to be taken on faith, however, because even by the 1990s a functioning optical scanner for microfilm did not exist.9” page 3/365

“More than 60 million newspaper pages were converted to microfilm during the 29 years of the unique partnership between Library of Congress and National Endowment for the Humanities called the United States Newspaper Program (USNP).13 Most of the original newsprint used to create the film was discarded. “ page 3 / 365

“Newspaper bindings do far more to protect their contents over time than one might suspect. Compressing the paper minimizes its exposure to light, air and changes in environmental conditions, thereby reducing the rate of acid hydrolysis and oxidation that causes deterioration. “ page 4 / 366

“ Non-damaging microfilming of bound newspapers has been a technically viable option since the 1930s. Spring loaded cradles can compensate for a book’s varying thickness as the pages are turned, pressing both leaves equally against a flat glass photographic plate to create an ideal focal point anywhere in the text. This methodology prevents damage even when filming a bound text with tight gutter margins and is employed when the objective is to return a book to the shelf unscathed. Because it adds time and expense to the procedure, however, book cradles are reserved for books with “artifactual value.” page 4 / 366

“Print newspapers contain encoded visual information that affects the reader. Michael Golden, vice chairman of The New York TimesCompany, suggested recently that “the transfer of information from a broadsheet printed newspaper is faster than from a news website.”2 page 5 / 367

“ The erroneous assertion that acidic paper is turning to dust was always propaganda. Properly housed and carefully handled, rare historic newspapers will continue serving for millennia in their most valuable role, what book conservator and educator Gary Frost terms venerable “leaf masters:

“the United States is the only nation on Earth I have been able to identify that ever sanctioned copying and destroying its original historic newspapers.How did this come about? One explanation, proffered by Austrian book conservator Otto Wächter in 1987, postulates that rather than a technological plague brought about by acidic paper, the crisis facing American libraries was actually “a case of ‘preservation policy.’” page 7 / 369

“ the vast majority of original American newspapers from the 1870s on has been destroyed and replaced by microfil —appears to be correct.”36 The full implications of this tragedy have yet to be completely comprehended” page 8 / 370

“As the newspaper industry struggles to survive in the digital environment, it is likely the morgues of many smaller weekly and daily papers will disappear. This provides an immediate opportunity for astute institutions to collect unique material now in private hands to ensure it outlives this final threat. The surviving hard-copy newspapers need to be preserved in appropriate climatic conditions within state and private institutions capable of caring for these legacy collections in perpetuity. Federal institutions, embracing Luther Evans’ folly, abdicated that responsibility and left the public trust shaken.” page 8 / 370