Preserving news (newspapers, news broadcast and wire service content) in the 20th century posed significant challenges for libraries and archives. Issues of publication frequency, physical size and poor paper quality, multiple editions, and title changes conspired to hamper library efforts to comprehensively preserve and catalog newspaper back files. Collaborative programs like the Foreign Newspaper Microfilm Project, the United States Newspaper Project, and the International Coalition on Newspapers (ICON) were created to meet these challenges. Focusing on long-term accessibility, these programs promote systematic cataloging and strategic preservation of newspapers in print and on microfilm.
The past two decades have seen the production and consumption of news change dramatically. The “life cycle” of news (from sourcing of content to distribution of news products) is no longer a linear process culminating in a fixed, tangible "edition," as it was in the print era. It is now a continuous loop of gathering, processing, versioning, output, response, and update. Therefore preserving the record of digital journalism calls for new strategies. CRL's 2011 report Preserving News in the Digital Environment: Mapping the Newspaper Industry in Transition explores in detail the new life cycle of electronic news, and suggests implications of this new life cycle for preservation.
Some national libraries, research libraries, and historical societies have in fact begun to ingest digital news content. Pilot programs are testing ways of collecting the electronic equivalent of the “paper of record.” To date, however, those efforts capture only a small fraction of the ouptut of the major news organizations, and very little of the content produced by “citizen journalists,” bloggers, and the like.
Legacy content, on the other hand, is becoming widely available as digitization efforts provide web access to historic news collections. Here there is little uniformity of practice, however, as a host of commercial and non-profit players implement a variety of metadata applications, create “silos” of content that prevent cross-searchability, and impose often restrictive conditions of use and licensing terms.
Libraries might bring considerable collective resources to bear on these challenges through concerted action on several fronts: by "collectivizing" the library market for commercially produced news databases; working with publishers, aggregators, and other repositories to ensure adequate archiving of digitized legacy content; increasing the amount and granularity of available information on the newspapers and news content held and digitized by libraries, aggregators, and publishers; and by encoureaging persistent archiving by the producers of electronic news.
A June 2013 forum produced a new strategic agenda for news preservation, which is outlined in the Summer 2013 issue of CRL's Focus on Global Resources newsletter.