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 all conspire to hamper library efforts to make newspapers and related news resources available to any comprehensive degree. Collaborative programs like the Foreign Newspaper Microfilm Project, the United States Newspaper Project, and the International Coalition on Newspapers (ICON) were created to confront these challenges. Focusing on long-term accessibility, these programs promote cataloging and preservation of newspapers and related primary sources on microfilm.
The past two decades saw the production and consumption of news has change dramatically. The “lifecycle” of news (from sourcing of content to distribution of news products) is no longer a linear process culminating in a “final" tangible edition. It is now a continuous loop of gathering, processing, versioning, output, response, and update. Print is fast becoming secondary to Web channels for distribution of news content. Therefore preserving news in the electronic environment requires a different set of strategies than that long oursued by libraries. CRL's 2011 report Preserving News in the Digital Environment: Mapping the Newspaper Industry in Transition details this lifecycle of electronic and print news and the implications for preserving the journalistic record.
Some national libraries, research institutions, and historical societies have begun to ingest digital news content. Pilot programs have emerged to test models of collecting the electronic equivalent of the “paper of record.” However, these efforts only capture a tiny fraction of the entire news ouptut of established organizations (and almost none of the output created by “citizen journalists,” bloggers, and the like).
Meanwhile, new distribution technologies continue to transform the products of an industry in transition. The “news experience” has become atomized as companies, search engines, digital readers, and advertisers track user habits and deliver personalized content on an ever increasing number of platforms.
Legacy content 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 their collective leverage to bear on this complex issue through concerted action on several fronts:
- "Collectivize" the library market for news back files, databases, and tools. Their newspaper holdings and collective purchasing power afford libraries potential leverage in persuading aggregators and publishers to make digital collections and tools available to libraries on a persistent, affordable basis. This will require the cooperation of independent and academic research libraries whose collections often serve as sources of content for the aggregators.
- Work with publishers, aggregators, and other repositories to ensure adequate archiving of digitized legacy content. Establish realistic requirements for print and digital archiving of newspapers digitized by publishers and aggregators, and achieve compliance with those requirements. Such requirements will include the creation and disclosure of standardized, page-level metadata.
- Increase the amount and granularity of information available on newspapers held and digitized by libraries, aggregators, and publishers. CRL is expanding the ICON website and database to provide more information on the scope and completeness of world newspaper titles held by libraries in print and microform; and on newspapers digitized by libraries, publishers, and aggregators.
- Urge the major national libraries to implement uniform, electronic copyright deposit to acquire and archive current newspapers in digital format. This will require community agreement on a standard document type definition (DTD) for electronic copyright deposit.
- Encourage uniform, persistent archiving by the producers of electronic news. Work with the Associated Press and other news reporting organizations to ensure that their systems for archiving digital news content serve not only their own immediate business needs but the needs of future scholars and researchers as well.