As the U.S. presidential election approaches, the role that the news media play in public life is especially conspicuous. For better or worse, the events of the Romney and Obama campaigns are reported almost minute by minute in the media. Researchers in the future will mine this “first rough draft of history” for insights on the politics of our time.
CRL’s newspaper collections have been, and remain, an important source for historians. Our commitment to ensuring the future accessibility of the journalistic record is firm and longstanding. However, the way news content is sourced, maintained, and distributed has changed radically. The Internet has essentially “re-routed the supply chain” for news: websites, online broadcast, blogs, and social media like YouTube and Twitter provide channels for news reporting that did not exist two decades ago. These developments have rendered the existing models for news preservation, rooted in the microform age, obsolete.
Therefore CRL’s strategy for ensuring access to the record of news coverage is evolving. We at CRL believe that the news media organizations and the news aggregators will play critical roles in the preservation of this record. We have therefore begun to explore with a few large aggregators the possibility of providing end-to-end coverage of news to researchers at CRL libraries. By “end to end,” we mean both historic and current news content, digitized newspapers as well as born-digital news content. Many CRL libraries have purchased a number of the historical databases, and subscribe to current databases, from NewsBank/Readex and ProQuest. We are now discussing with those publishers terms for CRL-wide coverage of the major news databases.
We want to achieve two things. First, we want researchers at CRL institutions to have electronic access to more newspapers and news content. And this needs to be affordable in a time of stressed library budgets.
Second, we want to improve the terms upon which publishers make electronic news content available. This means not just lower prices but better features and functionality, like text mining and analysis capabilities, credible archiving, exposure of metadata, and so forth.
We believe that CRL libraries, acting together through CRL and in concert with our partners the Canadian Research Knowledge Network and JISC Collections, can achieve these aims. We will soon report to you further on this effort.
Meanwhile, please know that we are working hard to ensure access for your constituents to the primary evidence and documentation critical to advanced research. Many thanks for your continued support, and for participating in CRL.
Bernard F. Reilly
Center for Research Libraries