WIUM Tristates Public Radio

The Disappearing Digital Archive

Jun 12, 2018

The headline for an article in Columbia Journalism Review sums up a concern in journalism: "Digital journalism’s disappearing public record, and what to do about it."

Shop Talk panelist Will Buss said in-depth and investigative journalism rely on archives.  He said he couldn’t imagine doing the job he did during his newspaper years without having a digital archive to use as a resource.  And he believes news organizations that dump their archives end up losing credibility in the industry.

Panelist Jasmine Crighton said she worked for a TV station that got bought out. When the new owners took over, they erased all the digital content produced under the previous owners so all the work she and others had done through the years was gone. 

Crighton said it costs money to keep old web stories available to the public so some ownership groups opt to get rid of them.  But she said plenty of stations do keep an internal digital archive, and stations generally record and save their newscasts.

Panelist Rich Egger said he went to the archives collection at Western Illinois University a few years ago when he needed to look back at an issue. He said he looked through old newspapers that were preserved digitally – there were no radio or TV broadcasts preserved.

But he said that could change in the future.  Someone might want to look back at an issue reported, for example, by Tri States Public Radio and will expect to find it on the TSPR website.

Jasmine Crighton is News Director of NEWS3 at Western Illinois University and Will Buss is the Director of Student Publications at WIU.

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