Dodging the Memory Hole: Saving Born-digital News Content

Monday, November 10, 2014 - Tuesday, November 11, 2014 0 Comments

Location: Reynolds Journalism Institute, University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo.

Do you see news archives as invaluable sources of historical reference? Are you concerned about the fragility of digital news content from the past 40 years? Are you passionate about saving this “rough first draft of history” and ready to take action? Do you enjoy working collaboratively with thought leaders and pioneers in other fields who share the same commitment to preserving born-digital news? If so, the upcoming “Dodging the Memory Hole: Saving Born-digital News Content” forum wants you to join a select group that will help decide what will tomorrow bring for yesterday’s news.

In today’s digital newsrooms, a software/hardware crash can wipe out decades of text, photos, videos and applications in a fraction of a second. Digital archives can easily become obsolete due to evolving formats and digital systems used by modern media, not to mention media failure, bit-rot and link-rot.

One recent survey found that most American media enterprises fail to adequately process their born-digital news content for long-term survival. This potential disappearance of news, birth announcements, obituaries and feature stories represents an impending loss of cultural heritage and identity for communities and the nation at large: a kind of Orwellian “memory hole” of our own unintentional making.

Forum attendees should be prepared to:

  • Engage with the top minds now working in the fields of journalism, library science, business, information technology, law, government and philanthropy.
  • Talk about the things you are most passionate about and interested in.
  • Volunteer to host small group discussions about things that are critical to achieving the goal of digital preservation.
  • Network with other researchers, historians, lawyers, authors, entrepreneurs and genealogists who care about this issue.
  • Help bridge the disconnect between the short-term goals of news producers and the long-term needs of digital preservation.
  • Develop approaches to possible partnerships between businesses and public institutions that can work for both private enterprise and the public good.
  • Shape best practices about the formats and structures holding digital news data, which will allow researchers of all kinds to examine larger and more complete corpora for data mining.
  • Be inspired.
  • Have fun!

A broad range of stakeholders are needed to realize this important goal. You can make that happen by joining Mizzou Advantage and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the “Dodging the Memory Hole: Saving Born-digital News Content” forum on November 10-11, 2014, in Columbia, Missouri. Your ideas and experience are critical to the success of this event.

A message from Clifford Lynch, director of the Coalition for Networked Information and forum participant: 

Clifford Lynch
Clifford Lynch

"Past experience teaches us that news is a central part of the cultural record; it is used by an enormous range of scholarly disciplines as well as being of lasting importance to the broad public. In the digital world the nature of what constitutes news has already changed in fundamental ways, and the traditional practices for preserving news for future generations will no longer work. This is a major crisis, both for the future of scholarly work and for our ability, as a society, to maintain a rich and comprehensive view of our history."


A message from Katherine Skinner, executive director of the Educopia Institute and forum participant:

Katherine Skinner
Katherine Skinner

"For centuries, memory organizations have dependably acquired, provided access to and preserved print news for future researchers. As news has transitioned from print-only to multimedia, most of these preservation relationships and workflows have broken. Tomorrow’s researchers will not have access to today’s news unless we act now. Bringing stakeholders together from all angles of this problem — news publishers and press associations, technologists and researchers, libraries and archives, corporations and funding agencies — will lay a crucial foundation for resolving this information crisis."



Reynolds Journalism Institute and The Mizzou Advantage