Journalism is struggling to find sustainable, a.k.a. profitable, business models. Advertising revenue is less than half of what it was in 2006 and the number of newspaper journalists has declined by 27 percent since peaking in 1989, according to the Pew Research Center. This is particularly true in smaller towns and rural areas. Once those businesses close their doors, there is an increased likelihood that their archives, especially those in digital formats, will be lost forever.
By creating open-source software, the Journalism Digital News Archive hopes to offer these struggling enterprises new possibilities for generating revenues from their archives. For example, JDNA could assist these organizations in setting up cooperative efforts that allow multiple archives to reside on a single server. That sort of scenario would keep costs low and also provide participants with the opportunity to benefit from a larger pool of content, which is generally more attractive to potential customers, ranging from research services to individual users. In addition, for those enterprises that don’t want to deal with setting up their own server or establish a co-op, JDNA can leverage the efficiencies of the University of Missouri’s IT system to provide our system as a service at an affordable cost.
The JDNA initiative involves working as an intermediary between news archive owners and cultural heritage institutions to facilitate the safe transfer of resources to an appropriate location.
“Obviously, the system will need to accommodate a wide range of file formats and packages during and across the processes required within the life cycle of digital objects. I believe that we should be able to combine and build on existing open-source platforms to achieve this and more,” says Edward McCain, digital curator of journalism at RJI.
JDNA’s approach to the dilemma of preserving born-digital news content is multi-faceted, recognizing that there are a variety of stakeholders who may be affected by the fate of “a first rough draft of history.” Journalists need access to their paper’s “morgue” to give context to their reporting. Local communities depend on these archives for a sense of history and identity. Historians and genealogists rely on news archives to understand where we came from and where we might be going. Business and legal researchers value original news content for evidence and documentation essential to operating their enterprises. Thus, there are a variety of outcomes for preserving news content, ranging from personal to professional and from serving the public good to supporting the private sector.