Edward McCain: Goals of the conference

From Dodging the Memory Hole 2016: Saving Online News

EDWARD MCCAIN: [00:08] Thank you, Jenny. And I’d just like to give a round of applause to UCLA Library, all the staff and the members of the organizing committee for this great space and this great opportunity at UCLA. So, a little thanks. A little bit of housekeeping. You may already have found this out, but in your name badge you have a schedule. Inside there there’s a little booklet and if you don’t have one, we can get you one at the front desk. That’s going to help, hopefully, tell you where you should be and when.

[00:47] And it does tuck in there, if you get past the hardware. I think I’ll put it that way. Bathrooms, should you happen to need a bio-break, go down the hallway and to the right there are stairs in the lobby gallery, go downstairs and immediately to your right there’s a hallway, and that’s where you need to go. So, enjoy. I guess the other housekeeping thing is that, during any of the food breaks, we are going to be inviting you to participate in voting and expressing your opinion.

[01:28] And we’re going to collect those throughout the conference. So, please do participate, it’s important and actually part of our obligation to IMLS that we get some work done while we’re enjoying food. I want to thank all of the sponsors. Our biggest sponsor, IMLS, Reynolds Journalism Institute, where I work part of the time. Actually, I’m officed there, but also I work for MU libraries.

[02:00] UCLA library, we’ve already said, and Educopia Institute, thank you for a great collaboration all the way along in Dodging the Memory Hole. Katherine Skinner is the executive director. Thank you, Katherine. So, a hand for our sponsors.

[02:24] I’ll just tell you a little bit about — and I think the branding people at the University of Missouri probably should never see this, because you’re not supposed to do this, but — the nickname of University of Missouri, if you don’t know, is Mizzou and we are the Tigers.

[02:40] So I had a sticker on the back of my car, one time, and somebody pulled up next to me in a Cadillac convertible and said, “Hi, Tiger.” [laughter] Hi. I couldn’t figure it out for about two blocks. But, this is Ellis library. We just celebrated our centennial at MU Libraries. This is the University of Missouri School of Journalism. My office is almost visible, somewhere to the right, there, where that tall tower building is, that’s RJI.

[03:22] The reason for my position there actually kind of started in 2002 when a server crashed at the Columbia Missourian. That’s the daily newspaper that the faculty and students at the University of Missouri put out each day, and they have done so since 1908. But the content management system that was in use at the time was obsolete and the server was basically running on baling wire and duct tape, essentially, and it crashed. The server crashed. The software was so obsolete that we effectively lost 15 years of our mid-Missouri archives from the Missourian.

[04:09] And that sort of thing gets people to think, believe it or not, which was a good thing in this case. The dean of journalism and the director of MU Libraries at the time, Jim Cogswell, came up with an idea that we should create a position to try to save born-digital news content, and they created a position that I’m lucky enough to hold, one of the best jobs in the world, digital curator of journalism. Who could ask for more?

[04:41] And, as part of that position, we’ve established a program called the Journalism Digital News Archive, JDNA. And JDNA is a systematic approach to a variety of different problems. And one of the ways we do that is through Dodging the Memory Hole. So, that brings us here today. Here are the things that we are hoping to accomplish, and we have planned through our panels, our speakers, and in our breakout sessions especially, to get your input and try to meet these goals.

[05:23] The first one is to create a national agenda for saving born-digital news content that appears online. So, we’ve started on that road but we haven’t specifically addressed that “online” part of it. So, we’ll be breaking into groups later today in order to accomplish that. The other thing we want to do is we want to identify stakeholder roles; who should be doing what. And we’ve got a bunch of different people here: journalists, librarians, archivists and technologists. If we get together, I think we can do this.

[06:06] And that’s where the cooperation and knowledge sharing come in handy. This is such a complicated problem, involving so many areas of the newspaper industry or the news industry itself. Sorry, newspaper is kind of an outmoded thing, I think. We won’t be talking about newspapers much longer. But news organizations and technologists, the content management systems that run the systems, that publish the content, that collect it; and then archivists, of course, memory institutions, the people who are probably the most adept and understand best the challenges of keeping something alive and viable and accessible over time.

[06:57] So, we are going to break out in one of our discussion groups. Eric Weig is going to be leading a discussion to examine news content management systems and how we can work with those to try to determine a pathway toward working with memory institutions. How do we get from where we are with content management systems to where we would like to be?

[07:25] I would like to celebrate the fact we have 14 student scholars here from all over the country and from a variety of a different studies and academia. So we will be celebrating those people at a reception later today over at Powell Library, at the end of the day, so please join us for that. And, I think really importantly, during the breakout sessions we’re going to have you identify specific projects — and we would hope to come away from this conference with 15 excellent, fundable proposals that we can go to IMLS or some other funding place and say, we’re ready to go.

[08:11] Just help us make these into reality so we can advance the real practice, so we can really show people that this is what needs to be done to preserve online news. So that tells you, basically, where we want to go, where we need to go. We’re going to go right to our first speaker, who’s going to be introduced by Martin Klein, from Los Alamos National Laboratory. Martin.