Friday, March 7, 2008

Let’s not allow reporters epic efforts, sink down the memory-hole drain in vain

As more newspapers like the Albuquerque Tribune continue going out of business, we should make concerted efforts to preserve their precious archives. Many newspapers start out struggling; never knowing if their going to make it beyond a few years. Therefore, they never budget annually, very much in way of back scanning their archives (though many State libraries make diligent efforts to do so.)

Recently, (Wash. Post owned) Slate Magazine ran an article bashing their cross-town rival USA Today’s ambitious Newseum project, by comparing it to the new American Indian Museum on our National Mall. Essentially, Slate said that both museums “were designed to be the sumptuous setting for candle-lit fundraisers, where you can almost hear the clink of highball glasses and the jing-a-ling of jewelry."

However, many fundraisers are actually used for constructive purposes. I would like to submit to the USA Today and Newseum board of directors, that they consider holding an annual fundraiser with the intention to salvage several newspapers that have gone beyond the brink. They could set up a committee, with a set of criteria for eligible newspapers, using a simple algorithm that involves historical context, the age of the newspaper, past awards won, average circulation amounts, whether a library has preserved their precious records of antiquity, and other relative parameters for markers to see who is best qualified, to not have their reporters enduring efforts just tossed into recycle.

Besides salvaging newspapers gone back to the wild, the Newseum or some other good-willed newspaper-aficionado entity could help protect the historical archives of a handful of newspapers every year, which are still struggling to hang in there. Such funding could help construct enhanced fireproof storage facilities and state-of-the art fire-protection systems; much as visionary librarians have installed, to better protect our priceless records of antiquity, which have not yet been back-scanned or mirrored.

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