January 19, 2022

New Report: “Endangered But Not Too Late: The State of Digital News Preservation”

From the University of Missouri Libraries:

The results of an 18-month long research investigation to discover how news organizations in the U.S, and Europe are preserving digital news and to identify best practices, problem areas and changes needed to avoid unintentional loss of content were released today in the report: Endangered but Not Too Late: The State of Digital News Preservation.

Leading a group of University of Missouri faculty researchers and industry experts on this project, Edward McCain, Digital Curator of Journalism from the University of Missouri Libraries and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute and his team interviewed 115 individuals from 29 news organizations, four news technology companies, two news aggregators and five memory institutions, diving deeply into the technology used by these organizations in order to better understand how digital news content can be preserved.

What’s clear from this research is that the typical expectation of readers and the public, that news preservation is automatic in the digital age, simply isn’t correct. Chances are, in fact, that unless news organizations do something specific and intentional to preserve it, some or all of their born-digital content will be gone in a few years. It will no longer be accessible, readable, searchable or recoverable unless deliberate steps are taken to ensure it is.

Some of the findings:

  • Newsrooms save some but not all digital content
  • Saved content is mostly text, images, video
  • Public media have better resources, better archives
  • Internal use is primary, public access important but often outsourced
  • Top tech challenge is managing multiple digital channels
  • Web CMS is central, often doubles as archive
  • Some use asset systems as archives, others rely on web CMS
  • News metadata is often haphazard, inconsistent
  • System migrations often lead to lost content
  • Financial stress on news industry displaces preservation
  • Migration to digital publishing incomplete, can mean lost content
  • Relying solely on web CMS can be problematic for preservation
  • There’s often nobody left to mind the archive store
  • Good preservation is linked strongly to mission, policy, track record
  • Track record of preservation matters

Based on the findings, the report offers three levels of recommendations for news organizations to preserve their digital content, based on degree of difficulty or cost.

  • Immediate actions: Steps that can be taken now, at little or no cost, to begin the process of ensuring news content is preserved
  • Medium-term actions: Steps outlined in the report are actions that will take longer to accomplish and may involve investments in technologies, staff or funding
  • Industry-wide actions: Long-term steps that involve more than one newsroom pursuing solutions that involve policy changes, institutional partnerships, actions by industry sub-groups or news associations as well as some government actions

The Preserving Digital News Project was generously supported by the Andrew. W. Mellon Foundation

Direct to  Download Full Text Report: The State of Digital News Preservation

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.