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Digital Preservation

The Library of Congress > Digital Preservation > News Archive > Gillmor Working with NDIIPP

August 25, 2010 -- When it comes to thinking about preserving born-digital news articles and information, "My mind almost explodes when I consider the issues," writes (external link) Dan Gillmor.

Dan Gillmor at the 2010 NDIIPP Partners meeting. Credit: Barry Wheeler

Dan Gillmor at the 2010 NDIIPP Partners meeting. Credit: Barry Wheeler

Gillmor is, however, doing more than considering the issues: he is actively engaged with the Library of Congress in exploring how to address them. He participated in the “Preserving Digital News” experts workshop at the Library in 2009, and also served on a panel during the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program annual meeting on July 20-22.

Now the Director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University, Gillmor has been working as a journalist in Silicon Valley since the mid-1990s. He is a revered commentator on the digital age; his fellow NDIIPP panelist Lee Ranie, director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project (external link), referred to Gillmor as "the Boswell of Silicon Valley."

Commenting afterwards on the NDIIPP meeting, Gillmor remarked that the panels and participants were “covering a lot of what needed to be looked at" regarding issues surrounding digital preservation. "I was really impressed by the people I met there," he said.

He described the current state of news archives, which he feels are falling short of where they could be today. "Newspapers' archives have value as community history, and they don't see it," he said. "Part of the problem is that the business is in such jeopardy that they're not going to spend the money to put it online." Most newspapers, he explained, are trying to bring in revenue from online offerings by charging for single articles, a strategy he feels ultimately doesn’t benefit the newspaper itself. "Any charge is a mistake," he said, "because people won’t pay it."

Newspapers are just one of several types of digital content creators that were discussed during the NDIIPP meeting. Gillmor said he gained "an appreciation for the complexity of the process" of preserving digital information through the course of the meeting, but didn’t agree with every point that came up. "I do think there's this focus among archivists about getting it right about what goes into the collection, and providing a high level of curation upon ingest," he said. "In the world we're moving into, we ought to just save everything we can, and curate on the way out."

However, he acknowledged that curation based on user input is not something that can replace the work archivists and librarians are currently doing, even as they feel overwhelmed by the mass of data in the digital age. "Librarians are our guides, and people who can sort out context from chaos," he said. "Not everything can be solved with a keyword search."