Wasted resources, wasted information

Two quotes stuck with me from this past weekend’s South By Southwest Conference, which had a great discussion on the present and future state of the news media that I followed on Twitter.
The gist of one statement was that the “amount of waste that we have in today’s newspaper system is gargantuan.” More on that later.
The other: “Journalists gather all of this information that they just throw away.”
The latter is interesting because of a conversation I had yesterday with a (semi)-retired investigative reporter who was lamenting how shallow today’s reporting can be. He said that journalists do a lousy (lazy) job in doing basic archival research on a topic, never mind working sources and present-day document trails. He cited the recent story about the Pope’s handling of a new sex abuse scandal among priests in Europe and the not-talked-about role that Benedict had under Pope John Paul in covering up similar problems.
I digress, because the real point to be made here is that within newspaper archives lies a treasure of information that, digitized and searchable, could be invaluable to researchers of history, local politics, family genealogy and more. It, for the most part, is gathering dust in library microfiche files and newsroom library bound copies.
Did you notice, by the way, that C-SPAN has put 160,000 hours of video – its entire archive of government programming since the channel’s founding – online? What immediate impact would it have if tomorrow we put up 198 searchable years of the New Haven Register at www.nhregister.com?
And that’s just what made it into the newspaper. Journalists do “throw away” a lot of data, background, etc., that is gathered to support a static, one-dimensional print story. Why aren’t we linking to the statistics that back up the statement, the video of the interview the story encapsulates, the floor plans from the planning and zoning office?

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