Wally Keeler has written a letter to Council asking that they demand that Torstar and Postmedia restore access to the stories of our community no longer available due to their recent closure of 33 newspapers – including Northumberland Today (which has a history going back to 1831). It will be on the Agenda at Monday’s council meeting. The Library or the Archives or even the Newspaper’s new owner will surely have hard copies for future historians to peruse but Wally’s focus is on the web site and the lost links from Facebook pages and the lost articles posted by local organizations. Wally is quite eloquent in his plea for support from the Town.
Ever since news went digital years ago, Cobourg residents could link a news story in Northumberland Today on their Facebook page or Twitter or other social media. Parents could post an article about little Johnny getting the winning shot or little Jane winning a science award. All the prom pictures, inaccessible. These were linked by family and friends. Lots of intersectional bonding developed over the years. All of Pete Fisher’s digital photographs of years of Cobourg events — inaccessible. All of the digital stories by Layton Dodge of pee wee, minor, major sports events — inaccessible.
In the normal affairs of humans, it is the news media that holds governments to account. This is a moment when governments should hold the news media to account.
But Wally is perhaps not aware of someone else who agrees with him and has proactively done something about it. In 1996 Brewster Kahle in San Francisco started to archive many of the Internet’s sites at a site called the Wayback Machine – he has saved 308 billion pages including many from NorthumberlandToday.com. So in fact, starting in 2001 many (but certainly not all) pages were preserved although I see that there are many more snapshots in 2017 than in 2001. Go here to access the Wayback Machine; then enter the URL of Northumberland Today ( northumberlandtoday.com ) or for that matter another site of your choice. Home pages on many dates are preserved plus many inner pages but fewer of these. It’s less than perfect but it’s more than nothing.
I like the quote in the FAQs at the Wayback machine site:
Why is the Internet Archive collecting sites from the Internet? What makes the information useful?
Most societies place importance on preserving artifacts of their culture and heritage. Without such artifacts, civilization has no memory and no mechanism to learn from its successes and failures. Our culture now produces more and more artifacts in digital form. The Archive’s mission is to help preserve those artifacts and create an Internet library for researchers, historians, and scholars.
That being said, looking at the old pages, in this case it’s hard for me to see the cultural value – perhaps one needs to be a historian; but then maybe the hard copies will be enough for them.
Staff don’t have a recommended action for Wally’s letter – maybe that’s what they recommend: do nothing?