US Government To Put Old Newspapers Online

from the cool dept

While the government seems especially worried about copyright for recent content, once content gets old and in the public domain, suddenly it’s a “national treasure” that needs to be available to everyone. Not that we’re against this new plan to put a ton of old newspaper archives online for free (in fact, we’re all for it), but it’s amusing to contrast that with the ongoing efforts by many politicians to make it harder for people to access content.

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Comments on “US Government To Put Old Newspapers Online”

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Rhelic (user link) says:

Sounds more usefull than it is

I’m fully against this project because I feel it is a unbridled waste of tax payer’s money and for the reasons I have discovered on my own, listed below.

I worked as an IT person for a group that owned a newspaper; we wrestled with the idea of taking out archive and hiring a team to OCR scan & submit stories into the CMS I wrote for the newspaper’s website.

The ironic part is that it sounds like a really great idea but you have these problems…

#1 How useful is it really? Old news has very little value after it gets a couple of months old, mind you, don?t confuse educational material with news, which often is only of value today & now.
#2 From a commercial aspect, this is very expensive, I calculated for our newspaper it was going to be around $7,000 per 1 year of newspapers.
#3 Because of #1, there is a very, very low demand for this old news, and because of this fact, it’s hard to charge for it. This fact makes #2 a wasted investment.

Unfortunately the concept of scanning old (especially really old) newspapers into a digital system sounds really useful, in reality it’s a self promoting idea and has no value outside of your own bubble. If you disagree, perhaps you’ve been watching too many movies.

DV Henkel-Wallace says:

Re: Sounds more usefull than it is

The deal is, nobody knows at the time what will be useful in the future. And at least you get some economy of scale by doing a huge amount at once.

Currently, a big part of what librarians do is discard material, but that’s due to a technical limitation. Essentially think of them as constructing an index — which is constrained by the physical size of the library. When your library can be infinite, librarians can, with the aid of technology, construct lots of particular indices. The reality is that there might be only one reference per month to the records of June 1892. But someone who wants to find that small mention of a medal given out to some insignificant private who only later became a general officer, well, her job just got easier, or even possible. That is why it’s worth it.

Eugene says:

You need to know what you're looking for

I would probably use it. There are long lost friends that I can’t seem to find anymore, and it’ll get worse in the future. It would be helpful to be able to view the obtituary & wedding archives. I’m sure I’ve lost some high school buddies to the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan, and I’d like to read more about them than I can find on There were articles in my hometown newspaper in the Sci&Tech section that I’d still read even now. The articles from shortly after 9/11 would be interesting, even if it might be an emotional burden to read.
The like to see science journals. Some journals are starting to make their older articles free, but it’s still too sporadic for me.
I totally think this could be done well. The Air Force has almost every new article and research paper available electronically, and anyone that plans to get anywhere in the Air Force will utilize these archives at some point in their career. I’m just an E-5, but I’ve used it many times during school and personal education.
It may suck to have to scan old things in, but hopefully that provides publishers with more reason to store their materials electronically.

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