We just had a major newspaper announcement last week, and it looks like the Ann Arbor News is the latest victim. It sounds like the economy coupled with the new ways in which readers consume news are combining to really put the hurt on newspapers. The word is that the paper “will be replaced by a Web-focused community news operation.” Sounds kind of like that 150 citizen blogger approach we heard from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
It seems that in casting about for a way to survive, these organizations are really struggling to find models that work. According to the news story, Ann Arbor folks are saying that “the new free Web site won’t simply be the old newspaper delivered in a new format.” I can understand their need to try new things, but a community information portal simply isn’t the same thing as a newspaper, and that leads me to wonder who will provide balanced, accurate, insightful news – not just in Ann Arbor, but in all markets affected by changes like this.
My next question is about how we will be able to preserve the local history captured in these new community blog-o-portals. Libraries understand what it means to preserve newspapers in various formats: paper, microfilm, digital, etc. The Internet Archive knows what it means to preserve websites. But is there a natural fit here? Assuming that these new electronic news outlets contain content that should be preserved, can The Internet Archive capture these newspapers on a daily basis? If it can, perhaps that will be enough for casual users and serious researchers. But if it can’t?