Digital archives at MU : the J-School and beyond
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As the J-School prepares to celebrate its centenary in 2008, it is also heading toward a digital crossroads. The new Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, with its mandate to explore new frontiers of news gathering in the Digital Age, will train the next generation of journalists in a host of technologies that are already wreaking fundamental changes in the profession. Even as the very existence of traditional newspapers is increasingly called into question, the University of Missouri is poised to produce visionary leaders and practitioners who will guide journalism and publishing through the current technological upheaval into the next hundred years. Web pages, video, RSS feeds, pod- and videocasts, and delivery devices yet to be invented will be there to challenge and inspire students and faculty in their state-of-the-art new facility. And where will all this multimedia journalism end up? News archives, famously the in-box for the first draft of history, must also rise to the requirements of this flood of digital output. Unfortunately, the fragility of digital information in any form is a threatening paradigm in its own right. There are no assurances that any digital content produced tonight by any newspaper will survive in its database or on its CD-ROM disks for ten or fifteen years, let alone the next hundred. The complexity of current media (revisit the list above: web pages, video, RSS feeds, pod- and videocasts and those media still to be invented) only work to shorten that time frame. For all the technological wonders the J-School will be producing, the legacy of that material is at best unknown, and at worst, vanished. I hope this short statement of the seriousness of digital preservation issues will set the stage for the rest of this report.
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