Saving the future past: Digital news content archiving and the battle for collective memory

By Terry L. Britt, University of Missouri

The ongoing dilemma of how best to preserve born-digital news content and the public’s access to that content carries implications beyond that of the present generation. News archives function as a building block for collective memory, a concept first established by French sociologist Maurice Halbwachs. Failure to save born-digital content could lead to the deterioration of collective memory over time. Alongside a review of relevant literature on the challenges of media content preservation, both pre-digital and born-digital, and efforts toward that end, responses from a recent qualitative study involving 18-23-year-old college students are analyzed. The study findings suggest that young adults today place high importance on preservation and access of archival digital news content, both on social and personal levels, but also maintain a false perception that content on most any topic will generally be available and accessible on demand through new media.

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