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The paper-of-record

Saturday, April 5, 2003 by Dave Winer.

Of record Permalink to Of record

The New York Times has earned a reputation of being the paper of record, the place we turn to understand the events of our day, in the context of the day. It's not the history, it's the current events. When we moved to the Web, in the early 90s, the Times came too, aggressively, and naturally slipped into its role as the Web News Source of Record (not quite so easy to say).

We were blindsided when the Times archive went behind a for-pay firewall earlier this week. This broke our achive too. Now not only can't they be the news source of record on the Web, but in a single move, they erased the record they had already created, and we had come to depend on. That's how powerful the technology of the Web is, and how fragile.

A better approach, imho, would have been to grandfather the existing archive into the previous archive policy, and let us find another authoritative publication that's committed to best-efforts at maintaining its archive over time. This would have assured a smooth transition, and would have reflected the care and steady stewardship of history that the Times is famous for. They could still change their mind, and we hope they do. However in case they don't, which publication will be our new Web-based source-of-record?

The BBC comes to mind. I wonder if we can trust them. I started using the BBC as a source when the BBC RSS feeds came online, in Sept 2002. How far back does their archive go? Are they good at maintaining it? The quality of their reporting is excellent, but how good are they at creating a record? It's hard to know, since no newspaper site maintains a calendar-based archive of their front page. Consider that a feature request, btw.

Some data. On 10/9/02 I pointed to articles at the NY Times and the BBC. The Times link is dead. The BBC link is good.

Dave Winer

PS: BBC stands for British Broadcasting Corporation.

PPS: Imho stands for In My Humble Opinion.

PPPS: BTW stands for By The Way.

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