AT A newspaper office near you, an archive of historically important material could be falling into disrepair.
Since the early 2000s, the newspaper industry in the UK and Republic of Ireland has been facing tough times, with declining advertising revenues and falling circulations, and as newspaper offices are closed and newsrooms merged, archives and libraries containing millions of news stories, cuttings and photographs are in danger of being lost for ever.
Many papers themselves remain profitable — but business models weighed down by debts that paid for acquisitions at the top of the market or huge pension obligations are surviving only by cutting costs across the board.
Presserve is an initiative started by members of the National Union of Journalists in Leeds to campaign against the threats to local and regional newspaper archives.
© Georgina Morris 2013
We want to raise awareness of this vital body of work, which many people may not realise is in their local community, and work with newspaper publishers to secure funding to find new ways to preserve newspaper
archives for the future.
In 2013, local newspapers were still the UK's most popular print medium — read by about 33 million people each week.
But despite the wealth of stories, cuttings and photographs newspapers have been producing decades, even centuries, much of their archive material is in a poor condition, is costly to maintain and risks being destroyed.
We know this material is a vital part of our social heritage and must be maintained for future generations.
News stories track social changes, from politics to fashion, hold power to account and are a vital resource for historians. Many books, TV and radio programmes would never have been made without access to newspaper archives.
“In 2013, local newspapers were still the UK’s most popular print medium — read by about 33 million people each week.”
As the media moves into the digital age, newspapers are seen as under threat, through new technology or a lack of willingness to invest in them. But the rise of the internet has also fuelled new interest in historical research and the means to make it more accessible.
Journalists on local newspapers regularly take calls from readers who want to look up old stories or photographs — but publishers often do not have a public archive.
Newspaper companies could be missing an opportunity to re-connect with their local communities, and exploit the commercial value of having a digitised public archive.
And at a time when public libraries are under threat from government spending cuts, we feel media organisations should meet their responsibilities to maintain archives of their material.
Presserve believes that protecting this material and making it more accessible will also highlight the value of newspapers in society at a time when they are under threat.
As newspaper companies continue to make job losses, merge titles and close offices, many newspapers archives are at risk of being lost for ever. We want to protect the cultural heritage of our newspapers before it's too late.