Have I got news for you

We used to cut articles of interest from newspapers and magazines. Some people still do but much of this activity has now moved online. Newspapers and clippings have been digitised and made available on the web.

Newspapers.com, containing 4,600+ newspapers from the 1700s–2000s, is an example. Clippings from these  papers seem crowd-sourced. Registered users create clippings in real-time, with 2-3 clippings appearing on the website per minute. They can probably also add metadata which are used for searching the site. Another example is the digitised Newspaper Clippings Collection by the library of Louisiana State University’s Health Sciences Center, with over 70 years of news related to the institution.

It is interesting to note the respective access methods to the above collections. A subscription is required on newspapers.com to view full scanned pages but user-generated clippings are accessible without restriction. LSU only publishes (fairly detailed) metadata and restricts access of scanned TIFFs to patrons on campus.

Monitoring and clipping of born-digital news are often done with the help of Media Monitoring Services, who take advantage of technology and track their customers’ exposure across print, broadcast and online media. Relevant content is collected, made searchable, aggregated and delivered digitally. A nice add-on is analytics, which extracts useful patterns and insights specific to customers.

A recent conversation with University of Notre Dame’s (UND) Media Monitoring Service (MMS) supplier revealed interesting connections with web archiving. The supplier frequently crawls news websites, indexes the content and has built a range of services on it. There is no access to full-text due to copyright but a 150-words snippet per article. Customers typically receive an aggregated list with pointers to content elsewhere on the web. When such content disappears from the web, the usual 404 or Not Found error message occurs. My immediate thoughts to address the problem include:

1. The supplier could reconsider access in case of 404 errors, as they already have a copy of the content, and find a (permitted) way to make it available.

2. Integration or linking with existing web archives where a copy of the vanished article is likely to reside.

3. Institutions who do web archiving could use MMS’ aggregated list as “seeds” to collect news related to the organisation.

When I suggested some of the above, question from the supplier was: why would any organisation keep news articles about them on the web or social media?

This is a obviously an institutional policy question and I will not attempt to answer it on behalf of UND. I am however certain that some organisations do consider media coverage as a part of institutional history and are actively collecting it.

I also made interesting discovery in terms of the legality of online news clipping services. Two parallel cases developed in the USA and the UK between 2011-2013, with two different plaintiffs, being the Associated Press and the Newspaper Licencing Agency, against the same defendant, Meltwater. The US court ruled that clipping and sharing news items were not protected by “fair use” and was infringing on AP’s copyright. The UK court however ruled Meltwater’s activity legal, as “it has never been an infringement, in either English or EU law, for a person merely to view or read an infringing article in physical form.”

US: Associated Press v. Meltwater U.S. Holdings, Inc.
UK: Public Relations Consultants Association Ltd v Newspaper Licensing Agency Ltd


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