Raiders of the Lost Archives

Lexicon | Broadcast

Here's a brief suggestion how video news archives could better market themselves in a YouTube world. Archive catalogs have, after all, content to license and sell, and a growing number of amateurs (not to mention the next generation of professionals) are seeking to use it.

I'd been researching such services over the last week; Mark Glaser edited it yesterday and posted it online at PBS MediaShift as a 2,200-word piece, "Cheney Video Hunt: The Tangled State of Archived News Footage Online." Just this morning another title came to mind that I've always wanted to use: "Raiders of the Lost Archives." A similiar title (with archive in the singular) is used for a website/project by the ITV, which is seeking tapes of British television from the last forty years that have been seemingly lost.

During my research, as a lark of "experiential journalism," I'd found and clipped a 1997 video of Dick Cheney from the C-SPAN archives. It wasn't overwhelmingly profound, but it was nonetheless found, and found by me. I hope it doesn't distract too much from the piece. I thought that was pretty cool until I saw this morning that TalkingPointsMemo embedded a news segment about Senator Larry Craig from 1982 that had been posted to YouTube ten months ago. Independent of the political fallout, that's a a pretty deep find!

I got a chance to speak to a number of the "gatekeepers" of video archives through my research: MIC, VTNA,, and the C-SPAN Archives. My sense was that while they are probably quite well known in the broadcast industry and research community (which, let's face it, is most of their target audience), they aren't well known in the print/online/citizen journalism world.

So certainly a little blogging may help them. But not just any blogging. If there's an art to blogging, there's a distinct art to video blogging (Mary Hodder says this group doesn't really see themselves very much like bloggers), and still-more distinct practice of archival video clipping. "Raiders" is a bit too strong a word, but perhaps social archivists, heretofore unclaimed, may fit the bill. (and maybe there's still a community out there I haven't found yet).

So perhaps these archival groups may get bloggers or social archivists, if the term is preferred, to regularly highlight some finds in the archives. Part of the reason BoingBoing and PostSecret are so popular is their randomness (BoingBoing today is featuring a compilation of television logo signoffs, which, as is becoming all-too-common today, washes out the attribution to the original producer/compiler, in this case, these folks and also RetroJunk). Pulling things from the archives, and tying them into a brand would be a great way to help an archival service increase its visibility. On the downside, the catalog services may not want to be seen as being regularly used for partisan "gotcha" efforts.

To transform from a mere raider of lost archives, a social archivist should follow some ethical guidelines, like always providing a hyperlink to the source and to production credits.

Lastly, here's a thought for the putative social archivist community: YouTube's upload form asks that you're either the copyright owner or you've got clearance. It doesn't acknowledge the obvious, that a number of users see their uploads as fair use, and the occasional copyright owner does as well. This is exactly what I heard from Fresh and C-SPAN with regard to the Cheney 1994 video.

So I'd propose instead a new "copyright check-off form" for which makes room for fair use.