Every now and again someone will come up to me and say that they like something on my blog, and I have to ask them which one. I have produced too many websites, blogs and the like these past few years, leaving several by the wayside (Screen Research, Diving for Pearls, Moving Image, BardBox, The Bioscope) while pressing on with others (Picturegoing, Charles Urban, Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema). The plan was to cut down on these peripheral activities and to concentrate as much as possible on this personal site, but it’s not a battle that I’m winning.
And so it is that I have started up The Newsroom. This is not my site, however – it’s a blog about the British Library’s news collections, and though I’ve kicked things off and named it, the plan is for it to have multiple authors from the Library’s newspaper reference and curatorial teams, as well as guest writers. The name is meant to express a place from where any kind of news might be generated (i.e. not just newspapers), and doesn’t have any particular connection to the HBO television series of the same name – which I’ve not yet had the chance to see. But I can say that the staff of the British Library writing for The Newsroom will be scarely less glamorous, nor any the less committed to the truth.
Here’s what the blog has to say about itself:
The British Library has one of the world’s greatest news archives. Our collection of UK, Irish and world newspapers numbers over 60 million issues, from the 17th century to the present day, and we have growing collections of television, radio and web news. Whether you are studying history, politics, society, international relations, economics, media history, sports history or family history, our collections will have something for you. This blog provides the news about yesterday’s news, and looks to where news may be going in the future. It informs you about aspects our collections, provides guides to their best use, and reports on activities in news production and news-related research.
So that’s it. I hope it will be primarily a useful reference guide, explaining aspects of the collection to the wide range of researchers who use our news holdings. The challenge will be to strike a balance between telling the story of news for its own sake, and recognising that most researchers who use our newspaper collections (and it is primarily newspapers that they seek out) are seldom interested in the news per se. They want to find any mention of their subject, picking up clues that will take them further down a research trail that will eventually result in an essay, a thesis, a book, a programme, a blog, or a family tree.
But what binds all such activity together is the news itself – the noteworthy events of the day, archived and recoverable, providing specificity. So it is right to try and illuminate how news has been produced, and what changes are taking place to the production, distribution and consumption of news today. The blog’s byline is “News about yesterday’s news, and where news may be going”. Perhaps we should change that “may be” to an “is”. I don’t know. But connecting news past with news present is essential. It’s what interests me at any rate, and I’ll be using the blog to show the ways in which the news media combine, today and yesterday.
The blog will properly kick into action in January, and there will be an accompanying Twitter account, followed by a entirely reshaped version of our news collections web pages, all in time for the launch of the British Library’s new News and Media Reading Room in March 2014. It’s going to be a busy, newsy few months.