This past month I paid a weeklong visit to the sunny yet surprisingly chilly city of Los Angeles, CA. Only a few weeks before, I applied for and was awarded a graduate student scholarship to attend “Dodging the Memory Hole 2016: Saving Online News”, now an ongoing series of gatherings focused on the preservation of online and born digital news. Having engaged in the work to preserve some online content both in the classroom and on the job, I thought the symposium would benefit my curiosities and provide insightful perspectives.
I arrived on the University of California, Los Angeles campus ready to interact with others studying and doing similar work. As a student, I often find myself struggling to take moments to contemplate many of the issues I find in my day-to-day activities. Conferences and symposia such as “Dodging the Memory Hole” help students connect with not only important discussions in the field, but also people doing interesting work. For the attendees at “Dodging the Memory Hole”, there exists a real urgency to have these discussions as they relate to the preservation of online and born digital news.
One of the most striking aspects of this sort of gathering is the diverse backgrounds of many of the people there. Over a two day period, I interacted with a wealth of people, including news publishers and press associations such as the Los Angeles Times and New York Times; technologists; researchers; librarians and archivists at institutions such as UCLA, Stanford, George Washington University; corporations; funding agencies; and nonprofits such as the Internet Archives, Getty Research Institute and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Together this group of drastically different individuals listened to presentations, worked through planning sessions, and conversed during lunches. Student scholarship recipients in particular received an extra level of support as the program coordinators made it a goal to present each recipient alongside their proposed project in hopes that attendees would offer advice.
The presentations also provided multiple opportunities to view the preservation of online and born digital news from multiple perspectives. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Peter Arnett focused his discussion the vulnerability of news, both digital and print. Ben Welsh from the Los Angeles Times talked about the need to create tools that empower the newsroom. Other themes included collecting international news, collaboration efforts, and the overall question of “What is news?” Find all the slides at here.
Conferences like this one occur all the time with many opportunities for student attendance through scholarships, such as the one I received. Not only did it give me the opportunity to visit a rich and vibrant campus at no costs to myself, but I also found an opportunity to break away from my day-to-day activities. As a student juggling multiple responsibilities, I find little opportunities to connect with others outside of my normal circles. Conferences facilitate these exchanges and scholarships help ease student worries about how the trip will be paid. Next time you see a conference, look around. There will oftentimes be funds just waiting to be found.