As local community and daily newspapers close across the country, their archives – and their stories of local politics, controversy and culture – are at risk.
“Community newspapers tell us a story of time and experience,” said Claire Gilbert, an archivist and librarian at the Royal British Columbia Museum.
“They’ve got everything from the way we advertise products and services to editorials on timely social, political and economic issues. They really are an important commentary on life…But because a lot of newspapers are run as businesses, they don’t always reach out to an archive or a community group to take their records. I think it’s important that we pay attention now because we could risk losing the smaller, regional voice.”
The Local News Map, an online crowd-sourced map tracking changes in the availability of local news in communities across Canada, has documented about 207 local community and daily newspapers that have closed in 160 communities since 2008.
“Community newspapers are an invaluable tool for the public, for academics and for journalists, as are their archives,” said April Lindgren, the map’s co-creator and principal investigator for the Local News Research Project at Ryerson University’s School of Journalism.
“We often go back and look at, for instance, what politicians said in the past and what was said during a debate in order to hold power accountable in the future or to understand why the present is the way it is.”