Paul Farhi of The Washington Post has an amazing story (free link) about The Hook, an alternative-weekly that used to publish in Charlottesville, Virginia. Its online archives disappeared after they were sold to a mystery buyer. Circumstantial evidence suggests that the buyer was a litigious deep-pockets guy who wanted to make invisible The Hook’s reporting about a sexual-assault case he was involved in years earlier.
Keeping online archives active and usable is a real challenge. Though what happened to The Hook was pretty unusual, it’s not unheard-of for valuable digital resources simply to disappear. Fortunately, the defunct alt-weekly I worked for, The Boston Phoenix, is available online through Northeastern University and the Internet Archive. You can find the Phoenix here.
It’s even more of a problem when the resource was digital-only and there was no print component that can be saved on microfilm. For instance, Blue Mass Group, a progressive political website that was a big deal in Massachusetts at one time, has been seeking a new digital home as the last of the co-founders, Charley Blandy, prepares to leave. Charley writes: “Plans are afoot for the site to be thoroughly crawled and archived. It won’t just disappear. The site will stay up, at least for a while, but for the purpose of archiving, commenting and posting will be disabled on 12/31/22.”
These resources need to be saved.