Sunday, February 17, 2013

Losing Local Newspapers

I'm always excited when I discover a reference to one of my people in an old newspaper. Whether I learn something good or bad, every little tidbit teaches me something about those long dead relatives that I might not be able to find out any other way.

This makes me wonder what new resources genealogists a hundred years from now will have to replace the local newspaper. While some places still have a locally produced paper that focuses on area residents, businesses and events, other places are seeing this vanish. My mother has complained to me for at least a year that the Kalamazoo Gazette has less and less local coverage.

I know some Kalamazoo news stories now appear online, but I suspect that things that may have appeared in the print paper wouldn't be deemed important enough to end up in cyberspace. Of course, as Kalamazoo increased in population it reached a point where there was less interaction among members of the community. As a consequence, the items that appeared in the Kalamazoo Gazette over a hundred years ago like Mrs. Smith visiting her daughter in St. Louis, for example, understandably disappeared.

I'm sure that in this digital age, traces of our lives will still be around for our descendents. Maybe a database of old Facebook or Twitter posts, YouTube videos or even our browsing history will provide a look into our lives. Will these sources provide more or less information about us? In some ways, it could be both, but when we all publish information about ourselves it is likely biased. Do you know anyone who would post something really negative about themselves? Future generations may gain in the quantity of information available about us, but they may lose any objectivity (or at least willingness to publish the negative) that old newspapers provide us about our ancestors. Only time will tell for certain.

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