Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Archeology and the Times Record

Years or decades from now, when archeologists try to figure out how the American experiment ended, and why, the 'digging' will be done much more in the information realm than in the dirt of the physical earth. Artifacts will be more enlightening and the thinking of the earlier years more immediately evident, rather than having to be discerned by learned analysis and microscopic examination.

Accordingly, it's interesting to note that the Brunswick Times Record has taken steps to ensure that the extent of their complicity in the fall will be hidden from history. At least that's the impression their latest "improvement" could leave with readers.

While many would suggest that the majority of Times Record articles, editorials, and reader contributions aren't worthy of preservation, there is undeniably a cultural and historical value to the archived collection of such things that transcends the merit of the individual items. Scholars, and other misfits with an insatiable thirst for knowledge, have come to rely on the productive research that said archives and the power of the internet make possible.

In the face of such useful progress, the Brunswick Times Record has redesigned their web site, ostensibly to "improve" it and "better serve" their readers - both those who purchase the print version, and those who don't. These "improvements" are of two major types.

First, the look and feel, the "user interface" if you prefer, has been completely redesigned and made more demanding of you the user. No longer the straightforward and well organized structure of the past, you can now spend a good deal more of your personal time trying to figure out just exactly what it is they want you to get from their web site. My conclusion is that some non-reader digit head indulged his or her penchant for "cooler" and more "contemporary" page design, users be damned.

Then as to archive access, your life has now been greatly simplified. Rather than have to sift through years of articles on say, Maine Street Station, or BNAS Redevelopment, you only have to concern yourself with items published in the last two weeks. Whew; there's a relief. And they wonder why we can't seem to think long term or learn the lessons of history.

So leave it to the troubled newspapers to create internet value and utility for readers, in keeping with the age, and then to unpredictably and inexplicably rescind that value. Yeah, there's a good way to build a business. We're left to wonder just what other "improvements" larger corporate ownership of our little newspaper will bring our way. The way it's going, we'll probably have to find out somewhere else but in the newspaper.

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