Monday, September 26, 2011

Question Authority

And everything else, for that matter.

Including tour guides.

That's what I try to do, anyway. It forces me to overcome my natural shyness. And it helps fix me in the memories of others - just in case I end up needing a good alibi. And - every once in a while - I even learn something as a result.

For example, during the course of that tour of WTOL-TV that I talked about here, I asked our tour guide, "Do you tape and save copies of all your newscasts?" I think I was standing between the cameras and the anchor's desk at the time, so it seemed like the thing to ask (although no one else thought to ask it).

I was shocked when our guide responded more or less thusly: "No. Well, we might tape one or two programs so that the reporters can see how they're doing, but no - we don't systematically tape and save things."

It was like hearing that the newspapers didn't save copies of their editions.

I didn't understand this then. I still don't.

Taping these programs certainly didn't seem to me to be cost prohibitive. And it would have given them a great resource to access when doing future stories. And it might even have made them money if they offered copies of various broadcasts for sale. Plus I would have thought that they would have been required by their lawyers to save copies of their broadcasts in case anyone ever sued them for slander or libel or obscenity.

Instead, what could have added up to an extensive visual history of the city and its people apparently disappeared forever almost as soon as it was made.

Had I had the means back then, I would have started taping the nightly news broadcasts myself. As it was, it would be years before I was in a position to do so, and by then I had different priorities.

And why should it fall to *me* to do this? Why didn't anyone in a position of power at WTOL-TV see the wisdom of creating a permanent library of their newscasts as a matter of course?

Are many or most or all TV stations still as short-sighted and indifferent when it comes to compiling an invaluable visual archive of local history today?

Was our guide merely uninformed and mistaken? Were The Powers That Be actually taping everything without her knowledge? Have they all been behaving much more responsibly than I'll ever know?

Yes, question authority - and everything else.

Again and again and AGAIN.

Just don't forget to eat lunch.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe you should be a librarian. It's something of a cliché in librarianship circles to open remarks like thus, "I am a librarian and therefore a preservationist at heart..."