Thanks to a recent $1 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, we will be expanding our TV News Search & Borrow service that enables everyone to search, quote and borrow U.S. television news programs.
Launched last September, the service repurposes closed captioning to facilitate deep search and present relevant short-streamed with clips from more than 400,000 news broadcasts dating back to June 2009. We are striving to help inform and engage communities by strengthening the work of journalists, scholars, teachers, librarians, civic organizations and others dedicated to serving public interests.
We are beginning to see important public benefits arising from this new capability to apply digital search and analysis to news from our most pervasive and persuasive medium—television. Journalists are better able to investigate significant persons and events. Documentarians are more effectively finding key news footage to license and use. Educators can now focus the critical attention of their students on extensive real-world examples of how news stories are told and audiences engaged.
We recently worked with researchers at Harvard’s Berkman Center and MIT’s Center for Civic Media to facilitate direct machine queries of our television news library that returned structured data results to inform their media landscape analysis of the Trayvon Martin story and reveal key pivot points in its evolution.
Journalists and documentarians at the newly-launched Retro Report are using TV News Search & Borrow to help them take a fresh look at important stories of the past, share new perspectives and add insightful commentary to what are sometimes all too shortsighted first drafts of history.
We are also working with a number of scholars, journalists and civic organizations to see how our research library might help improve political accountability and transparency by indexing television political advertising and pairing them with information on ad sponsors from FCC-mandated “public inspection files” at each station.
Such a special collection could also be used to study interactions between campaign messaging and local news coverage. The 2013 elections in Virginia, a state with no political campaign contribution limits, may be a useful test-bed for experiments like these.
We are following up on suggestions from media professionals that a comprehensive research library of local television news might also better inform stations and their audiences about how programs are helping to meet the critical information needs of local communities.
Our TV News Search and & Borrow service preserves and makes responsibly accessible an enduring library of television news, serving important public benefit research interests of today and those of generations to come. In doing so, it stands on the shoulders of the pioneering work of Vanderbilt University’s Television News Archive and, more recently, UCLA’s NewsScape library.
We are humbled by the challenges of exploring the new territory of scaling intelligent access to our growing digital public library of television news and welcome feedback on how we can better serve the public interest.