If you go online to The Lumberjack, you will find roughly one year of archives from January-December 2017.
It might not immediately stand out to you, but if you are a student who has written for The Lumberjack since 2007, you will notice that stories you wrote while a student-reporter at Humboldt State University, are no longer available on the website.
I wanted to know how students who wrote for The Lumberjack in the previous years felt about this, so I reached out to a few student-reporters and former editors.
“I was a little upset, but more than that I was disappointed,” said Jeff Gardner.
Gardner graduated from HSU in 2016 and worked on The Lumberjack three semesters. Different semesters he played different roles, first as a reporter as well as layout and science editor.
He was disappointed because the journalism department is supposed to help us with our work and career opportunities.
The archives not being available on The Lumberjack’s website is stripping away any proof of experience.
“The whole time we are learning about journalism, they are like, you need your clips and stories to put on your resume but they just took them away. It’s like if you are an art student and the teacher just comes in and rips up your paintings. It might be a little dramatic, but I feel that could be the difference between you getting an internship or not, to have your stories on a reputable website.”
Gardner found out about the archives when he got a group text from a former journalism student.
“I got a group text out of nowhere and it had links to the Lumberjack.org with our name searched in it and all the results were zero.”
Gardner says he got the impression that the decision was made to update the website and that there was a chance the archives might not transfer over.
“I am not sure if that was a risk they were willing to take, I don’t really know the back story.”
He said that his experience working on The Lumberjack was really positive for young students like himself who wanted to write.
“They gave us a lot of freedom to express ourselves.”
My concern was also about showing potential employers that I have previous writing experience. I was more concerned however, about the institutional memory of HSU that was lost from the web.
During the duration of my undergrad at HSU and while a student-reporter, some very interesting, significant and sad things have happened.
From the wrongful (calculated) termination of beloved Native-American Director Jacquelyn Bolman and subsequent student protest, to the students who have raised concerns over student safety & racism in the surrounding community before David Josiah Lawson was murdered.
From the five students and three chaperones (one a HSU alumni) who lost their lives in that bus crash while on their way to preview HSU, to the articles published in The Lumberjack about the athletics department mishandling money from donors for student scholarships, way before the football program mysteriously came close to being cut from a “lack of funds” in 2016.
Chelsea Medlock graduated HSU in 2016 and was a reporter for The Lumberjack.
“I feel like this is going to encourage the cover-ups that have already been going on in that town.”
Medlock stressed the importance of having archives online in such a digital age.
“If your work is not accessible online, you are automatically loosing.”
Diover Jason Duario graduated HSU in 2012 and was Editor-in-Chief of The Lumberjack.
“Institutional memory is huge, it’s bigger than people give it credence. It’s really the only way I feel, a lot of students can hold these institutions accountable.”
When Duario was EIC, the production team also decided to develop a new website to enhance their online presence and to attract more viewers.
“You can do a new website, but don’t wipe out the web archives. To everyone who doesn’t have a career, that’s like a slap in the face. We didn’t want to do that and that’s what it feels like to us now.”
Duario was sent a link by Gardner to WayBackWhen, a website that takes snapshots of webpages and stores them.
“It’s probably like 50% reliable for me. I’ll have to reload it to get the web page. You can get your clips from there.”
WaybackWhen is definitely a vital resource.
However, it is different from having your stories linked to an active website that people can still comment on.
The lost web archives also does a disservice for people who are trying to learn more about the history of Humboldt State University, such as prospective students or parents.
They would have to try to navigate WaybackWhen or physically come to HSU’s library to look at microfilm or physical Lumberjack newspaper archives.
Last month, I contacted Marcy Burstiner who was The Lumberjack’s advisor and then Chair of HSU’s Journalism Department.
I also contacted Chief Information Officer Anna E. Kircher to get thier thoughts on the lost online archives.
Burstiner’s response was the website was relaunched and there was a “bug in the archives.”
She wrote that the archives are on the departments “to-do list” but is not a top priority.
“With the archives gone from the website, it is like a systematic erasure and it does a huge disservice to HSU’s institutional memory. These archives are unavailable to students or anybody researching HSU online. Currently, they will only get the schools stellar marketing sources such as HSU’s website and the Humboldt Now newsletter. Since this is not a top priority for the department, who knows when or if these archives will ever be available again online. I think it just does a huge disservice to everyone except HSU’s marketing,“ I wrote.
Burstiner responded, “You are absolutely correct. So what is the solution?”
Kircher responded that figuring out the archives is time-consuming and a highly technical task that her team does not have the knowledge to help with.
“I agree with you that it’s unfortunate that the older archives aren’t readily available. But from my limited knowledge of the situation, it seems the real solution here is funding … to hire someone with the correct technical knowledge to do the conversions. Do you think there might be grant funding out there somewhere that could help?”
Their response made me feel like perhaps I should have picked a university with a more dedicated journalism department. Those who would work to restore student work if possible–to allow us to be taken seriously by potential employers.
I hope that HSU’s Journalism Department and new department chair, along with HSU as an institution, allocate some funds if this is the issue and restore these online archives to The Lumberjack website.
The students who came through your journalism program for the last 5-10 years careers depend on it.