In a newspaperless future, when everything is online and everything can be deleted and scrubbed from the main records how we view history and how we will be able to access history will not be the same.
The phrase ‘history is written by the victorious’ will no longer be valid, history will written by whoever is the editor-in-chief of big media.
And it’s already starting.
Mumbrella revealed today in ‘SMH writer goes out in blaze of glory‘ that the SMH removed an article within 24 hours from it’s website, presumably because in his final column Graeme Philipson upset some of Fairfax’s upper management. You could of course however go here and read the scanned version from the print publication.
But thinking about this issue one step along the chain of logic, what’s to stop a politically motivated editor or board from deleting entire swaths of positive or negative editorial to try and push their agenda?
Editorial independence aside (and lets assume it has been pushed to the side), what if a future editor or board they simply deleted or perhaps, more cunningly, re-edited or slightly altered stories from years passed? Who would notice? Would a research intern in 20 years looking for information/dirt/stories about the person running for PM know the difference between fact and altered fact and or complete fiction? That researcher looking for the information is only going to find the new versions of the articles and in a future without any print records (because print is there in ink for life) how would they, or anyone, cross check?
It could be a scary old future ahead of us where content is king, but an editor with wild eyes and an agenda becomes a modern day Rasputan.