The impending death of the East Valley Tribune means fewer news articles in the future about things that go on in the Phoenix metro area.
But it's even worse than that: The planned shuttering of the Trib's Web portal in two months, coinciding with the closure of the physical property, means the past will become more vague, too.
All those informative articles that hundreds of Trib employees have produced over the last several years will become inaccessible to most Internet users -- unless the Trib's dysfunctional-parent company, Freedom Communications, takes action to save them.
In others words, if you go to Google in 2010 and type in "mesa mayor scott smith," the Trib's articles about Smith won't pop up.
At least, that's what we're assuming at this point.
We left messages about this issue with Julie Moreno, publisher of the Trib, and Burl Osborne, interim CEO of Freedom Communications, but they haven't called back yet.
The problem is that once the Trib servers go dark, the archive stories buried in those servers will likely become unhooked from public access. That's what has happened at some other U.S. newspapers that have shut down.
The Tucson Citizen, which closed down in May, keeps up a Web presence that includes daily opinion articles. But the Internet has apparently been purged of the 138-year-old newspaper's older articles. For instance, the headline to a 2007 article about Iraq protesters in downtown Tucson can be found with a Google search, but clicking on the link results in an error message.
The Rocky Mountain News, however, has managed to keep up its Web site and old articles despite publishing its final edition in February. The E.W. Scripps Company apparently still owns the Rocky's Web site -- who knows how long they'll keep that up.
The East Valley Tribune could also preserve its history for the public to access easily. The stories, photos and graphic art of the last few years could probably fit on a couple of hard drives, which could be stored -- and linked to the Internet -- at Freedom's flagship paper, the Orange County Register.
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If Freedom chooses not to make it easy on the public, we can still access old Trib stories from a paid site like Lexis or Newsbank. But that's expensive and inefficient. The public library archive will also have the stories -- but forget keyword searches. You'll have to reaquaint yourself with microfiche. And though these options would still provide help for a college research paper, they're no good for the casual news consumer.
As it stands, you've got two months to pull every Tribune article you need off the Web. If there's an older story you wanted to preserve, go to the Trib's Web site and click on "Read the E-Trib Here." Then use the archive search to locate what you need.