A historical digital library

The TV News section of lets users search for news clips from 2009 onward. Currently, the site is focusing special attention on President Barack Obama and candidate Mitt Romney as the 2012 presidential election nears. (Internet Archive screenshot)

Lacey Mason,

WASHINGTON – The Internet is a treasure trove of information, but as more people head for Wikipedia instead of an encyclopedia, how can we be sure we’re getting accurate historical data?

That’s where the Internet Archive comes in., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is working to collect data in its digital form and make it available for historians, the general public and those with disabilities. The site aims to ensure history – the good and the bad – never disappears with the passage of time.

While the Internet Archive is constantly collecting more data – from audio to archived Web pages – its TV News section has received much attention lately for its focus on the upcoming presidential election.

Heading into the first debate between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, is placing special attention on the two candidates.

Visitors to the TV News section can select the image of either Romney or Obama and then be taken to the candidates’ most recently archived TV news appearances or recent TV references to each presidential hopeful. Popular search terms associated with each candidate also appear under their respective pictures.

Those looking for something more specific can enter a term in the large search bar on top of the page, select a TV network from a drop-down menu, select a program and narrow the timeline anywhere between 2009 and today.

The archive has plans to add years prior to 2009 as the site grows.

Once loaded, search results are organized by relevance but can be changed to “oldest” or “recent.”

One gripe with this section: The first video in the row of results begins to play immediately. This can be bothersome if your volume is up high or you aren’t ready for it. Additionally, if you place your cursor over a video, it automatically plays.

But, all in all, we know this information has been vetted by the Internet Archive team, and you won’t need to listen to a video for a few minutes wondering if it was really aired on that date – or if that was just the date Joe Schmo uploaded it to YouTube.

This section also is helpful if you want to brush up on your knowledge of election coverage before you hit the voting booth, or if you want to remember a candidate’s claims heading into Wednesday’s debate.

Additionally, while the site is free, hard copies of video can be borrowed for a fee.

The Internet Archive is a nonprofit, so it relies completely on monetary donations and donations of digital media. As far as TV goes, the organization’s ultimate goal is to have all news, going back to TV’s inception, archived and readily available.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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