Phillip Mendonça-Vieira, a Canadian developer, ran a linux script that collected screenshots from the New York Times’ front page twice an hour from September 2010 to July 2011, some 12,000 images that he stiched together to make an fascinating time-lapse of how the news of the day is being displayed. And what a year we’ve had… the Chilean Miners incident, all of Arab Spring, the Japanese Tsunami, NATO intervention in Libya. Mendonça-Vieira writes about the process of creating the video on his website.
I agree with him on why creating something like this is so interesting and important:
Having worked with and developed on a number of content management systems I can tell you that as a rule of thumb no one is storing their frontpage layout data. It’s all gone, and once newspapers shutter their physical distribution operations I get this feeling that we’re no longer going to have a comprehensive archive of how our news-sources of note looked on a daily basis. Archive.org comes close, but there are too many gaps to my liking.
This, in my humble opinion, is a tragedy because in many ways our frontpages are summaries of our perspectives and our preconceptions. They store what we thought was important, in a way that is easy and quick to parse and extremely valuable for any future generations wishing to study our time period.
The most interesting thing about this is seeing the flow of news and balance of stories, pictures, headlines and advertisements that change slowly (or very quickly) from hour to hour. If you read the NYTimes online like me, this really is a visual memory of the year’s news.