We’ve talked a lot about archiving and preserving radio here at Radio Survivor, especially on our podcast. Inevitably during these discussions I’ll open my big mouth and muse about how I should archive my own work somewhere it’ll be in safe hands, like the Internet Archive. But up to now, it’s just been talk.
Now, I’m walking it like I’m talking it.
More than three years ago I began the process of going through old air check cassettes, CD-Rs and minidiscs to be sure I have a good digital copy on a hard drive that’s decently labeled or named. I started with the minidiscs, because players and recorders are no longer in production, and I still own the one model that lets you upload recordings directly to your computer over USB, rather than having to capture the analog output.
By May 2017 I’d completed transferring about 300 discs and tapes. That’s when work came to a halt due to needing to move. While I still have a few dozen items to deal with, I’ve decided to take the next step.
Last weekend I completed uploading a full year, 2004, of my old radio show, “mediageek” to the Internet Archive. In the process of going through my personal archives I was chagrined to find that most of the year’s files had disappeared from my web host. Most certainly, I just did something stupid in the intervening 15 years. Luckily, I found all but one episode well-organized on my (backed-up) hard drive.
I’m pretty sure I have an original studio master of the missing episode on a poorly labeled minidisc, or a copy on CD-R. But I didn’t want the hunt to find that one file get in the path of finishing the upload of the other 45. Of course, I uploaded them to the show’s website, updating the posts so that you can now listen to them in-browser – something that could only be accomplished with a browser plug-in like Flash back in 2004. I also added links to each episode’s Internet Archive entry, just in case my files get lost again.
“Mediageek” actually started in March 2002, but I decided to start the Internet Archive project with 2004 because that’s the year when I began seriously offering the show online as a podcast and as a syndicated community radio show. That means there’s at least a date and description for each episode, and it also marks a time when I was more systematic about keeping copies at least somewhat organized.
I’m operating under a philosophy of “good enough and finished is better than not started at all.” So I’ll continue working through the years from 2005 to the last show on New Year’s Eve 2009 right now. It took about a day to do all of 2004, so I expect to be able to get through these years within the next few months.
Then I’ll turn my attention to 2002 and 2003, where the files are much less organized, and I’ll probably have to listen to at least part of every episode to determine the topics. Looking at my hard drive archive I know there are many missing episodes or files that are misnamed. Since I still have a lot of CD-Rs and DVD-R backups to tackle, I suspect many are in a box in my closet.
“Mediageek” is really where I learned how to do public affairs radio and podcasting, trial by fire, just by doing it. In the early days I was working in a community radio studio that was more conducive to music shows than interview programs. When I started syndicating I resorted to often recording phone or Skype interviews from my home studio, sometimes even producing whole episodes from home.
Though some episodes, especially earlier ones, are a little rough-around-the-edges, I think the show preserves some history of community media from the early 2000s that might otherwise be lost. I talked to a lot of unlicensed radio activists and did a lot of coverage of the Independent Media Center movement, which was pivotal in invigorating critical approaches to community and grassroots media in the wake of the Seattle WTO in 1999. Many of the local IMC websites are now gone, as are too many blogs and podcasts from that time, as hosting platforms have gone offline or people abandoned their web hosting accounts.
I hope having “mediageek” on the Internet Archive serves as a record of this time, and perhaps can be a resource for historians and scholars researching this period.