- Will Broyles
11/4/16 – 5:10pm
Insiders are reporting that our community is potentially in imminent danger of losing historical documents. Help do something to stop it. Read to the end of this article and share.
The Shreveport Times announced earlier this year that they have sold their building downtown to U-Haul for a self-storage building to go into its place. This week, the Times also announced that President/Publisher Alan English was no longer employed at the Times as a part of layoffs that included multiple employees.
In the recent months, I had discovered from Elliott Stonecipher that the Times was looking for a home for its original archives, including newspaper prints from around 1870 to present. Having heard that more traditionally appropriate places (archives at local universities and museums) for these historical and culturally irreplaceable documents had no room for them, I offered to take the documents for the Times. In exchange for their giving me these originals, I would, at my own cost, store and keep them. Initial negotiations with Alan English seemed promising. In theory, we agreed for me to be given the documents and allow the Times to have access to them whenever they needed, as well as make them publicly available as reasonable. These documents are currently not publicly available. This effort would cost a tremendous amount of time and money in order to properly store these rare gems from our history. After what I initially thought were good talks, Gannett lawyers changed the deal in fundamental ways that essentially pushed all costs of maintaining these original prints to me, while really only serving the interest of preserving the Times’ assets for them without any financial help.
I fundamentally believe that the Times, as a still functioning newspaper of record for our community, has an obligation to maintain and keep this history that they are such a longstanding part of. According to historians, not all of the documents are confirmed as being backed up on microfilm and therefore risk being lost forever. As talks broke down over these documents, Elliott Stonecipher and I both attempted to find alternate institutions that may be willing to take these documents but to no avail. In some of the latest correspondence, before English’s departure, he assured me that Gannett would move these documents to an off-site location out of town or possibly have a home at Shreve Memorial Library. The likelihood is that once these documents are out of town (if that even actually happens), there is little chance they will return.
Today, it was confirmed that these documents still have not been removed from the building, yet U-Haul is currently doing renovations downstairs in the Times’ building and ripping out walls near the historical documents.
I have put in a call to new Times President, Judi Terzotis, in an effort to make an appeal to Gannett to preserve these historical documents. She has called back and assured me that they will make a plan for the salvation of these documents and to keep them in the Shreveport community. With the constant cuts and layoffs, one can hope for the best but never count on the fact that the same people will be employed by Gannett next month. While I am optimistic about Ms. Terzotis’ intentions, I also see the reality that they today confirm that they don’t yet have a plan with less than two months to remain in the building.
Gannett should show much more care to this community and its history than what these insiders are confirming is happening with these documents. I implore every single reader to a) share this article with others who care about our community and b) email email@example.com and ask that she help preserve these documents and keep them within our community. It is important for you to let the newspaper in our community know that we care about preserving our history. While I DO NOT want to go to the expense and trouble of personally keeping these documents as originally conceived between Alan English and myself, my offer still stands if it is the only hope the community has to keep them. I pray that is not the case. Better to be safe than sorry and see our community suffer an unnecessary loss.