Rescued from the internet dustbin

A NOT-FOR-PROFIT organisation established in San Francisco has managed to save a large chunk of my Australian online blogging career from the internet dustbin.

Although I’ve never met them, I owe them a debt of gratitude. So to the folks at Internet Archive, who run the web archive site Wayback Machine, a heartfelt thank you.

This is why.

A few days ago, when I was researching this piece for DeSmogBlog about the questionable coverage of climate change science by The Australian newspaper, I found that none of the links to my old News Ltd blog – GreenBlog – were working.

To be precise, the links worked, but there was no content on the pages. Just a white screen where about 650 posts and 14,000 comments used to be.

The record of an online blog session with then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd? Gone. The full Q&A with former UN general secretary Kofi Annan? Gone. My catalogue of critiques of News Ltd’s climate denial bloggers, Tim Blair and Andrew Bolt? All gone.

There were several pieces where I had criticised The Australian’s coverage on climate change. They were gone too.

For example, there was a post which revealed how the Bureau of Meteorology’s most senior climatologist, Michael Coughlan, had told me the agency had given up attempting to correct the newspaper’s errors. He said at the time

The Australian clearly has an editorial policy. No matter how many times the scientific community refutes these arguments, they persist in putting them out – to the point where we believe there’s little to be gained in the use of our time in responding.

Some of my posts criticising The Australian also appeared on The Australian‘s website too, because the blog was eventually syndicated to other News Ltd online mastheads (although not all of them promoted the content). But when I tried to link to them, they were gone too.

I asked one of my old bosses at The Courier-Mail, which was the main host of the blog, what had happened. He told me that many old blogs had been “killed off” and that “regretfully” I should resign myself to the fact that all of that work had indeed now disappeared.

When I started the blog in June 2008, News Ltd had scores of bloggers covering all sorts of issues, but no-one was covering the environment round. There were no other active environment blogs on any other major metropolitan newspapers at the time either. News Ltd did have several commentators who were misrepresenting climate change science and generally disparaging of all-things vaguely greenie. Step forward Bolt, Blair, McCrann, Albrechtsen, Akerman et al. Part of the role of the blog, I felt, was to balance this out in a small way.

There were some rows. It occasionally got a bit personal. I received stacks of abusive messages and copped a great deal of flack, much of it in the comments sections which I used to moderate. Some pretty vile messages never saw the light of day. I wore the title “Dumbest Green Blogger in Australia” with a degree of pride, seeing as it had been bestowed by Andrew Bolt.

I recalled the blog’s record, and those of other climate change bloggers, for the magazine ECOS a few months after I resigned from News Ltd.

On a personal note, the blog was a big part of my life for 20 months (probably too big) and so to discover that it had been deleted was a bit of a shock, Of course the blog was the property of News Ltd, and so they could do with it whatever they liked. I’m not suggesting at all that my old blog was deliberately targeted for removal. But at the end of the day, I had no personal archive.

Ironically, while this blog (and these words) is being archived in the National Library of Australia’s Pandora web archive, my old News Ltd blog – which was more popular – wasn’t!

But then a contact of mine suggested I check with Wayback Machine. My first look showed the Internet Archive had only checked and crawled the main url 17 times over the course of the blog’s life, which didn’t sound promising.

But then I found Wayback Machine had visited a different url – the one which also recorded comments – more than 400 times.

Of course, these archives don’t show up well on internet searches and they’re not too easy to navigate. But most of the work is there and for that, I’m grateful.

I suppose this raises broader issues about the permanency of work online and what kind of a responsibility, if any, major news organisations have for archiving work that doesn’t get committed to a printed page. In this particular case, a not-for-profit organisation on a separate continent has filled the breach.

Perhaps an issue worth considering in the Government’s upcoming inquiry into Australian media?

UPDATE: Busted final link now working. Thanks to those reporting it.

Author: Graham

Graham Readfearn is a Brisbane-based journalist. Go to the About page in the top navigation for more information.

10 thoughts on “Rescued from the internet dustbin”

  1. Excellent find. And good on you too for writing these.

    Now whilst I like the rule that one should blame a mistake before conspiracy, I’m not surprised.

    And I can only imagine the outcry and claims of oppression if Bolt or any one of the anti-science representatives where to be deleted.

  2. On behalf of the Internet Archive and the Wayback Machine project, we’re very glad we could be of help! It’s gratifying to know that our work has benefited someone in a tangible way.

  3. On the one hand the news media vigorously insists on their independence in the name of fairness and impartiality. On the other, they dole out politically biased content with contorted evidence.

    Rupert’s people are the main culprits.

    I think this is an issue that should run at the media enquiry. It’s not just about the ethics of hurting individuals (like News of the World did) there is a serious ethical question about damage being done to facts and truth.

    So who’s going to push honesty in journalism at the enquiry?

  4. I’ve used the way back machine several times in the past but found nothing of value, so I gave up on it.

    I noticed your greenblog was removed also. So was the Mark Mann one on the tele.

  5. I think you’re one tough cookie for sticking it out at News Ltd Graham. The latest Quarterly Essay by Robert Manne investigates The Australian’s coverage of climate change.

  6. Hi Graham,
    I too have had the experience of losing older content – dating back to 2004 – that was posted on non profit citizen journalism websites: Melbourne IMC and Sydney IMC websites which are now both defunct. Last year I started my blog of climate stories to keep as an archive and used the Wayback machine to recover content. I was able to recover about 90 per cent of my contributions on climate issues. Well done wayback machine!

  7. Great news Graham. Your blogs are priceless. Thank you for sticking up for the truth. I think I told you about my fights with Greg Cary and Colin Campbell of 4BC……

  8. Graham, your blog was about the only reason I had to go to the Courier-Mail web site when I lived in Brisbane, other than times I had an urge to feel unwell.

    I don’t think there’s any doubt about the reason for the the disappearance of your material. News (very) Limited has an agenda, and that agenda is not balance or truth, it’s promoting the interests of big business, whether those interests align with the rest of society (or even, for that matter, whether they are in the long term good for business – you can’t make money on a planet with a wrecked biosphere, not unless you have a spare to move to).

    The only good thing I can say about this obnoxious attack on the concept of independent media is that they are stupid enough to hide most of their content behind a paywall.

    I moved back to South Africa about 18 months ago, and the lack of totally crushed and ideological media is a welcome relief. Newspapers here had to fight for their freedom and so possibly appreciate its value more (see e.g. It’s a real pleasure to listen to talk radio with intelligent well-briefed presenters.

    A press totally dominated by corporate interests is little different than that in a police state. Making you an unperson is so 1984. It makes you realise that there is not that much difference between extremism of the right and extremism of the left.

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