Letter to USNews & World Report

February 19, 1998

Letters to the Editor
U.S. News and World Report
2400 N Street N.W.
Washington, DC 20037-1177

Laura Tangley
U.S. News and World Report
2400 N Street N.W.
Washington, DC 20037-1177

Deanna Marcum, President
Council on Library and Information Resources
1755 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20036-2188

Randy Allen
The Communications Office, Inc.
108 East Del Ray
Alexandria, Virginia 22301-1324

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I was extremely agitated when I read the article entitled "Whoops, there goes another CD-ROM" in the February 16, 1998 issue of U.S. News and World Report. Statements are made in this article and attributed to the National Media Laboratory that are grossly inaccurate. A chart is also shown that is a serious misrepresentation of NML research findings. This article adversely affects the credibility of the National Media Laboratory (NML), the Council on Library and Information Resource (CLIR), and U.S. News and World Report (USN&WR).

The article makes the statement that "tests by the National Media Lab show that top-quality VHS tapes stored at room temperature preerve data dependably for just a decade." This statement is completely false. The statement that "average quality CD-ROMs become unreliable . . . after 5 years" is absurd. NML publications assert significantly higher life expectancy values for magnetic tape and CD-ROM that those claimed in the UNS&WR article

The U.S. News and World Report chart, an interpretation of an NML chart, is erroneous and misleading. Specifically,

The information that was misused for this article was obtained from the NML web site (http://www.nml.org). NML is principally tasked to support the U.S. government by providing the best commercial solutions available for the tasks of collecting, exploiting, disseminating and archiving data. However, information that benefits the government can also benefit industry and educational instutions. For this reason, NML publications and other resources are freely distributed via the NML web site.

NML web site usage rights state that when NML resources are used:

When informed that USN&WR would be publishing an article using NML resources, one week before going to press, NML made some simple requests:

The above requests were not honored and USN&WR went to press with a life expectancy chart that is a gross misinterpretation of NML's original. U.S. News and World Report is responsible for distributing misleading information regarding the longevity of information storage media. The information that USN&WR printed did not come from the National Media Lab, and we are offended that we are attributed as the source. This has created an embarrassing situation and a loss of credibility for the NML. U.S. News and World Report owes its readers and the National Media Laboratory a sincere apology.



Dr. John Van Bogart
Data Preservation Scientist
National Media Laboratory

Enclosure: NML's "Life Expectancy of Various Information Storage Media: For Storage at 20 C adn 40% RH" chart

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