City of Sacramento should store email records, not delete them

Read Cosmo Garvin's column on the city's big email mistake at Read the New Yorker's piece on erasing history here:

Late last month, in an article in the New Yorker, historian Jill Lepore wrote that, thanks to technology, we may already be living in a missing era. What she was referring to is the ease with which electronic information—whether that is webpages, data or even old tweets—can be, at least mostly, erased.

This article came to mind upon hearing that the city of Sacramento is finding it problematic to store emails that may be relevant to both current policies and historical context.

On the one hand, we have electronic hard drives that can be carried in the space a smartphone takes up, yet store nearly as much information as the famed Library of Alexandria. On the other, we have a fast-paced, forward-looking culture that doesn’t think seriously about archiving.

But perhaps most concerning, we have a situation in which those who wish to distract us from the public business can do so simply by pressing the delete key.

Allowing the digital output of our public servants to disappear into the ether is bad for transparency, public access and journalistic or law-enforcement investigations. There is simply no excuse for failure to archive electronic communications, particularly when the public need only look at big-box-store ads to know how cheaply that storage can be acquired.

What’s more, we know how invaluable all documents are to historians. It’s not just a matter of preserving evidence; it is even more importantly a matter of preserving our past.

Archive the city’s emails. It’s the right thing to do.