November 21, 2013

Fast Company |

For 35 years, Marion Stokes taped the news.

And, eventually, you’ll be able to find what she spent a good deal of her life preserving online, according to a story Thursday by Sarah Kessler in Fast Company.

Kessler writes that Stokes, who died in 2012 at 83, was a former Philadelphia librarian and civil rights activist who began taping the news when big events happened, “and when cable transformed it into a 24-hour affair, she began recording MSNBC, Fox, CNN, CSNBC, and CSPAN around the clock by running as many as eight television recorders at a time.”

Stokes’ 40,000 VHS tapes will go into the Internet Archive, Kessler writes, a nonprofit online library that first started in 1996. Its offering, so far, includes a Sept. 11, 2001 news archive. Stokes’ tapes will slowly be digitized.

Stokes’ captured the news as it happened with her VHS tapes. For a short time, she also was part of making the news. According to her obituary on, Stokes co-produced a Sunday morning talk show called “Input” from 1967 to 1969:

A 1968 article in the Bulletin described the show as “unusually forthright,” tackling such issues as birth control, environmental pollution, student unrest, and racial divisions.

It said “conservatives, radicals, blacks, whites, Catholics, Jews, Protestants, and agnostics” appeared on the show – sounding off with such verve that it should be named “Output.”

Stokes also collected 50 years’ worth of newspapers, Kessler writes, and according to the obituary, she collected dollhouses and was an early tech lover, too.

“She loved Macintosh computers and anything to do with Apple products. . . . She gave me my first one in 1985, and she would give them to people going off to college,” her son said in the obituary. “Technology was a passion of hers.”

On the day she died, Dec. 14, 2012, Kessler writes that the televisions at Stokes’ house stayed off.

“Had the TVs been on that day, they would have all carried news of the same event: the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.”

Correction: Stokes’ family originally estimated the number of videotapes at 140,000.

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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