History is an attempt to understand the temporal evolution of the human experience. As a type of inquiry into the nature of reality, it compares and contrasts with other such enterprises. News-gathering is sometimes said to be the first draft of history. It is an attempt to record forever the people and events of a given episode in a given time and place. Its virtue is timeliness of reporting, rather than the depth of study and introspection which is possible with history. It is also capable of fostering additional investigation in a timely way, to examine the actors of a drama after the fact, because those actors remain alive and impassioned by recent events.
History, as we elect to define it here, does not enjoy the live sources available to news-gathering. One might call it olds-gathering! Its fodder consists of post-mortal documents alone, whether textual, phonographic, photographic, or other. While it can use forensic means to help verify the allegations of document provenance, it has no method to cross-examine the human beings who are the ultimate artificers of said records. In this, it cannot aspire to the lofty standards of public justice, and must make judgments based on a mere preponderance of evidence, far short of any complacent certainty. It is therefore even further short of the rationalistic standards of physical science than something like legal decisions. Conventionally, historians define a "historical fact" as something on which at least two primary sources not known to be false agree.
The distance history endures between events and their digested retelling benefits from the advantages of perspective and debate, but suffers from a lack of implicit contextual knowledge, even when the historian is no amateur, but deeply versed in the period he studies. For in the attempt to interpret the old to a newer generation, do we not exploit the implicit contextual knowledge of our own times, and so add yet another layer to the onion the future historian must unravel? What terrible "telephone game" distortions result!
The problem of history by "bucket brigade" - such as suffered by traditional testimony handed down within a family by oral means alone - is mitigated by the availability of original sources, a salvation which is all the more practical in recent times because of the historically fantastic wealth of contemporary humanity - and the even more recent collapse of the cost of storing and transmitting information enabled by digital technology. But even in the face of such bounty we are still at the mercy of past interpreters, for they designed to save and pass on what they thought was valuable and trashed the rest, in a long reign of human poverty and misadventure. And even if they did not physically lose or destroy the old, their very act of interpreting gave some things our keen attention and many other things only our indifferent scorn. As rich as we may be now, our life is still quite finite and so must be our curiosity and diligence. Some say that a work of art is never finished, only abandoned. Perhaps we must say the same of works of history.