Thursday, September 11, 2008

Newspapers Get Digital

Due to the sheer volume of daily publication, most newspapers do not provide their contents online in PDF or other page-image formats. Historically, newspapers have made their contents available in microform, but this means that frequently, the only libraries which own a microform version of a local newspaper are limited to the geographical region where the newspaper is published. This makes interlibrary loan requests difficult and time-consuming for owning libraries to fill, particularly when most newspaper articles are available in HTML through databases like America's Newspapers and InfoTrac Custom Newspapers. For these reasons, it is the policy of the Duke Law Library not to submit interlibrary loan requests for newspaper articles which are available in HTML format.

However, some researchers prefer to view original (PDF) images of newspaper articles, and an increasing number of free and subscription sites are filling that need. Various major U.S. newspapers are available in PDF through the Duke database ProQuest Historical Newspapers. This database includes PDF versions of:

  • New York Times (1851-3 years ago)
  • Wall Street Journal (1889-1989)
  • Washington Post (1877-1990)
  • Los Angeles Times (1881-1985)
  • Atlanta Constitution (1868-1939)
  • Atlanta Daily World (1932-2003)
  • Chicago Defender (1905-1975)

America’s Historical Newspapers (1690-1922) also offers downloadable facsimiles of many early U.S. newspapers.

PDF versions of historical articles from selected British newspapers are also available in Duke’s electronic databases. The London Times is available in PDF through the Times Digital Archive (1785-1985). The Times Literary Supplement is also available in PDF in a separate database, TLS Centenary Archive (1902-1990).

In addition to the Duke databases listed above, the free site Newseum: Today’s Front Pages provides PDFs of the front pages of many national and local newspapers for the current date. The Archive section maintains selected front-page PDFs for dates of historical interest (including the deaths of national figures, major terrorist attacks, and Hurricane Katrina).

Finally, the Google Blog recently announced an initiative to digitize historical newspapers through its Google News Archive Search. Although results in this search are a mix of pay-per-view and free articles, the free articles include scanned images from newspapers such as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the St. Petersburg (FL) Times. It's always worth searching the free web for an article-- you never know where it might turn up.