The Newspaper Is Dead: Read All About It!

By Ken Liss

In the course of just a few weeks earlier this year…

…the oldest continuously published newspaper in the world (the Post-och Inrikes Tidningar, produced in Sweden since 1645) became online only.

…the Boston Globe announced it was closing its last three foreign bureaus and offering buyout packages to employees (for the second time in a little over a year) to trim staff and cut costs.

…the publisher of the New York Times said he doesn’t know (and doesn’t care) if they’ll be printing the paper in five years.

Newspapers as we’ve known them are in trouble. The percentage of Americans who say they read a newspaper was 40% in 2006, down from 50% a decade earlier and 71% in 1965. The Times itself reported last fall that a recent decline in circulation at the nation’s leading newspapers was “one of the sharpest on record” adding to “the woes of a mature industry.”

So, if newspapers are dead (or dying), why are there so many of them in the BC Libraries? And why should you care?

Well, the fact is that newspapers – new and old – remain a key tool for research, practical information, and simply keeping informed. And new ways of accessing them make newspapers usable in ways that couldn’t have been conceived just a few years ago.

Reading NewsHere are just a few of the things you can do, via the libraries, with newspapers large and small, U.S. and international, online and off:

  • Read one of more than 300 papers from around the world online, exactly as they appear in print (in full color, ads and all) on the same day they are published. PressDisplay provides the most recent 60 days of newspapers in 37 languages from 68 countries and 17 U.S. states.
  • See how historical events were reported in the papers as far back as the 17th century. Historical newspapers online include the New York Times (back to 1851); the Times of London (back to 1785); and electronic collections of Early American Newspapers (1690-1876) and several key 19th century African-American Newspapers. (Many more historical newspapers are available in harder-to-use but content-rich microform collections.)
  • Get alternative views on a wide range of topics from non-mainstream newspapers via such sources as Ethnic NewsWatch, Alt-PressWatch, GenderWatch, and others.
  • Read translations of articles from non-U.S. newspapers and other news sources inWorld News Connection.
  • Browse or search ISI Emerging Markets for the text of newspapers, some in English, some in local languages, from developing countries often overlooked in other sources. A few examples: New Vision (Uganda); Kazakhstanskaia Pravda (Kazakhstan); Diario El Mundo (El Salvador); Oslobodjenje (Bosnia-Herzegovina); Thanh Nien News (Vietnam).
  • Search the full text of hundreds of worldwide newspapers at one time via mega-news databases Factiva and LexisNexis Academic.
  • Leaf through paper copies – yes, they’re still around -- of dozens of newspapers in the Current Newspapers section of O’Neill Library (near the new print stations).

So, amid all of these riches in the libraries, what is the future of newspapers themselves?

Despite the talk of their demise, there are positive signs as well. The World Association of Newspapers recently reported that global newspaper circulation is up 9.95 percent over five years and 2.36 percent over twelve months. Online news sites like Google News, Newsvine, and others rely on newspaper sources for much of their content.

You don’t have to go far, in fact, to see that newspapers still have appeal: just watch how quickly the free copies of the Times, Globe, and Herald disappear from Hillside on a weekday morning.

The newspaper is dead? Long live the newspaper! In print, online, and in the BC Libraries.

For more information on the sources mentioned in this article and other ways to find and use newspapers at BC, see the Newspaper Research Guide.

Further Reading

Ken LissKen Liss is the librarian for Communication.


Photo: Kevin Tringale