Michelle's Guide to Newspaper Research

For those who come to this web site thinking that "all newspaper articles are online" now, you are very much mistaken.

Yes, a lot of newspaper stories are online. However, an even greater portion are not. Newspaper research is time consuming and can be expensive, depending on what you need to find, and how you go about finding it.

Public Libraries around the state of Wisconsin have microfilms of all the local newspapers. However, very few public libraries have comprehensive indexes to these films. Therefore, unless the researcher knows the date that the article appeared in the paper, a lot of searching has to be done.

Here are a few guidelines for researching newspapers in Wisconsin:

1. Use maps to find the nearest larger city or town that would be likely to have a newspaper

2. Use the internet or call the public library in that area and ask for the name or names of newspapers that would likely cover the village or town you need.

3. Ask the reference librarian if he/she can tell you in what years the newspapers for your research area were in publication.

4. If the publication years for the paper in your research area coincide with the dates of the articles you need, ask if an index is available.

5. Use the index to find a reference date for the article you need, and then find the article in the microfilm by looking at the appropriate issue.

6. If an index is not available, try to narrow down the span of time that the article may have appeared by using as many other sources as possible. Once the approximate time span for the article is determined, then you can search for the article you need by going through the films day by day, page by page.

If you do not live in Wisconsin, research is a bit more difficult. You will have to rely on ordering newspaper microfilms from your local public library by using the "Inter-Library Loan" service. Just ask a reference librarian for assistance.

A word about newspaper web sites...

The internet has changed the way newspaper research is done. Newspapers frequently, but not always, have their archives online. However, there are some things to keep in mind when searching for stories on newspaper web sites:

1. ALL NEWSPAPERS ARE MANAGED DIFFERENTLY! Just because lots of newspapers do things a certain way does not mean they all do!

2. Newspapers are businesses, not public libraries! Be prepared to pay for searches and consider yourself lucky if you come across a newspaper that doesn't charge for archive searches.

3. Many newspaper web site archives only include the news stories that appeared on the web site, not the entire newspaper. The story you need may not have been uploaded to the web site and was only published in the paper. Make sure you read the "fine print" telling you what data the archive includes. Just because a story appeared in the newspaper doesn't mean the article will be available on a newspaper's web site archives!

4. If you are looking for a "wire" story and you don't find it in one database, try another. If the story was only published exclusively in a certain paper, then don't try looking in "wire" archives.

5. Are you looking for a column? You probably won't find it in traditional news archives - try finding a web site devoted to the particular columnist you want (Dear Abby... etc.)

6. Some news articles written by certain reporters may not be available online due to freelancer contracts.

Are you confused yet?! Don't be. Newspaper research is fun and can be rewarding. The trick is to know the best way to get the information you want. By doing a little background research, your newspaper search will be easier.

Try using the resources on this web site and Happy Hunting!

Hi, I am Michelle Laycock, the coordinator for Wisconsin Newspaper Articles.
If you have any Newspaper articles to share, please feel free to email me.
NOTE: I will only post the Full Text of articles in which the copyright has expired or articles from
old Wisconsin newspapers that are no longer in business.
For copyrighted articles, please visit the individual newspaper websites.
I am a member of the Wisconsin Libraries Association and the Wisconsin Genealogy and Local History Roundtable.

Contents - Copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 - Michelle Laycock
Template & Graphics  - Copyright 2001 WLHN