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Serial and Government Publications Division



Using the Newspaper Collection
Finding Aids
Newspapers by Place and Date
arrow graphicNewspaper Indexes
Full-text Historical Newspapers
Newspaper Histories
Newspaper Bibliographies
Women and the News Business
PATHFINDER: Women's Editions of Daily Newspapers
Finding Women in Newspapers
Women as Audience






Newspaper Indexes
see caption below

Nellie Bly. H.J. Myers. Copyright 1890. Prints and Photographs Division. LC-USZ62-97448 (b&w film copy neg.)
bibliographic record

For newspapers, unlike periodicals, there are no comprehensive retrospective indexes (such as the Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature ) covering multiple titles over long time periods. Indeed, many newspapers lack any kind of indexing at all, so creative strategies are necessary in order to find pertinent articles about women or by women reporters. The New York Times, well-known for its reporting quality, is equally noteworthy for its index, which covers its entire lifespan from 1851 to the present (AI21.N45 N&CPR). The New York Times has issued specialized indexes too, such as Women, 1965-1975 (Glen Rock, N.J.: Micro filming Corp. of America, 1978; Z7961.W62 N&CPR). But this is unusual, and few newspapers have such extensive indexing.

Of the major newspapers published today, most have print indexes going back only to the 1970s and 1980s. For example, the index to the Los Angeles Times begins in 1971 (AI21.L65 B44a and AI21.L65 L67 N&CPR), and the Philadelphia Inquirer has no printed index at all. Numerous electronic indexes (CD-ROM or online) may be available through information brokers such as Dialog Information Service and Lexis/Nexis. Many newspapers are providing Web access to their archives, usually on a fee or subscription basis. Today, Newspaper Abstracts and Proquest Newstand, published electronically by Proquest, are among the few indexes that are widely available in libraries and that cover multiple newspapers on a current basis.

Likewise, ethnic and minority newspapers lack comprehensive retrospective indexes. Ethnic Newswatch, published electronically by SoftLine Information, Inc., covers the ethnic, minority, and native press in America from 1995 to present. All major ethnic and minority groups (in broad categories) are represented in this very useful index, and full text of articles are available for many hard-to-locate newspapers (often difficult to find outside the local community). The database includes many titles not held by the Library.

An important retrospective print index for the minority press found in the Library is the Black Newspapers Index (formerly Index to Black Newspapers) published since 1977 (Ann Arbor, Mich.: University Microfilms International; AI3.I46 N&CPR). It indexes eight of the highest circulating black newspapers, among them the Chicago Defender, New York Amsterdam News, and Los Angeles Sentinel.

Although dated, two reference sources provide information regarding the existence and location of specific newspaper indexes:

  • Lathrop Report on Newspaper Indexes: An Illustrated Guide to Published and Unpublished Newspaper Indexes in the United States and Canada, compiled and edited by Norman M. Lathrop and Mary Lou Lathrop (Wooster, Ohio: Norman Lathrop Enterprises, 1979-80; Z6293.L37 1979 N&CPR)
  • Newspaper Indexes: A Location and Subject Guide for Researchers by Anita Cheek Milner (Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1977-82; Z6951.M635 N&CPR), a three-volume set.
The Serial and Government Publications Division's Web site points to online newspaper indexes (<>), and includes lists such as the Special Library Association's comprehensive “U.S. News Archives on the Web” <> (see Serial and Government Publications External Sites).

The division makes every effort to collect indexes for newspaper titles it holds. Nevertheless, many indexes exist only as card files or limited-copy bound sets available solely where the newspaper is published, making preparation before using the Library's newspaper collection advisable. When all other strategies have been exhausted, you may need to search a newspaper date by date and page by page to locate articles of interest. To avoid this time-consuming effort, you should use secondary sources to narrow your search to a limited time period whenever possible. Using periodical indexes and existing newspaper indexes may help you narrow your field of inquiry even when the newspapers you need have no index. Information you discover through these indexes may be transferable to the research at hand—it may help you identify the date of an event, determine approximate date ranges to focus on, or discover biographical information.

Secondary sources such as books, journal articles, and dissertations are also extremely useful. Newspaper histories may refer to specific stories or columnists for which the newspaper is known. Biographies of publishers, editors, and reporters may also yield unexpected leads.

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