Advisory Board and Newspaper Selection

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One of the most important milestones of the NJDNP is the selection of newspapers to be digitized (100,000 pages in this first grant round). We are fortunate to have access to approximately 450 titles originally microfilmed in the 1980s and 1990s as part of the National Newspaper Project, also funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). These titles were microfilmed using stringent technical guidelines which will be critical to the success of this project.

On September 7, 2016 the advisory board convened to begin the process of title selection. The advisory board consists of archivists, librarians, scholars, journalists, historians and educators from throughout New Jersey. They started with a preliminary list of 72 newspapers (culled from the 450 available titles) which met all of the criteria for inclusion. These criteria included:

• Published between 1836–1922adsc_0019-s
• Geographic diversity
• Statewide or regional influence
• Coverage – long chronological span preferable to short runs
• Coverage of a broad range of ethnic, political, economic, cultural and regional groups
• Not previously been digitized

Some big city papers like the Trenton Evening Times, the Newark Evening News, the Elizabeth Daily Journal and the Paterson Evening News were not among the 450 titles originally microfilmed and therefore not considered.

adsc_0029-sPrior to the meeting advisory board members did independent research. Using background material and online reference resources about the history of newspapers in New Jersey, they ranked each of the 72 titles as either High, Medium or Low priority for digitization. The cumulative results provided them with a base from which to start.

During the meeting they discussed impact and geographic distribution of the newspapers. Every county was not represented among the 72 titles. To ensure broad coverage they revisited the original list of 450 titles to identify those which met the criteria, but fell partially outside the 1836–1922 date range.

They split into two groups and discussed the merits of individual titles before arriving at a list of around 20 newspapers each. They compared results to identify commonalities and share the reasoning behind their selections. Eventually, a combined list of 29 titles was agreed upon. Portions of several titles fall outside 1836–1922. However, only issues between 1836–1922 would be digitized. Additionally, some newspapers had multiple name changes over an extended run. These were considered as one title. The estimated number of pages for the 29 selections far exceeds 100,000 limit, so the board will perform another prioritization exercise in the near future to arrive at a more definitive list. Stay tuned!

(contributed by Deborah Mercer, New Jersey State Library)

5 comments for “Advisory Board and Newspaper Selection

  1. Debbie McMurry
    December 14, 2016 at 8:47 am

    Will I be able to access these digitized newspapers? Many of my ancestors were born in New Jersey, having access ti the papers would be a treasure.

    • John Brennan
      December 14, 2016 at 9:41 am

      Hi Debbie. It is our hope that the newspapers will be a source of valuable and interesting information such as you mentioned. When they are eventually digitized they will be publicly available on the Library of Congress’ “Chronicling America” website. (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/) Keep checking back to keep up with the project’s process!

  2. Jeanne Einhorn
    December 28, 2016 at 4:04 pm

    So disappointed that the Elizabeth Daily Journal is not being considered for digitizing. Being the longest running published paper of NJ before it closed in 1992, I would of thought this would have historical significance. It was a thriving city with a lot of industry and a seaport.

    I have spent many hours in the basement of Rutgers U. Library digging through that paper as well as the Rahway Record, Jersey City Times, Jersey Journal. Having been raised in what was then “South Jersey” in Brick Town I learned a great deal of what a city was, and how my ancestors helped develop them.

    I’m thrilled as the self appointed family historian to have free access to all of our history. When you have a family story and hear the remember when’s…uncle Charlie lost his arm in that auto accident, grandfather Professor Dietz was hired by Mr. Maurer to run the school in his “company town” of Maurer, NJ, when grandpa Kaiser of New York sold the first team of horses to the Jersey City Fire Co. and that Battalion Chief of JCFD was your uncle in laws family, when your dad risks his life and swims 3 times into and back out of a riptide in LaJolla, CA while stationed there during the war. These “stories” become truth with proof by finding them in the newspaper archives.

    The one about my dad was only found this Christmas day. I knew this story and it’s why he made sure we all knew how to swim, but to find that truth in a newspaper because Woodbridge Library has digitized there Historic Newspaper Collection and made it available online was the best present I received that day.

    Can’t wait for this to be finished!

    • John Brennan
      January 3, 2017 at 11:59 am

      Hi Jeanne: With your comment you beautifully illustrated why we are also excited by this project. Newspapers provide a bird’s eye glimpse into an endlessly fascinating past. Our hope is that once our newspapers ultimately become available on Chronicling America many folks will experience the types of “eureka” moments you described.

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