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 1836–1922
• 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.
Prior 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)