This guide consists of tables listing the main formats for finding newspaper or news content with the pros and cons of each format, an access rating, and a preservation rating. I have listed a few representative titles for each format. Some news sources are available in only one format, but many titles are available in two or more formats.

Caveat emptor--LOST CONTENT: Be aware that access to newspaper articles can be compromised. Here are three ways:

The Tasini decision. In September 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in The New York Times et al. v. Tasini et al. that freelance writers must be paid additional compensation if their work was included in an online database (i.e., LexisNexis). As a result, online database providers removed many freelance-authored newspaper articles from their databases. These articles are available in the print editions. Some syndicated columnists and writers refused to grant the publisher or vendor permission to publish an electronic version of their work. More recently, standard news contracts with writers and journalists cover all formats.

Different editions: Newspapers often publish different editions for different cities or regions of the country. Articles that appear in one regional edition do not appear in all editions. Some newspapers also publish separate geographical supplements with unique content. In addition, newspapers publish chronological editions--articles in the early editions may not appear in later editions and vice versa. Usually only one edition is microfilmed. Articles in some online news sources are serially updated and the earlier updates disappear; in effect there are no editions in online sources and content often is different from the printed version.

Data loss: Some of the news that has been archived digitally or on film is irretrievably lost through data corruption, orphaned data files, or physical and environmental damage to the archived medium (i.e., microfilm). Newsprint disintegrates. News content may become unavailable due to software or hardware obsolescence--the infrastructure to access the data may no longer be available.

Unreliable news sources: Fake news is not news you disagree with -- it is content generated by non-news or unreliable news-like organizations to drive eyeballs to ads (e.g., clickbait) or to spread false information (rumors, conspiracy theories, junk science, hate, and propaganda, for example). To distinguish between unreliable news sources and legitimate news sources, see our detailed guide on Evaluating News Content.

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Michael Engle
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