Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"Newspaper Archiving" Program Summary

The program at today's Chula Vista Genealogical Society meeting was "Newspaper Archiving" by Peter Rowe, a staff writer for the San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper. Peter is also the newspaper's Archivist. His CV can be read here.

Peter started the program by noting that he likes Chula Vista, but fears that after his talk that it will climb higher on the Forbe's "America's Ten Most Boring Cities" list. I doubt it! He noted that the reporting and newspaper business is very chaotic, and that the deadline pressures and editing decisions often result in stories that are incomplete or partially erroneous.

He provided a short history of archiving at the San Diego Union (and Union-Tribune) over the years:

* From 1868 (when the Union was first published) into the 1970's, whole copies of the paper, and cut up stories put in large envelopes by subject, were kept in the newspaper offices. This was called the "morgue" by the reporters and the envelopes were consulted often by reporters and the librarians.

* In the 1970's, the newspaper ran out of storage space, and moved to a new building, and the envelopes with all of the cut-up stories were placed in the San Diego Historical Society collection in Balboa Park. The separate Photo Archives were also placed at the San Diego Historical Society.

* In 1984, digital archives were started for the newspaper and the practice of cutting up articles and putting them in the envelopes was discontinued. However, the "digital archives" are not available to the public on the newspaper web site.

* In 2000, the site was started, and the online archives cover this time period, but is available only to subscribers through the web page. There is a Search box on the home page of the newspaper, but it does not always provide accurate results.

Peter observed that a Search for his mother's 2008 obituary using the home page did not find any articles, but using the subscriber Archives search there were four articles about her.

In response to a question, he noted that there were no digital archives for San Diego newspapers before 1984 on any historical or current newspaper web site.

The San Diego Public Library has microfilms of the complete run of the San Diego Union (1868-1992), San Diego Evening Tribune, San Diego Union-Tribune (1992 -present) and other San Diego newspapers in their second floor Newspaper Room.

To find newspaper articles in other cities, Peter recommended contacting the local libraries and historical societies to determine the extent and availability of their collections. He searched for specific people in Seattle and San Francisco newspapers as examples.

For searches of Irving people, he said that he used, and the Superior Court records (available for San Diego at Peter also provided some "fun" sites - and

This was a fun-filled talk. Peter is pretty laid back and has a dry sense of humor. He spoke without notes. He does look like his picture.

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