newspaper is a publication intended for a broad audience that appears
regularly, often daily, and claims to contain factual accounts of
recent events. Usually newspapers are published with the intention
of making a profit. Frequently, their factual content is accompanied
by advertisements and nonfactual material intended as entertainment.
Journalists often boast that they write “the
rough draft of history.” The key point here is rough draft.
Newspapers are written in haste and often contain inadvertent factual
errors, large and small. Moreover, a newspaper’s “factual”
content is determined by its point of view or bias. This point of
view is shaped by the political positions taken by editors and publishers,
and sometimes shaped by the newspaper’s commercial relationship
with advertisers. It is also shaped by a newspaper’s location.
For example, the St. Petersburg Times might call a hurricane
in Florida a terrible catastrophe, while a newspaper in Idaho might
ignore it entirely.
Newspapers from the past contain several kinds
of information for historians. They offer factual accounts of events
such as earthquakes, battles, and elections. Historians often mine
newspapers for basic information about who did what, when, how, and
where. Newspapers are also filled with contextual information, such
as advertisements and features, from which historians can build a
more complete picture of the world in which a particular event took