Drew Smith, in his presentation to the Manatee Genealogical Society, shared key newspaper date information, free online sites as well as a couple of paid sites.
Key dates. The earliest American newspaper published was in 1690, with the first daily in 1784. The most important date to remember is 1922, which is the latest date where newspaper articles are in the public domain. First “born digital” date is 1970s, with some not digitized until 1990s. That means earlier issues have been digitized using OCR. OCR accuracy is about 70% correct. This impacts spelling of names. Beware.
Blame Mickey Mouse. According to Mr. Smith, the reason later newspaper articles are not in the public domain is because Disney and other Hollywood movie producers have provided incentive to congress so that copyrights to movies are not lost. To me, it seems like common sense could be applied. Movie companies, publishers, etc. could request to be grandfathered in for certain productions/products, and then the date for public domain use could be pushed further into the future.
Chronicling America, the Library of Congress is a great resource. The site lists over 150,000 titles and identifies those that are digitized. Remember the 1922 date.
Newspapers changed name with mergers, sometimes combining the names so subscribers are not lost. Keep an eye out for combinations. Not all issues are available. Learn how to use the site before jumping in.
Google Newspaper Archive has papers from 1700s-2009. You can also search Google by putting variation of Site: [your search term/s] Can even search year range using this option. Don’t have to remember the 1922 date for Google, guess they are big enough they aren’t worried!
Fulton History is one of our personal favorites, though Mr. Smith feels this site is a little “weird” to use. He prefers to access Fulton History through Google using Site: Fultonhistory.com [your search term] As mentioned in previous posts, Fulton History is a one-man show that has digitized as of this date (2/4/2015) 29,140,000 newspaper articles from the U.S. and Canada, at a fraction of the cost of the Library of Congress! Fulton History began as the go-to site for Upstate New York ancestor research, but soon papers from the New York City/Hudson Valley area were available. He has expanded to other states and Canada.
Paid Sites: Genealogy Bank (personal subscription $19.95/month-$69.95/annual) Over 7,000 titles 1690-present. (OCR)
ProQuest Historical Newspapers can be accessed through local library subscription. This stie has major U.S. cities, African-American papers and Jewish newspapers. (OCR)
Beware of NewspaperARCHIVE.com (personal subscription $72). Mr. Smith has heard some complaints about this site. (OCR)