Digitizing the paper of record: Archiving digital newspapers at the New York Times

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study uses three archiving efforts at the New York Times as a means to analyse the newspaper as an archival object. I study the traditional ‘morgue’ of physical clippings and photos, the Times’ joint project with Google Cloud to digitize its photo collection, and the TimesMachine interactive digital archive, which made scanned editions of printed issues from 1851 to 2002 publicly available online. Based on interviews with staff and analysis of documents describing past and present newspaper archiving practices, it is clear that the digital archive is not a comprehensive copy of an analogue original. There are a significant number of documents stored in physical archives that have not been translated to digital, and whose loss would be detrimental to historians and media scholars alike. Moreover, even the documents that have been scanned and made available as digital objects do not perfectly mirror their analogue equivalents, meaning that information loss is inherent to the digitization process. As active producers of the past for contemporary purposes, these online news archives serve as cultural gatekeepers, actively shaping journalistic practice and reframing current events in reference to the past.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-261
Number of pages17
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.


  • Archive
  • digitization
  • materiality
  • mediation
  • memory
  • newspaper

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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