Friday, March 21, 2008

Sources: Newspapers

I am a completionist by nature. That can be handy from a research standpoint--I doggedly pursue leads--but also assuredly time consuming. What this means for the encyclopedia is that I am trying to identify and acquire (sometimes merely as digital surrogates) as much of the vast universe of sources about Disneyland as possible. I've been summarizing the types of sources for years, back to the first proposal Kevin and I had for the Disneyland Compendium. Periodicals (such as The "E" Ticket Magazine, Vacationland); books (Disneyland: The Nickel Tour, Disneyland: Inside Story, Window on Main Street (you'll get it back, Jim, really!), etc.); Cast Member publications (Disneylander, Disneyland Line...); and interviews are among those sources. I might have future posts in-depth about each of these various sources (and others), but today I want to talk about newspapers.

Newspaper articles--while sometimes (often?) factually in error--can provide a starting point for research into some aspect of the Park's history. I've used them (and newspaper advertisements) often in response to questions posed by other Disneyland bloggers. The historical (and current) Los Angeles Times is available via ProQuest subscription (through an institution like a local library or university); other California newspaper articles can be found at, which targets a popular audience (and has personal subscription rates that aren't too bad). Both of these services have as their source microfilm copies of newspapers, so the scans often leave something to be desired (color, for one thing!).

The ProQuest search interface is wonderful, very clean and customizable, and the search results are usually good. The elements of each newspaper page are broken up into various categories--articles, display ads, obituaries, etc.--and individual articles usually (though not always) show up as individual results. The scans are usually moderate to poor and their unit of searching is one page of the newspaper. Unlike ProQuest, they have not split up the page elements, sometimes leading to erroneous matches. The OCR, additionally, is poor on those scans. They've scanned some newspapers multiple times and their search interface seems really dumbed down and does not allow for a user to enter complex Boolean queries. Until recently, it was not even possible to sort results chronologically!

Despite all this, I have persevered in trying to save every Disneyland article of substance/interest from these services for research in the encyclopedia. There are a lot of red herrings, like when Disneyland is mentioned in discourse as a means of comparison, or when some social group is going to have a get-together at the Disneyland Hotel. (I don't know how many thousands of DLH convention articles I have glossed over.) But if I find even one statement in an article where I think, "I'd like to know that later," I'll save it. I currently have about 4,000 articles and advertisements up to the late 1960s and the search continues each week. Not all of these are unique--some advertisements appeared in more than one paper, and while I often excluded multiple copies, sometimes I couldn't determine which scan I liked better, or it seemed notable that they had advertised an event far off in the Oakland Tribune or the Fresno Bee.

Not every newspaper is fully or partly available in digital form, of course. There are surely articles in the Anaheim Bulletin and the Santa Ana/Orange County Register (pre-1987) that would not simply rehash a press release or repeat a wire story. I do plan to look through clippings at the Anaheim History Room as circumstances allow in the hopes that that will fill in some gaps.

Some of the things I share on this site will be stories that come from these articles and advertisements. Disneyland has appeared in the newspapers quite a bit over the past 50-odd years and been the subject of many stories--some of which I even believe!


outsidetheberm said...

These newspaper services seem to be getting better - though, like you say, quality of image is sometimes an issue. But it sure saves us a lot of time from searching through the originals we sometimes have on file!

Major Pepperidge said...

Microfilm, I remember going through rolls of articles for school research. The quality was always pretty poor.

I looked into the when you mentioned it before, and decided that I probably wouldn't have much use for it. I want to research something that thoroughly on rare occasions, while it looks like you do so all the time!

Unknown said...


I agree about Proquest. We have it as part of a statewide contract in North Carolina. Every public library and state university in NC has access to it.

So check with your local public library. If you have a card, you might be able to check the databases from home!

Jason Schultz said...

Oh, I do have access from home via university! I've been using the Historical Los Angeles Times since they were only up to about 1916 online...