The freedom of the press

News & magazinesI was reading about Angelina Jolie’s problems with a film she is making about the Balkans. And about the latest exploits of “Mama Grizzly” (Sarah Palin). And about the horrendous problem of parking in town.

The town being the city of Los Angeles – that’s the clue to this cheap attempt to get your attention. I was reading all this stuff in the LA Times, the same day’s edition, sitting here in London while most Angelinos (including, if she’s at home, Angelina) were still tucked up in bed.

Library Press Display – doesn’t exactly sing as a title, does it? But it’s a vital bit of kit for the free-loading Man of the World. And Woman, obviously. Grab a computer, reach the Internet and – armed with your Westminster Libraries membership card – you can read the latest news in every continent. No, sorry, not Antarctica, but all the other continents. They’ve got newspapers from 89 countries (I counted them) in 45 languages, most of them online before the paper copies are printed.

And we’re not talking just the text here, these are cover-to-cover facsimiles, with the news, the gossip, the crossword and the weather (it was forecast foggy clearing to become sunny in Southern California). There are two months’ worth of back numbers available. That might not seem like much, but the sheer computing capacity needed for that slice of the world’s press is mind-boggling. All (or I wouldn’t be writing about it) free to library members (outside the library, your card number is your key to the door).

This amazing resource does not include every newspaper for every country – for the UK, they do a decent selection. But if you want breadth, you might like to take a look at NewsUK. This has all the broadsheets (as they used to be), all the tabloids (as they still are), lots of regional/local papers, and some magazines. NewsUK is text only and news only (no crossword), but it goes back nearly 20 years for some of the papers. And you can search the lot, all at once.

Westminster Libraries have more facsimile newspapers online, including the Guardian, Observer, Times, Mirror, Express and Economist – all different time-spans, and all complete. The Times covers the years 1785 to 1985, and you could almost study for a social or political history degree just within its pages. And if all you want is a wander through two centuries’ worth of advertising, look no further (get a load of those whalebone corsets!). And for balance, try the Mirror, which started as a paper for ladies and went on to become one of the powerhouses of political journalism, along with the fashion and the show-biz trivia.

So we’ve been round the world, done this country in depth, all through the press, and all for free. Also without handling an actual, tomorrow’s fish-wrapper newspaper. If you would prefer to get your fingers dirty, every Westminster library has a selection of daily, weekly and monthly papers and magazines (some of them available to borrow, free of course). More on this next time.



2 responses to “The freedom of the press

  1. Pingback: The freedom of the press, part 2 | Books & the City

  2. Pingback: Free at the library – the reckoning | Books & the City

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