How to Search The New York Times

By Raymond Pun
August 22, 2013

Please note: As of January 2017, Microforms Reading Room materials are located in room 119 of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.

Newsstand, 32nd Street and Third Avenue, Manhattan., Digital ID 482798, New York Public Library

Newsstand, 32nd Street and Third Avenue, Manhattan (1935)

Over the years working at the reference desk, I get this question a lot: "Do you have the New York Times on [given date]?" I reply, "YES! Which formats are you interested in seeing? We have some bound copies, microfilms and digital resources." It is one of the most popular primary sources that patrons often want to see.

Whatever the patrons are researching, the NYT is quite useful for a variety of subjects: genealogy, history, social sciences, etc.; the newspaper covered and still covers many international, national, regional and local issues. We have access to the full run of the newspaper beyond the NYT website which contains historical articles but limits you to 10 articles per month.

This post will decipher the Library's record of the NYT and demonstrate how to use the NYT to conduct other newspaper research:

  1. For current hard copies, check your local library's periodical section. If you prefer to read the NYT in a majestic reading room, consider visiting the DeWitt Wallace Periodicals Reading Room (108) located in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on 42nd Street and 5th Avenue. The room provides access to many popular and current publications including The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, Vogue, etc. See here for a list of periodicals available to peruse in Room 108.
  2. For back issues of the NYT, you have several options: microfilm, bound copies or digital copies:
  3. For microfilm copy, the full run is available in the Microform Reading Room (100), first floor in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. Why should you see the microfilm copy? Two reasons: a. The digital record may contain some catalog records, thus preventing you from finding the right articles and b. the digital record may not be able to grant access to all images in the NYT. The microfilm copy, however, does contain all images and look exactly like the original newspaper. You can make copies from the microfilm as well. They are available as self-service titles, no appointments are necessary to access them.
  4. Bound copies are a bit tricky: many are fragile and most cannot be copied. You will need to plan accordingly and request them in advance if you prefer the hard copies over the microfilm and digital versions. If you look at the catalog record, you will notice that this title is not complete. Feel free to request in advance. They will generally arrive in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Rose Main Reading Room.
  5. Digital: there are currently several subscription databases containing the NYT for various years:
  • New York Times (1980-present): Full-text articles from The New York Times. You can only access this database in a library. However, this only runs from 1980 to the current period and is mostly the text of articles so not all will have images like the hard copy.
  • New York Times (1851-2009) w/ Index: Searchable full-text and page images from The New York Times archive with the option to search by subject headings (index covers 1851-1993). This is the full run of newspaper dating back from the first publication. You can only access this onsite in libraries (bring your laptop and access it over our wifi network.) However, it does not provide articles published after 2009, which means you will need to use the database mentioned above or below to post-2009 materials.
  • New York Times (Late Edition, East Coast, 2008-2013): This database gives you the full image of a newspaper running from 2008-2013. Unfortunately, you will need to be in a library to access this resource.
  • New York Times (1985-present) and New York Post (2000-present): Searchable full-text of the New York Times and New York Post.) This database searches both newspapers and you can also run this search from home with an NYPL card! The database only provides text and not images which may not be helpful if you are searching for a full-newspaper image. However, it runs from 1985 to the present day.

Few interesting facts about the newspaper:

  • Founded on September 18th, 1851 by Henry Jarvis and George Jones, the NYT was initially called the New York-Daily Times until 1857.
  • The New York Times Magazine: Not to be confused with New York Magazine, The NYT Magazine is a Sunday magazine supplement that started in 1896. The magazine contains essays longer than the newspaper articles. It also covers various topics from fashion to politics to technology. The magazine is also generally microfilmed or digitized together with the newspaper.
  • According to the Alliance for Audited Media, a a non-profit organization that connects North American media companies, advertisers and ad agencies, The New York Times currently circulates 1.8 million daily copies since March 2013. It is ranked as one of the highest circulating newspapers in the country.
  • We also have many secondary sources written about the NYT, check them out!

If you are searching for articles in other local newspapers such as The New York Post or The New York Daily News, but you don't know when they were published, it is often recommended to search the articles in the NYT first and then if you are successful in finding some relevant articles in the NYT, you can transfer the dates over to the other regional/local newspapers.

This is called cross-referencing, but it only works if you did find relevant articles in the NYT first. Why search in the NYT first? Because the whole collection is available online. The other newspapers are not completely available online yet.

For more information about researching other historical newspapers, see this earlier post. If you need still more research support in using our e-resources, feel free to attend a free workshop held in the Schwarzman Building or consider booking a consultation appointment with a reference librarian!