Where do newspapers go when they die?

A couple of weeks ago, the third-largest Spanish-language newspaper in New York, Noticias del Mundo, ceased publication. It’s been around since 1980. I learned about its demise from a brief mention in the City section of the New York Times, 25 April 2004; there’s another report here.

Since I spend a lot of time tracking down obscure New York newspapers of a century and a half ago, it occurred to me to wonder whether Noticias del mundo was something that a researcher would be able to find centuries and centuries hence, as Whitman might say. The answer seems to be: some of it but not all. Fordham and the Brooklyn Public Library did subscribe, but it was their policy to discard the papers after a month or so. Scattered issues are on microfilm at the New York State library, which runs a preservation program called the New York State Newspaper Program, but that’s it for holdings in New York. Unexpectedly, UCLA has 1984 and 1985 on microfilm, and UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz have a single day of the paper on microfilm.

It’s the Library of Congress who has made a heroic effort. A librarian there emailed me that they have on microfilm “April, 1982-February, 1985; January, 1988-December, 1999” of Noticias del mundo but noted that “We have received no further issues since 1999.” So it looks as if the newspaper’s coverage of 9/11 will not be available to historians.

The glass remained in a half-full, half-empty state after further spot checks of foreign-language or community newspapers that I’ve sighted people reading recently on the subway. Novoe Russkoe Slovo has been assiduously microfilmed by the New York Public Library since the significant date of 1917, and the New York State library seems to be saving the Mirror International, an Islamic paper published in Greenpoint. But no one seems to be saving the Park Slope Courier, a giveaway paper in my neighborhood, which covers such topics as the development of Red Hook with a level of detail not available elsewhere. (And of course, as Nicholson Baker could tell you, the saving of any recent newspapers in paper form is almost unheard of, so that the one thing we know for sure about future historians of our era is that if they consult our newspapers, they will develop terrible migraines.)