Bruce Murphy
Back in the News

Journal Sentinel Archive Will Return?

JS President blames computer mixup, pledges return of 120-year archive, won't say when.

By - Sep 2nd, 2016 11:41 am
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s historical archive of news stories, which includes roughly 120 years of local history, will return… some day. So promised Chris Stegman, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel president, in response to a story by the Library Journal. But Stegman wouldn’t say when.

It was two weeks ago that Urban Milwaukee broke the story that the Journal Sentinel archive had disappeared. “On Tuesday, August 16, the Milwaukee Journal, Milwaukee Sentinel, and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel listings vanished from the Google News Archive home page,” Michail Takach reported. “This change came without any advance warning and still has no official explanation.”

Google’s response to inquiries about this was chilling, Takach noted: “Google News Archive no longer has permission to display this content,” he was told. The response from a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel employee, he noted, was even more chilling: “We have contracted with a new vendor (Newsbank.) It is unclear when or if the public will have access to the full inventory that was formerly available on Google News Archive.”

A follow-up story by Urban Milwaukee’s Michael Horne revealed that the Newsbank had offered the archive to the Milwaukee Public Library for a price of $1.5 million, plus a one-percent annual assessment over the following three years. Newsbank has successfully made deals with other city libraries for local newspaper archives, including with the Seattle Public library (which paid $400,000 for the digital rights to the Seattle Times), East Baton Rouge Public Library ($800,000 for the rights to the Baton Rouge Advocate) and Sacramento Public Library ($1.2 million over 5 years for the Sacramento Bee records.”

But Milwaukee City Librarian Paula Kiely told Urban Milwaukee the library couldn’t afford the $1.5 million fee, given that its entire annual materials budget is $1.8 million.

Adding insult to the high-handed offer is that about one-third of the Journal Sentinel archive originally created by Google and later taken over by Newsbank could not have been created without the library’s help. Milwaukee Journal images from 1910-1920 were unavailable, as were Milwaukee Sentinel images from 1837-1909, when Google created the archives. And so the library lent Google its films of those newspapers so they could be digitized, Horne reported.

Which brings us to Stegman’s most recent statement: He said the digital archive’s disappearance “was nothing more than an unfortunate mix-up caused by a switch to a new computer system at the newspaper, which was purchased by the Gannett Corporation in April,” the Library Journal reported. “‘That’s hopefully going to be resolved soon,’ he said of the archive’s removal, adding that he could not pinpoint a more precise date for its return.”

“We hadn’t heard that before and it’s good news for the library and the community,” Kiely told the Library Journal.

All of which sounds good but still leaves some confusion. It appears the archives the library will get are the old Google ones. Google will no longer host the online material, Stegman told the Library Journal, but the library still won’t be charged any fees to make it available.

Meanwhile, the Journal Sentinel has been working with NewsBank for the last year or two to build a brand new newspaper archive, the Library Journal reports. Milwaukee library officials have already been provided with large samples of this online material and a city librarian “readily concedes the new archive has fewer chronological gaps, offers easier-to-read images, and is generally more user-friendly than the older Google product.”

But if the Journal Sentinel is doing all this work with Newsbank to create a fancier and expensive version of the archives, just how much of a priority will it be for the JS to get the old Google archives re-activated, and which will then reduce the value of the Newsbank archive? That’s unclear and given Stegman’s vague answer as to when the old archive will be back up, and a JS employee’s earlier statement that it wasn’t clear if the archive would ever be restored, there’s reason for local historians to continue worrying about the situation.

Journal Sentinel Archive Stories

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4 thoughts on “Back in the News: Journal Sentinel Archive Will Return?”

  1. The JS has yet to mention this in its own publication. Haven’t heard a word from its historian columnist John Gurda on the topic.

  2. Gary Rebholz says:

    One of the loudest cries of BRING BACK THE FREE ARCHIVE comes from the largely conservative genealogy and family research community, part of an older demographic. The move by the Journal/Sentinel to make further income off of their archive easily falls within the purported conservative Republican political philosophy. After 5-6 years of access, the denial of a free meal of newspaper research trumps those ideals. Genealogy welfare queens (of any gender) are outraged!

  3. SortingHat says:

    Y’a gotta love Republican globalism!

  4. Gary Rebholz says:

    Newsbank offers access to a huge part of the Journal Sentinel Archive through the Milwaukee Public Library website. I was told this is a beta offering.

    The link at the is misleading, called “America’s Obituaries & Death Notices”. It’s accessible at the library using their WIFI or a terminal there, but from home only with an MPL library card. Other county library card holders with have to test home accessibility on their own.

    Offered there:
    Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI) – 1990 – Current
    Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Blog – 2005 – Current
    Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Web Edition Articles (WI) – 2010 – Current
    Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel – 1935 – 1993
    Milwaukee Sentinel – 1844 – 1865

    The offerings disappeared, then returned after a day or so the first week of the new year. Shades of “beta” status?

    MPL.ORG’s other Newsbank offering called “19th Century U.S. Newspapers” offers the best site for historical research in Milwaukee papers prior to 1900. It’s a littel hidden at that link, and the search engine recently was revamped to become more difficult to use.

    In my experience, the Central Library MLIS staff are generally loathe to admit to the knowledge of, or discuss any of these online services. They may or may not be able to actually know how to use them.

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