OttawaCitizen1986

Suppose you need some quick back-story on a politician. A simple Google news search will tell you what the politician’s been up to recently. If you need to look back a year or two, you can keep hitting “Next” until you eventually wend your way out of 2015.

But if a politician’s been kicking around a long time – say, Ralph Goodale long – that method will only lead to carpal tunnel. That’s when you need to drop in the magic code, to get to the old stuff.

Here’s how….

Type your topic into a search bar….

SimpleSearch

and then add the magic: site:news.google.com/newspapers.

MagicKey

This is not the same as a ‘regular’ Google News search, which kicks up the news of the day. You’ll find yourself travelling deeper in time.

BoyPolitician

 

You’ll meet a “boy politician” who doesn’t have “much of a riding impact” back home in Saskatchewan, according to a 1977 Montreal Gazette commentary. Two years later, Pierre Trudeau is campaigning in Saskatchewan for the “young – 30 this year – lawyer.”

Far from an unbroken career, you’ll see the ups and downs, including a foray into provincial politics that started with a third-place finish behind runner-up Conservative (and future Sask premier) Grant Devine and winning NDP candidate Jack Chapman – and ending with Goodale at the head of a near-bankrupt Sask Liberal Party that campaigned on fiscal responsibility but couldn’t pay his salary. Back on the federal scene, he lost to ex-Regina mayor Larry Schneider in 1988, but by 1994, he was in Washington making deals as Canada’s federal agriculture minister, as reported by the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, and on his way to Lib ‘play-ah’ status.

The upshot is a more nuanced view of a political career that you might otherwise assume has been smooth cruising since 1974 – if you didn’t have the magic search key.

The key leads you to the hidden remains of the Google Newspaper Archives, a project that involved scanning millions of archival newspaper pages from around the globe. Although the project was abandoned after just three years, it left behind an impressive and highly useful collection.

Issues of Regina’s The Leader are there, from 1890 to 1908, as well as its successor, the Leader-Post, from 1930 to 1987. Best of all, you get to view intact pages as they were laid out (you’ll find the ads that annoy us today get infinitely more interesting with age.)

A student recently asked me how a journalist can find time to do archival research in a daily newsroom. This site can’t replace the value of real archives (which come with helpful staff and more than a three-year commitment). But it’s a great tool at your fingertips when you need it. Within minutes, you can have an impressive clippings file dating back to the turn of the century.

The trick is to find it. Now that you know the door, turn the key and have fun.

Google Newspaper Archives
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