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How did the Project define "newspaper" to determine what was included in this publication?

Definition of newspaper: To be inventoried and cataloged as a newspaper for the Alaska Newspaper Project, a title generally must:

  • Provide local or general current news to a community
  • Be considered by the majority of the readers (past or present) to be a newspaper
  • Be a primary source of community announcements and legal notices

With some exceptions, the Alaska Newspaper Project's definition, in keeping within the guidelines of the United States Newspaper Program and with what most other states are currently doing, excludes:

  • Periodicals which publishers refer to as magazines or journals and include primarily articles, stories, and other writings.
  • Newsletter publications that are intended primarily for members of the organization or that are specifically limited to coverage of a business, industry, craft, market, etc. Often content is related to administrative matters or provides only limited current general news. Examples would be publications of
  • Alumni groups
  • Business firms and trade organizations
  • Educational institutions
  • Farmers' organizations
  • Fraternal organizations
  • Labor unions
  • Professional organizations and societies
  • Religious denominations
  • Sports and recreation associations
  • State/Territorial agency publications
  • Veterans' organizations
  • Student newspapers, including high school and college newspapers (some school newspapers already on microfilm are included)
  • Shoppers which have no news other than ads.
  • Infrequently published tourist guides (often supplements to local newspapers)

How can I view these newspapers on microfilm?

Most of the microfilm is available in the four libraries listed in this guide-the Alaska State Library (ASL), the Rasmuson Library at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), the Consortium Library at the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) and the Anchorage Municipal Libraries, Loussac Library (AML) although holdings may differ somewhat. If you are unable to visit one of these sites, your local library can help your request microfilm reels through Interlibrary Loan.

Are these available for purchase?

Much of the microfilm is available for purchase, but not necessarily from Central Microfilm Services of the Alaska State Archives, Alaska's repository for Alaskan-produced newspaper Master microfilm. Always check the beginning of the microfilm reel, if possible, to find out whether it was produced by an Alaskan library or by a commercial vendor or other producer. If the microfilm was not produced by an Alaskan library, please contact the commercial vendor or other producer directly. In all other cases, even when there is no information about the location of the master microfilm, please contact Central Microfilm Services, Alaska State Archives, 141 Willoughby Ave., 99801-1720, Tel:907-465-2274, FAX: 907-465-2465 regarding cost and availability of the titles and date ranges you desire.

If I have an Alaskan issue not listed in this publication, who do I notify?

Please notify the Alaska State Library, Alaska Historical Collections, PO Box 110571, Juneau, AK 99811-0571, Tel:907/ 465-2925; FAX 907/465-2990, or email

If the image on the microfilm is very blurry, is my research hopeless?

Blurry microfilm may be caused by a bad original, bad filming or bad reproduction. There is no remedy for the first two cases, but once in a while, in the duplication process, the copy is not good, but the master film is. Other libraries or Central Microfilming Services, Alaska State Archives can double-check this possibility for you.

What is the best way for me to preserve my own newspapers?

The best way is to photocopy the original on acid-free paper. The original will disintegrate over time. Otherwise, if the paper is already flattened, wrap in acid free wrappers and keep in the dark. If the paper is folded or rolled, do not attempt to flatten or unroll it if it is brittle. In such cases, it is best to contact a paper conservator or preservation professional for recommendations. The more it is handled, the shorter the life span. The only viable method of preserving newspapers right now is microfilming.

What were Alaska's earliest newspapers?

No newspapers in Russian from Russian-America (pre-1867) are known to have been published. The following are the earliest papers found:

The Esquimaux
Libbysville, Port Clarence, Russian America; Camp Libby, Plover Bay, North East Siberia, Oct. 14, 1866-Sept. 1, 1867.

Published by Captain Daniel B. Libby's section of the Western Union Telegraph Expedition. Editor J.J. Harrington, in the Introduction to his publication of the issues stated: "Here, amid the Arctic snows, when daylight was only visible for an hour or two, and it was therefore almost impossible to prosecute our labors, to while away some tedious hours, this little paper was produced." The Esquimaux was hand-written and bound together with bent pins. Upon the abandonment of the enterprise and the subsequent return of the Expedition parties to the United States, the Editor republished the issues for the general public. This paper's dates are before the purchase of Russian-America by the United States.

The Sitka Times
Sitka, Sept. 19, 1868-Nov. 7, 1868

Volume 1, number 1 of the Sitka Times, the first newspaper published after Alaska was purchased from Russia, was published on Sept. 19, 1868. The editor and publisher was Barney O. Ragan. Just four issues of this manuscript paper were published. Publication suspended with the Nov. 7th issue until they could get a press since "copyists were not to be had in Sitka for money." Once the printing press was acquired, the newspaper resurfaced in April of 1869, under the title of the Alaska Times.

The Alaska Times
Sitka, Apr. 23, 1869-Oct. 1, 1870; Seattle, Oct. 23, 1870-May 14, 1871

Began on Apr. 23, 1869, stating that "We throw to the breeze of public patronage today, the Alaska Times, it being the first newspaper ever printed in Alaska. On the 19th of Sept. 1868, we started a manuscript paper called 'The Sitka Times,' but the demand for it being so numerous, and the limited number of copyists we could find in our City, compelled us to suspend its publication until we could get a press." The Alaska Times was published through May 14, 1871, first in Sitka and then in Seattle, beginning with the Oct. 23, 1870 issue. As stated above, it continued the Sitka Times, begun on Sept. 19, 1868 and ceasing with the Nov. 7, 1868 issue.

Why doesn't this guide provide a very complete listing of editors for most of the titles?

While Project staff did look at thousands of issues of microfilm, they were focused primarily on other bibliographic elements such as beginning and ending dates, titles changes, mergers, suspensions. To identify all of the editors of every newspaper, some of which have had many, many editors, was beyond the scope of the Project. Editors' names were added to this guide only if they were easily identifiable from the sources at hand. It was never intended to be complete. An excellent source information on Alaskan newspaper editors is Evangeline Atwood's unpublished manuscript, "Alaska's Newspapers" (1987). While this source was unavailable for use during the Project, the Project hopes that this manuscript will eventually be edited and published, adding to the resources relating to Alaska's newspaper history.

Are there indexes available for Alaskan newspapers?

There are a few indexes that cover very limited time periods for a few Alaskan newspaper titles. Check with your local library to identify these indexes.

Why aren't you digitizing these newspapers instead of microfilming, which seems so archaic?

Quite simply, digitization has not yet proven to be a reliable long-term storage medium, but digitization has many short-term uses, such as making text and images available through the Internet. In considering preservation of newspaper images, Robert Harriman, Coordinator of the United States Newspaper Program, Preservation Division, Library of Congress, lists the following reasons for choosing microfilm over digitization at present:

  1. Microfilm is a proven preservation medium. Properly processed and stored, we expect film to be available more than one hundred years from now. Magnetic media have a relatively short life-span.
  2. All that is required to read microfilm is a light source and a magnifying lens. Digital reproduction is a growing problem (remember the Betamax). See Jeff Rothenberg, "Ensuring the Longevity of Digital Documents", Scientific American, Jan. 1995.
  3. Digitized text is great for distribution, so some special projects are scanning from film to allow for enhanced indexing, but not for preservation.

Page last updated 04/05/2019