Why is an old World War II newspaper useful to historians?

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boomer-sooner | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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An old newspaper, especially one from a dramatic time period, can provide a treasure trove of useful information about culture, historical fact, and opinions.  The source must be tested for usefulness to gauge accuracy as a historical instrument.  When compared with the current newspaper circulation, WWII era papers enjoyed much wider circulation.

The weight of the information can be gauged by the position in the paper.  The front page is assumed to have the most interesting or pressing story.  This indicates to historians the interest of the people at the time, and it may include accurate factual details of events.  However, old papers also provide other details about life.  The opinion column, advice column and social aspects of the paper provide insight into daily living and social concerns.  The comics, which often mimic reality, shed light on the political commentary of the time.  Even the classified ads can allow historians to examine everyday life and the interests of society.

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