As regularly published, publicly accessible documents, newspapers offer an important source of information on the family farm. Unlike "big city" newspapers, which often focus on national and international news, today's small-town papers devote considerable space to issues of local interest. We must read the paper daily to learn more about farming in our community and to be aware of upcoming events of interest to our project.
The Mount Vernon News, published daily except Sundays, is the primary newspaper in the county. It arrives at newsstands at approximately 2:30 PM on weekdays and by noon on Saturdays. We have a subscription to the paper that is delivered each day to Davis House.
Each week one student will be assigned to read the paper and cut out all items relevant to family farming. Weekly assignments will begin with the Friday paper and ending with the edition the following Thursday. Students will post the items collected on the bulletin board in the research room for the rest of us to read. On the following Friday, the student responsible for collecting the previous week's items will store them appropriately in the research room file cabinet.
Search the paper carefully for items of potential interest. National and international news items related to farming tell us what kind of information local farmers receive through the paper. The business page routinely provides agricultural market reports. Look for weekly reports from granges, 4-H, and other organizations associated with farming. Classified advertisements include notices of farm auctions and equipment for sale. Advertisements address farm interests and needs. And don't overlook the editorial page. In short, every page of the newspaper is a potential source of relevant items.
It is crucial that a complete reference be given for each item collected. Many newspaper items will be used again as primary research materials in current and future projects; materials without complete references are useless. A complete newspaper reference includes (1) author of article, if any; (2) title of article; (3) newspaper name; (4) complete date (month, day, year); and (5) page number. With large papers (e.g., the Sunday New York Times), you should also note the section name or letter (e.g., "book review section" or "section A"). Months with more than four letters should be abbreviated to three letters (e.g., "April" becomes "Apr." and "July" remains as is).
Since the author and title will be included in the item you cut out of the paper, only the final three bits of information need to be noted on the back. Thus, a typical note would be: Mount Vernon News, Sep. 1, 1994, p. 3. Be sure to use a writing implement that is legible (pencils often fade) but will not seep through the porous newspaper (i.e., felt-tip pens are to be avoided). A ballpoint pen is best, and you'll find several in the research room.
We'll file our newspaper items by month and year, with a new folder each month. Be careful to file your items in calendar order; that way, the next person to use the materials can easily find an item or trace a continuing story.