Newspaper articles can be examples of both primary and secondary sources. Therefore, you’ll need to review information about the author of the article, the date of the article, and how the article will be used in your work before you can determine if it will be considered a primary or secondary source.
Some articles may contain both descriptions of historical events as well as analysis or comparison to contemporary ones, but they are still considered secondary sources. Very recent articles or articles that discuss recent changes or technological advances are still considered secondary sources if they offer historical context or analysis about how a recent change fits into a historical timeline.
News articles written by reporters and journalists are intended to document and describe an event, providing facts about what happened, where it, and who was involved. They can include eye-witness accounts and a description of the event. Commentary, analysis, or writing that puts events into a historical context are reserved for editorials or opinion articles.
It is increasingly common for news and commentary to be blended into the same source so if you find sources that do this, you may want to seek alternative articles which only present the type of information you need (news or opinion).
Library databases offer ways to limit by source or document type. When you search for news articles in newspaper databases like Global Newsstream, Nexis Uni or Newsbank, make sure to explore the menus and limiting options so that you can search for the type of newspaper article you want to find.
You can also identify types of news sources by the details or information about the article that is provided. This usually appears as information about the section of the newspaper that the article appeared in (news, sports, entertainment, editorial, commentary, op-ed).
Newspaper websites and news aggregates usually provide an indication about the different sections or categories of news featured on the website. Therefore, when you are asked to find a specific type of article, you may want to start with the homepage of a newspaper rather than using a search engine (e.g. Google) to find articles.
If you locate a news article and aren’t sure what section or type of article it is, look for words like commentary, editorial, op-ed, opinion or other phrases that indicate it might be an opinion about news or current events.
Here are three news sources that discuss events reflecting the racial tension in the U.S.: one about the media’s reporting on the L.A. Riots and two about the Black Lives Matter flag that appeared at Montpelier High School during February of 2018.
NBC: Montpelier High School students raise Black Lives Matter flag
a 2018 news article from VT news station NBC5, written by reporter Abby Isaacs who was at the scene https://www.mynbc5.com/article/montpelier-high-school-students-raise-black-lives-matter-flag/15957185
Burlington Free Press: Flying the Black Lives Matter flag
a 2018 opinion article, written by UVM Professor and former VT Secretary of State, Deb Markowitz
L.A. Times: Media Failed to Examine Alleged LAPD Abuses Press
a 1992, four-part article series “The Media and the LAPD: From Coziness to Conflict” examining the L.A. Riots, written by staff writer and journalist David Shaw https://hartness.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.hartness.idm.oclc.org/docview/281642844?accountid=46213
If your paper is about:
The Black Lives Matter Movement in Vermont
- NBC = Primary Source
- Burlington Free Press = Secondary Source
- L.A. Times = Secondary Source
Media Bias in Reporting Racial Tension in the U.S.
- NBC = Primary Source
- Burlington Free Press = Primary Source
- L.A. Times = Primary Source
If you are analyzing media bias, both news and opinion articles can be considered primary sources because they present evidence of bias or non-bias. However, if you are analyzing an event or topic that is written about by someone who didn’t witness it or is presenting an overview of events or opinion, that would be considered a secondary source.