Newspaper Databases - the Abstract and Index Approach

Article excerpt

According to Thomas Jefferson, "The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers." That may have been true decades ago, but today's business world would not agree. Business news as it now appears in newspapers educates business people in a fashion that nothing else can match. I wonder what Jefferson would have thought of newspaper databases?

Newspaper databases come in several formats. Full-text newspaper databanks such as VU/TEXT and DataTimes have attracted the most attention recently. However, the availability of newspaper information online in abstract and indexed form pre-dates the full-text files and continues to serve a very useful function.

THE INFORMATION BANK

One of the first abstract and index (A&I) newspaper databases was the Information Bank. Begun by the New York Times, it is now on Mead Data Central's NEXIS service as ABS in both the INFOBK and COMPNY libraries. In my mind, there are several distinguishing characteristics of ABS. The first is its longevity For example, ABS or the Information Bank, covers the New York Times from 1969, the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times from 1971, the Christian Science Monitor from 1972, and the Wall Street journal from 1973. This gives a chronological depth unsurpassed by any other service.

Another characteristic is selective coverage. The original intent was to create a general database, particularly where the New York Times itself was concerned. With that newspaper, the intent is still to abstract everything, even very brief articles, rather than just those of research value. Aside from that, however, the database has evolved to one emphasizing business news. This is particularly true of the regional newspapers in the database.

This selectivity also keeps duplicate stories out of the database. If essentially the same story runs in different newspapers, ABS will include only one, generally the one from the New York Times. Exceptions are stories with analysis attached and major political news items. You can criticize this approach, as it leaves open the possibility of overlooking an item which seems insignificant at the time but becomes critical later on.

Third, it is not just a newspaper database. There are 52 sources in the database, including business and news magazines. You will find the major stories from Business Week, Forbes, and Fortune in ABS as well as news from Journal of Commerce, American Banker, and Women's Wear Daily. Nor is it limited to U.S. sources. The Financial Times of London, the London Times, the Financial Times of Canada, Far Eastern Economic Review, and The Economist are also included.

Sometime during fourth quarter of 1988, Mead Data Central intends to migrate the ABS library to the full NEXIS system. It will then cease to exist as a separate library and the name Information Bank may sink into online obscurity, destined to be recognized only by trivia buffs. I hope they manage to hold onto the name in some way since I think many searchers still recognize Information Bank as a good information source. However, be reassured that the database itself is not disappearing, it is merely moving.

NATIONAL NEWSPAPER INDEX

NATIONAL NEWSPAPER INDEX (File 111 on DIALOG and NOOZ on BRS) is a thoroughly indexed file produced by Information Access. It contains no abstracts. The newest material is found in Newsearch (File 211 on DIALOG and DALY on BRS). NATIONAL NEWSPAPER INDEX began in 1979 with three national newspapers: the New York Times, Wall Street journal, and Christian Science Monitor. In 1982, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post were added. A nice feature of NATIONAL NEWSPAPER INDEX is its coverage of multiple editions for several titles.

NATIONAL NEWSPAPER INDEX is no longer restricted to newspapers, having added newswires in 1987. Not only that, it is no longer limited to national (U. …