The Newsroom blog

News about yesterday's news, and where news may be going


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06 January 2016

Dennis Griffiths, newspaper historian

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Dennis Griffiths, journalist and newspaper historian, died on 24 December 2015, aged 82. He worked for over forty years in the regional and national UK press, serving as production director at the London Evening Standard, and research and development director with Express newspapers. However, he is best known for the histories of British newspapers that he produced upon his retirement, and for his dedicated efforts towards promoting appreciation of newspaper history, which included working closely on several occasions with the British Library.


Dennis Griffiths (the facsimile colour picture of the Moon landing was a famous coup by which he enabled the Evening Standard to scoop the rest of Fleet Street)

If you go behind the scenes at the British Library and see the desks of the Newsroom reference staff, you will see that each one features a copy of Dennis Griffiths' The Encyclopedia of the British Press 1422-1992 (1992). This essential reference guide is used constantly by archivists, librarians and academics, with its wide-ranging biographies of journalists, editors and owners, its authoritative entries on individual newspapers, and its essays on aspects of newspaper history and the work of newspaper-related organisations.

His best-known work, however, is Plant Here the Standard (1996), a definitive and much-praised history of the Evening Standard. His other works included Fleet Street: Five Hundred Years of the Press (2006), an exhaustive history of the newspaper press in London, published by the British Library, and most recently Blum & Taff: A Tale of Two Editors (2013), his story of the newspaper editors R.D. Blumenfeld and H.A. Gwynne, produced by his own Coranto Press.

His Fleet Street book was produced to accompany the British Library's 2006 exhibition on newspaper history, The Front Page, marking the centenary of the Newspaper Publishers Association. He served as a lead curator for the exhibition and made use our offices at the former British Library Newspapers building in Colindale. He was a member of the Library's Consultative Group on Newspapers in the 1990s, and made a generous donation of several items from his private reference collection of works on the history of journalism and the press for the then Newspaper Library Reading Room reference collection, a number of which remain on open access in the Newsroom at the British Library's St Pancras building. He also carried out a feasibility study into the Heritage Lottery Fund  bid for what would become the Newsplan 2000 project to microfilm endangered newspapers in libraries across the UK.


The newspaper-style background guide to the British Library's 2006 exhibition The Front Page

Between 1999 to 2002 Griffiths served as Chairman of the London Press Club, which operates as a society for journalists and through which he did much to promote newspaper history, including helping to organise the unveiling by the Prince of Wales of a plaque to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the first British regular daily newspaper (The Daily Courant). 

Newspapers history has been served greatly by Dennis Griffiths' dedicated and scrupulous research and commitment to public understanding. We here in the British Library's news collection lament his passing and are grateful for all the help that he provided for so many years.

Tributes have been paid to Dennis Griffiths by the Evening Standard, Roy Greenslade at The Guardian, The Independent, the Telegraph, the Society of Editors, and the London Press Club. The greatest tribute will come from students for many years hence who will be able to rely on his research and his reference works.

24 September 2015

Mining the FT

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We're pleased to announce a partnership with the Financial Times to open up its archives to new kinds of research. The business news daily newspaper has been running since 1888, and has a wealth of information on national and international economic news, and in recent years reporting on general news, the arts and society. Its digital archive is available in the standard search-and-browse manner to institutional subscribers via Cengage Gale, but the newspaper is interested to explore different ways to makes its archives available, with an emphasis on what can be done with its data.


The full digital archive runs 1888-2010 and comprises 903,029 pages from 37,464 print editions. However, the collaboration is starting off with a relatively small amount of content, which may expand later. The FT has agreed a licence which permits use of the data for academic research purposes, either onsite at the British Library or via controlled remote access. 

Four complete sample years of FT pages images (as JPEGs) and data (XML) are being made available to research teams: 1888, 1939, 1966 and 1991. The licence runs to the end of 2015, when we will review what has been learned and will see how access and use may be extended thereafter. So the sample years would be ideal for researchers developing data-driven projects who need some test content to scope future plans, or to test tools or applications that they may be developing.

Anyone who is interested should get in touch with Luke McKernan, Lead Curator News & Moving Image at the British Library, who can provide further details. Research teams may also be interested be to take part in the Library's first news hackathon, scheduled for November 16th, which will include FT data alongside data derived from the Library's own news collection. More news on this will be published soon.

The collaboration with the Financial Times is one part of emerging plans for British Library news data. The structure of news content offers numerous opportunities for analysing, interrogating, visualising and rethinking what news archives today, as well as creating new kinds of newspaper and and other news media history. We held a news data workshop on September 7th, where we brought together researchers, developers and content owners to look at ways we might develop plans for news data that would best benefit researchers. There's a report on the workshop on our Digital Scholarship blog.

We will hope to be issuing news on further news archive datasets that we can make available for research in the near future.


11 August 2015

Web newspapers workshop

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Since April 2013 the British Library has been archiving millions of UK websites for the Legal Deposit UK Web Archive. Most of these sites are archived on an annual basis, but around 1,000 news-based websites are being archived on a weekly or monthly basis. These include newspaper title websites, news broadcaster sites, web-only news sites, and ‘hyperlocal’ community journalism sites.

We continue to add more news sites to the archive, and to review the frequency with which they are archived. All of the archives are made available in our Reading Rooms in London (St Pancras) and Yorkshire (Boston Spa), as well as the other Legal Deposit libraries in the UK and Ireland.


We are undertaking a review of our digital news intake, and we would like to take in the views of researchers. The aim of this workshop is to introduce the Web news collection, to ask the participants to test out some of the archived news sites, and to discuss how best Web news sites can be used for research. We will be looking at the archived sites versus their live Web equivalents, and comparing Web news with newspapers.

The workshop will take place 2 September 2015, 15:00-16:00, at the Business & IP Centre, Floor 1, British Library (St Pancras). The workshop is free, but spaces are limited. If you are interested in taking part, please contact us at to book a place.

 To find out more about our Web news collections, visit