Assignment Grade Due Date
Newspaper Description 15% February 19
Search Results 45% February 8-April 7
Dataset 10% April 19
Online Exhibit 30% May 9

1. Newspaper Description (15% of grade)                

due by 11.59PM, February 19

The goal of this assignment is to develop an overview of the paper that you have chosen to research to provide a context for understanding the crime reporting that you will be investigating in the rest of the course.

To choose a newspaper, in Chronicling America, click on the tab “All Digitized Newspapers 1777-1963,” (next to advanced search), then either click on the link “Show All Digitized Papers” or Select a State from the pulldown menu and click Go

  • The paper you choose must have issues either the years 1880-1900 or 1900-1920)

Skim a week of issues of the newspaper you have chosen from two different years (1880 & 1900 or 1900 & 1920), and write a 750-1000 word paper that answers the following questions:

  • Identify the newspaper (its location, editors, audience etc)
    • Check for information in Chronicling America
    • For information on circulation of your newspaper, check here
    • Estimate the accuracy of the OCR for your newspaper – select 100 words from a story in 1880 or 1900, compare with the image of the story, and count how many characters are correct; repeat for a story from 1900 or 1920. What caused the errors? Are there patterns in what letters are wrong, or where on the page the mistakes are?
  • Identify the two weeks of issues you have examined
  • How many pages and columns are in each issue?
  • What kind of content is on each page? (news (local, state, national; international); features; ads etc)
  • What style of content? (Melodramatic, Sensational, Objective)
  • What format of presentation? (headlines, illustrations, length of stories)
  • In what ways was the paper different 20 years later? (1880 vs 1900 or 1900 vs 1920)
  • How, and on what basis, would you categorize the paper, in terms of the genres of the penny press, yellow journalism, informational press? (see chart)

Submit the assignment on Blackboard

2. Search results (45% of grade)                       

due before each Wednesday class*

In weeks 3-11, after spending the Monday class examining historical accounts of a crime, we will spend the Wednesday class analyzing the reporting of that crime in the newspapers each class member has chosen to research (*except for Week 7, when we will analyze both historical accounts and reporting in the Monday class and have no class on Wednesday).

Search your newspaper in Chronicling America for the crime that is the subject of that week in either 1880 & 1900 or 1900 & 1920. (Instructions for choosing a newspaper are in assignment 1)

Instructions with screen shots

  • Click on the “Advanced Search” Tab, and find your newspaper in the list of titles
  • Enter
  • For each year (1880 & 1900 OR 1900 & 1920), begin by searching for the period 6/1 – 6/30
    • IE if you are focusing on 1880-1900, search 6/1 – 6/30 in 1880 and then 6/1 – 6/30 period in 1900; OR if you are focusing on 1900-1920, search 6/1 – 6/30 in 1900 and then 6/1 – 6/30 period in 1920
    • Each year of results (1880 & 1900 OR 1900 & 1920) should include approximately 20 items, for a total of 40 (20 from 1880 & 20 from 1900 OR 20 from 1900 & 20 from 1920)
  • if a search for the whole month produces too many results, search for 6/1 – 6/15; continue to reduce the time frame until you have a manageable set of results
  • if a search for the whole month produces too few results, extend the period of the search to include additional months or years
  • Check each result to ensure the story relates to a crime (eg is not a fictional story, or a use of the search term as a metaphor, or refers to a war etc)
  • For items that are crimes, scroll to the bottom of the page and copy the url
  • Paste the url into a Google sheet titled with the name of the paper, the term you searched and the dates you searched; add a brief note on the details of the crime
  • Share the completed sheet with Prof. Robertson:
  • Come to class prepared to discuss your search results; a portion of the grade for each week will be determined by class participation.

3. Dataset (10% of grade)                                 

due by 11.59PM, April 19

Choose one of the crimes studied in the course and develop your search results  for that crime into a data set of at least 30-40 stories

  • Create and complete a Google Sheet that analyses your stories, modeled on the example provided in the detailed instructions (including columns for location, keywords describing the nature of the crime, gender and race of the alleged victim and offender, the law enforcement personnel involved, and what stage of the legal system is being reported (crime, arrest, arraignment, trial, sentencing).

Instructions with screenshots

  • Save the Google Sheet as a csv file and share it with Dr Robertson (

4. Online exhibit (30% of grade)                                  

due by 11.59PM, May 9

Create an Omeka S exhibit interpreting your dataset (assignment #3) that outlines the patterns in the data and interprets them by answering these two questions:

  1. How do these stories fit with historians’ accounts of crime reporting? (refer to the lectures and readings for Weeks 1 & 2)
  2. How do these stories fit with historians’ accounts of that crime? (refer to the resource for that crime included in the schedule)

We will spend two classes in Week 12 on exhibit building using Omeka S.

The total writing in the exhibit should be 1500-2000 words

The site should include at least 6 pages:

  1. An about page that describes your newspaper and the search you did to create your dataset (based on material from assignment #1)
  2. At least one page discussing patterns in where the crimes took place, referring to the map you made, and discussing if there was any change over time
    1. A map of the location of the crimes made with the Omeka Map Plugin
  3. At least one page discussing patterns in the the nature of the crime, and discussing if there was any change over time
    1. If you have a case reported in detail, you should make a page devoted to that case
    2. You can search the HEINONLINE State Statutes for the laws regarding your crime (choose the statutes for your time period)
    3. You will likely find that this analysis requires more than one page – with separate pages for each pattern that you found
  4. At least one page discussing the gender of the alleged victims and offenders, and discussing if there was any change over time
  5. At least one page discussing the race of the alleged victims and offenders, and discussing if there was any change over time
  6. At least one page discussing what stages of the legal system feature in the stories

In each page

  • include the items/stories you are discussing (not just those you write about but all those in the group/pattern) and any relevant charts you created of your dataset (use material from assignment #3)
  • answer the two questions, about how the stories fit with that aspect of historians’ accounts of the crime and of crime reporting
    • Only use the readings assigned in the course – do not do additional research
    • When you reference a reading, include an in-text citation (eg Estelle Freedman, “”Crimes which startle and horrify”: Gender, Age, and the Racialization of Sexual Violence in White American Newspapers, 1870-1900,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 20, 3 (2011): 472)

Instructions for Omeka S

You do not need to submit the site once you are done; Professor Robertson has access to all the sites. If you finish before the deadline, you can let him know that he can grade your site.