On Newztext

Note: this post originally appeared on ‘Douglas to Dancing’, a blog I maintained from 2007-9 on the ACT New Zealand political party. The blog was an extension of the thesis I wrote about the Act Party in 2007, From Douglas to Dancing: explaining the lack of success of ACT New Zealand and evaluating its future prospects (PDF).

A major resource for anyone writing about a New Zealand political topic is the Newztext database. This is a online subscriber-only database but is commonly accessible through institutions. When I was writing my dissertation, I had access to the database through the University of Otago. If you don’t belong to such an institution, however, don’t despair. Newztext is also freely available through many public libraries and is quite likely accessible simply by going to your local library’s website (click here for a list of every library in the country) and entering your library card number and PIN.

What’s so great about Newztext? Well, the next time you click on a link on the Stuff website and you find that Fairfax has removed it from the site, just log on to Newztext and search for the article in question. Newztext has full-text coverage for Fairfax/INL newspapers going back to 1995. Newztext covers all editorial content published, unlike Fairfax’s online properties:

“Stuff.co.nz focuses on breaking news and although it carries a comprehensive selection of stories from Fairfax New Zealand Ltd papers each day, every story published in every Fairfax New Zealand Ltd paper is not available on Stuff.co.nz.”

Newztext also covers the New Zealand Herald also from the 1990s onwards, although the Herald has always been kinder in maintaining a free online archive of articles going back to the early 2000s at its website. Newztext also includes business newspapers like the National Business Review and Independent, which despite their minuscule circulations are easily the most intelligent papers in the country and contain many articles on politics every week.

The limitations? Newztext does include coverage from 1995, but its site design feels like 1995 as well. It can be slow and frustrating to use, with the chief annoyance being the erasure of one’s search terms on pressing the “enter” key (a mouse click is required instead). Second, Newztext does not cover the independently-owned Otago Daily Times or other Allied Press titles, but for political research this is no great disaster, as the ODT garners most of its political coverage from other sources anyway (N.B. the ODT is covered from recent years by the Factiva database, although this is usually only available through academic libraries).

Finally, for my dissertation, the only real problem was that ACT began in 1993/4 and Newztext’s coverage began in 1995 at the earliest. Fortunately, I had the loan of some excellent “offline” resources – several boxes and lever-arch files of photocopied articles on ACT collected over the years by lecturers at the University of Otago, which helped me out no end with the pre-Internet age.

Interested readers may like to look at another piece I wrote about Newztext for another site, earlier in 2007, which examined its use in Nicky Hager’s book The Hollow Men.

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