Citation, Documentation of Sources
Q. I’m writing a historical paper for which a paywall website, Newspapers.com, provided a great deal of material because it accesses newspaper archives, for a price. In my notes and bibliography, should I include the URL for each article I cite? The link will bring readers to a blocked article if they are not paid subscribers. Thank you.
A. If you have room to include them, and if the URLs are relatively user-friendly, then it is best to do so. For example (in a numbered note):
1. United Press, “French Troops Seize German Cities,” Daily Free Press (Kinston, NC), April 6, 1920, 1, https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/75779563/.
It’s true that readers who don’t have access to Newspapers.com will be locked out. But the convenience of being taken directly to a preview of the cited page will outweigh the fact that readers may not have access to the full content without paying for it (or visiting a library that has access).
An alternative is to name the site without providing a direct link (as in this bibliography entry):
Oakland Tribune. “Visions of ’49 Come True in Opening at Gate Bridge.” May 26, 1937, 9. Newspapers.com.
The advantage is a cleaner citation, but the burden is then on the reader to find the article at Newspapers.com using the publication details. For some additional considerations related to URLs and subscription databases, see CMOS 14.9, 14.10, and 14.11.