Document Type

Open Access Article

Author Biography

Joshua Ortiz Baco is the digital scholarship librarian at the University of Tennessee Libraries, Knoxville.

Jim Casey is an assistant professor of African American Studies, History, and English at Penn State.

Benjamin Charles Germain Lee is a PhD candidate in Computer Sciences and Engineering at the University of Washington.

Sarah H. Salter is an associate professor of English at Texas A&M–Corpus Christi.

In the Editorship Studies Collective, the authors have collaborated on multiple public events and talks; a technical overview of their machine-learning analysis of newspapers has been published in CEUR Workshop Proceedings 2989 (2021). Their collaborative and single-authored essays, as well as more information about the collective, can be found at https://editorshipstudies.org.


Digital collections of newspapers have drawn broader attention to the fragmented and scattered print histories of minoritized communities. Attempts to survey these histories through bibliography, however, quickly meet with a fundamental problem: the practice of bibliographic description calls for creating a static record of social affiliations. Given the overwhelming scholarly consensus that categories such as race, ethnicity, and language are socially constructed, this article introduces an experimental bibliographic method for mapping the vast landscape of historical newspapers. This method extends the machine learning affordances of a recent project called Newspaper Navigator to enumerate the newspapers in Chronicling America according to the visual similarity of their layouts. After explaining this method, the authors delve into the unsettled formats of one unruly example, a Spanish-language newspaper in Los Angeles, California, called La Crónica (1872–92). La Crónica changed its formats many times over the years as part of the paper’s ambitions for political influence or commercial appeal. Experimental mapping and closer analysis demonstrate that a more iterative bibliographic approach can help us better understand the serial craft of newspapers and, by extension, the force of print in forming communities.

(In the issue section "Rethinking Catalogs and Archives")


Upon publication, the original version of this article incorrectly identified the lead author in the running head. This has been corrected to "Ortiz Baco et al." in the current version.