How to Read Back Issues of the New York Times for Free Online

Last modified: 
Friday, July 3, 2020

If you’re an online news junkie, chances are the Gray Lady’s paywall is your bête noire. For the past year, The New York Times has been allowing readers limited access. But now, the Library is providing digitized microfilm of the Times and the Wall Street Journal for free, and from home, too.

In March 2011, the New York Times announced it would be imposing a paywall between its readers and all that wonderful content they’d previously been enjoying for free. With the new paywall, readers could view only 20 articles per month without a digital subscription.

Then, a year later in March 2012 the paper declared success on the paywall model and got even stricter, shrinking the number of free articles to 10.  Subscriptions now range from $15 to $35 a month, which is kind of pricey when you’re used to getting all the news that's fit to print for free.

At the Kansas City Public Library, we’re certainly not going to fault newspapers for taking steps to survive in a changing digital economy. That’s why we’re happy to provide the Proquest digital microfilm collection, which lets you read, download, and print back issues of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal – without paying a cent, and from any computer with an Internet connection. All it takes is a Kansas City Public Library card.

With your card number and PIN in hand, head to and navigate to Databases section under the Research Resources menu on the homepage. Under the Newspapers & magazines category, you’ll find links to the New York Times’ and Wall Street Journal’s digital microfilm portals, along with the other free news resources we have already been offering (such as the Kansas City Star’s post-1991 archive and the ProQuest periodicals search).

Just as with traditional microfilm, you’ll need to know what issue you’re looking for. There is, unfortunately, no search box. Also, we only have access going back six years, to 2008, and it takes ProQuest a month or so to digitize new issues.

But that’s still a lot of content, and it’s the type of stuff you’re likely to encounter while browsing sites like Google – and then be unable to read because of the paywall.

Fortunately, Google will show you the date a story was published, so you can use that to your advantage.

For example, if you wanted to find the first reports from Capt. C.B. “Sully” Sullenberger’s heroic crash-landing in the Hudson River a few years ago, just add “” to your Google search query to get the results and note the issue date in the URL (sometimes articles are posted online the day before they appear in print).

Then simply pull up the Jan. 16, 2009, edition from the digital microfilm collection.


Or, if you wanted to see the front page of Election Day 2008, all you have to do is plug in the coordinates for November 5, 2008, and there’s page one in all its grainy glory.

Remember, ProQuest allows you to print, e-mail, and save PDFs of any page from any issue.

That'll certainly come in handy for you crossword buffs.


And if you need help with the answer to 57 down, you can always ask a librarian.

About the Author

Jason Harper is the web content developer and social media manager at the Kansas City Public Library.