How Newspapers Successfully Generate Money to Digitize Archives


Hal Sacks led the fundraising campaign to digitize the Tidewater Jewish News archive.

When a Virginia community newspaper wanted to digitize its 68 year bound volume archive, it went to the community, asked for help and people started sending checks.

It’s not an anomaly. People, organizations and businesses are eager to be engaged and participate in efforts to preserve history and make it accessible to the world.  Increasingly, publishers are discovering ways to tap into that resource and create a new revenue stream they can use to finally preserve the documented history of their community. They are then able to have their archives scanned and placed online where they can be easily accessed and searched.

There are different models for successfully generating revenue.  Publishers can create a sponsorship ad program or, as in the case of the Tidewater Jewish News in Virginia, launch a community campaign.

The Jewish News started its community fundraising campaign in 2013 and raised enough donations to pay for digitizing nearly 70 years of bound volume archives and host it online. So, how’d they do it?

First, they had a passionate ambassador who understood the need to have the history accessible for the community and protected from damage or loss.  Author Hal Sacks (pictured), who writes book reviews for the newspaper, kicked off the campaign by donating proceeds from his book Hal’s Navy to the archive project and that was followed by an appeal published in the paper.  The community rallied and raised nearly $30,000.

“What surprised me most of all is that when I announced the project, I got thousand dollar checks from people we hadn’t heard from in ten years,” recalls Hal Sacks.

Generating community support for achive digitization is always successful because of the undisputable value the new historical resource provides for everyone – historians, genealogists, families, local businesses (past and present) and the newspaper staff.

“The online archive has huge value,” editor Terri Denison explains. “There’s a warm feeling seeing the history of our community. Now people can easily research both people and events… the online archive makes that so much easier. Everyone really loves seeing old photographs.” Denison said it has been particularly helpful for committees organizing local anniversary events for various organizations because they now have a foundation – a place to begin gathering information and images.

Shayna Horowitz worked for the Jewish News and helped organize the bound volumes for scanning. “I’ve discovered so much about the history, to see the articles about how much people did for the community. I see endless opportunities this resource will present for our future,” notes Horowitz.

Denison says the paper will continue to fundraise using the archive as there are some recent newspapers they’d like to scan. To do that and remind the community about the historical resource they now have at their fingertips, Denison will include a “This month in history…” half page dedicated to taking a look back at the community’s past and reminding everyone how easy it is to search the archive.

The first of the “This month in history” pages announced a heartwarming change in the way they refer to their online archive.  It has now been renamed in honor of Hal Sacks.  You can view The Hal Sacks Jewish News Archives at

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