Research Articles

Selling the ‘Authentic Past’: The New York Times and the Branding of History



News media increasingly revisit the past with an eye toward present-day commerce. The 156- year-old New York Times is one active repackager of history, selling many ‘commemorative sections’ that blend Times front-page coverage with modern, interpretive essays. Advertising them in the newspaper under titles such as ‘Image Conscious’ and ‘Get the Picture’, the Times also sells, at very high prices, ‘exhibition quality’ prints from its vast Photo Archives. Urging its readers to ‘own a moment in history’, this commercial enterprise bolsters the role of journalism in public memory while blurring historical realities of authorship and production. The past the company sells is a mix of facsimile and authentic material culture, and of previous reporting and present reassessment. This essay considers how the Times’ commodification of history illuminates other intersections as well, including those of materiality and imagination, visual and verbal imagery, news and nostalgia, and history and memory.

Keywords: Material Culture, Marketing, Heritage, Memory, Journalism, The New York Times

How to Cite: Kitch, C. (2017) “Selling the ‘Authentic Past’: The New York Times and the Branding of History”, Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture. 4(4). doi: