It happens all the time. People call us up and say, “What was the issue with so-and-so on the cover?” or “Can you get me an electronic link to the story you did about that restaurant in that town where they have that chef?” And of course, we say, “Yes, we can.” But we also tell readers they can access a previously printed story in two key ways on our website, www.princetoninfo.com.

And it’s all for free. Free? Shouldn’t that go without saying? Some argue it should, but that is not the case anymore in Internet-land. In fact, a war of words is raging over the “pay walls” that various news organizations are erecting around their content. Some media critics are saying that, on the Internet, ease of access is king, and pay walls of any size impede that access. Others say that it’s time for the readers (and other websites that aggregate content from papers such as ours) to pay up.

Here in central New Jersey free access to archived news stories is becoming a quaint memory. Two of our competitors now charge for old articles; another makes it near impossible to copy the text.

But here at U.S. 1 old articles, which can be valuable in many ways, are available free of charge, and in two different formats.

The familiar format is the PDF version of the print publication. Go to www.princetoninfo.com, click on “U.S. 1 Print Archives” at the very top. Here you can access a PDF version — a digital image of the entire paper, photos, ads, and all. The most recent five issues will appear right away — to go back further, choose “Click here for the U.S. 1 Print Library.” These archives go back about a year.

The other way, more elegant and going back further into the past, accesses a digital version of the article, what some of us call the electronic link. Many of our more recent stories are archived with one photograph. So, let’s say you want to surprise your significant other with a gift certificate for her birthday and you vaguely remember that new place with the Japanese hot tubs that was in our Valentine’s Day cover story — but that’s all you know.

Go to princetoninfo.com, scroll down to the bottom right quadrant and click on “Search Our Archives” (there’s also an identical link along the left hand menu). Since you know it’s a February story close to Valentine’s day, you would choose “search by article date” (but you can also search by type of article such as Preview or Survival Guide, by author’s name, or by a keyword in the article). You click on February 10. Nope. You try February 3. Bingo. There’s the story.

If you want to look at the story with all the photographs in the original, print version, you can follow the link to the print archives (see above).

Beware: some web browsers have a hard time opening the PDFs — we can’t help you with that. But if you run across another problem or get frustrated, just call us at 609-452-7000, and a real human being will answer the phone. No charge.

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