Many institutions have switched from indexing to digitizing their newspapers, including college newspapers, in order to get full-text search. If that is not an option for you, the general practice is to assign article-level indexing terms, including title, author, issue/date, and page number. You can add other terms, such as “article type” (in your example, columns, editorials and letters to the editor) and “coverage level” (in your example, local, regional and national), but the exact indexing terms you choose will probably depend mostly on your intended users. Learn how they expect to search for items, and index accordingly.
For example, many public libraries maintain newspaper indexes for genealogists. They focus on indexing obituaries, and include information such as deceased’s name, date of death (and birth, if recorded), funeral home, survivors, etc. Those users are probably very different from the potential users of your college newspaper, and so you would develop a different index.
Whatever terms you choose, you should use controlled vocabularies and appropriate formatting to make your indexes as useful as possible. Following conventions such as “Last name, first name” for authors (or using two separate fields) will help when you design your search tool. Format dates using the ISO 8601 standard [YYYY-MM-DD].
Danielle Cunniff Plumer