[[quoteright:280:[[Webcomic/TheAdventuresOfDrMcNinja http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/NewspaperDateDrMN-scaled.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:280:[[WorstNewsJudgmentEver Slow news day much?]]]]

A {{Time Travel}}er may not want to confuse random passers-by by asking them "WhatYearIsThis", so they'll find a newspaper or other conveniently dated artifact instead. A standard joke has one character using the architecture, the fashions, the technology, and the incidents on TV to come up with a guess at the year, only for someone else to correct them after reading the paper.

TechnologyMarchesOn, and while they continue to be printed, it is still to be seen how long newspapers will be available to check this in runs to the future, what with the prevalence of people reading the news on their smartphone on their way to work.

Not to be confused with personal ads, or with AuthenticationByNewspaper.
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!!Examples

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[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* ''Anime/CowboyBebop'' does a somewhat serious take on the joke version of this: In order to demonstrate the extent of her remaining memory after waking from a cold-sleep, Faye identifies a series of slightly futuristic-looking objects on the table next to her. Her lawyer then makes a point of showing her just how far into the future she's been thrown by demonstrating that the items are not a TV, a water pitcher, and a phone but rather a miniature washing machine, a device for washing faces, and a thermometer.
* A more short term version appears in ''MahouSenseiNegima.'' [[spoiler:Chao]] sends Negi and his friends a week into the future to the point that she has already won the battle. They realize something is up (the massive SchoolFestival has disappeared), but they don't figure out what happened until Yue sees the date on a newspaper. Chisame finds out separately over the internet.
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[[folder:Comics]]
* Played with in the ''ComicBook/BlakeAndMortimer'' book ''The Time Trap'': Mortimer finds himself alone in a post apocalyptic future. He finds an inscription in some ruins reading "2015-2050" and thus believes himself to be in the mid 21st century...until he meets someone else and mentions the date only to be informed he's actually in ''5060'': the ruins he was in were of a city destroyed in 2075.
* The protagonist of ''The Big Lie'' from ImageComics (a book about the events of 9/11) does this at the start of the story, discovering she has arrived several days earlier than she intended.
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[[folder:Fanfic]]
* In ''[[http://www.fanfiction.net/s/2345466/1/Dumbledores_Army Dumbledore's Army]]'', Harry receives visions of two future attacks. A few chapters are spent trying to pinpoint these through newspapers and school assignments.
* Inverted in ''[[http://www.fanfiction.net/s/2149801/1/Out_of_Time Out of Time]]'' when [[RurouniKenshin Kenshin]] from the revolution ends up time traveling twelve years into the future (during the main series). While Sano has figured out what's going on, Kenshin isn't convinced (and is rather intent on killing Sano, believing he's a spy). Sano's barely able to get him to look at an old discarded newspaper, which wins him over.
* In a variation in ''Fanfic/WithStringsAttached'', the four find out that they're in an alternate New York, “New Zork,” in 1954, from a license plate. Given [[TheBeatles what they did in New York had taken place in 1964]], they feel pretty safe in wandering around without fear of being mobbed. That is, until Ringo, lagging behind the others, plucks a newspaper out of the trash and finds to his horror that in this universe, the “Beagles” have ''just'' arrived in the city.... [[HilarityEnsues Cue the ensuing of hilarity.]]
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[[folder:Film]]
* In ''Film/{{Idiocracy}}'', Joe (and the viewer) finds out what year he's in by seeing a magazine cover[[note]](''Hot Naked Chicks & World Report'')[[/note]] dated 2505 (which he thinks is a misprint), and then a receipt that confirms the date on the magazine.
* Marty does this in the first and second ''Film/BackToTheFuture'' movies.
** Played with in the second one, where the newspaper confirms Marty has the right date, he's just in a different timeline. And then there's a ClickHello.
-->'''Strickland:''' So '''you're''' the son of a bitch who's been stealing my newspapers!
* ''{{Film/Terminator}}''.
* A variation occurs in ''FieldOfDreams,'' where Ray figures out he's walked back into 1979 by checking the registration date on a Minnesota license plate.
* In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it FunnyBackgroundEvent in ''HotFuzz'', one of the security tapes Nicholas Angel is reviewing has a suspect hold up a newspaper, quite blatantly showing it to the camera to establish that it wasn't filmed later, despite the FridgeLogic.
* In ''FiftyFirstDates'', a character with short-term memory loss doesn't know what year it is, until she sees a newspaper. This is the result of her father arranging for hundreds of copies of the newspaper from the day of her accident, to keep her from having to deal with it for as long as possible
* In ''MidnightRun'' the second not-so-bright bounty hunter is trying to sell out Charles Grodin's character to his mob bosses and uses a picture of the day's paper, taken in the bathroom of the motel where he has Grodin's character hidden. Unfortunately for him, the towels for the motel, with it's name plainly seen, are hanging on a rack in the background.
* In ''Film/TimeAfterTime'', after H. G. Wells demonstrates his time-machine to his skeptical 20th Century girlfriend by taking her a few days into the future, she confirms that his time-machine works when she sees a newspaper dated a few days later. [[spoiler:She then reads about her own murder on the front page.]]
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[[folder:Literature]]
* Played with in ''Literature/ToSayNothingOfTheDog'' by Creator/ConnieWillis. The main character needs to find out the exact date he landed in order to correctly fulfill his SetRightWhatOnceWentWrong mission. He finds a newspaper, but doesn't realize that it's several days old...
** Connie Willis does this again in ''Blackout''. A time traveler finds half a newspaper and tries to use it to figure out the date. First it turns out to be the half that doesn't have the date printed on it, so he has to use his knowledge of history to correlate the stories in the paper with the date. After he manages to figure it out, he starts talking to people, and through a series of conversational missteps realizes that the paper is again several days older than he thought it was.
* Creator/RobertAHeinlein, ''Literature/TimeEnoughForLove''. Lazarus Long travels back in time and reads a newspaper to learn the current date: August 1, 1916. This is about three years earlier than he intended to arrive, since he'd planned to skip WorldWarI.
* Kyon does this in the novel ''[[SuzumiyaHaruhi The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi]]'', in which he finds himself on a time traveling trip. Upon arriving in one time period, he considers asking WhatYearIsThis, but swiftly discards the idea after [[GenreSavvy realizing]] how demented he would look to others and instead heads for a convenience store to check the newspapers.
* The limited-run school stories anthology ''Spooky'' has a lot of its stories featuring this trope, mainly because people ended up in the past a lot.
* Done straight in Creator/TerryPratchett's ''Literature/JohnnyAndTheBomb''.
* Used in novels 5 through 7 of Creator/StephenKing's Franchise/TheDarkTower series
* Variation in ''Literature/{{Animorphs}}'': Jake, while trapped in a post-apocalyptic New York City, tries to determine when humanity lost by the dates in a bombed-out magazine stand.
* Toward the end of Creator/RobertAHeinlein's ''Methuselah's Children'', the characters have returned to Earth in their stolen starship, but don't want to land until they know how much time has passed since they fled an oppressive government. One of the characters, Andy Libby, determines the approximate date by examining the relative positions of the planets in the Solar System. (75 years have passed.)
* ''AroundTheWorldInEightyDays'' has what might be considered a non-time-travel aversion, in that Phileas Fogg apparently never checks the date on a newspaper after crossing the Pacific. Had he done so he would have realised that [[spoiler:he had gained a day after crossing the International Date Line]].
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[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* In the ''Series/StarTrekTheOriginalSeries'' episode "Spectre of the Gun", Captain Kirk finds a copy of the Tombstone Epitaph dated October 26th, 1881. On Website/YouTube [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TP03eWhP-vI here]], starting at 5:30.[[note]]On Blu-Ray, you can read the articles. They're not from 1881. Given that they're not ''really'' in the Old West, this kinda works.[[/note]]
* ''Series/DoctorWho'':
** In "The Dalek Invasion of Earth", the TARDIS crew discover they are in 2164 (or later) from a calendar in an abandoned warehouse.
** "The Chase" sees a variant of this trope. Ian & Barbara find out they’re (near enough) home by checking the windscreen of the nearest parked car to find its tax disc expires on New Year’s Eve 1965. (This is referenced in ''Film/AnAdventureInSpaceAndTime'' when the audience is shown that it is 1966 by displaying a car's tax disc.)
** In "Enemy of the World", Jamie finds out he's in 2018 by looking at the expiration date of the tax disc on the helicopter that's just picked him up.
** In "Rise of the Cybermen", the TARDIS crashes and Mickey uses this method to determine that they have landed in modern London; it then transpires that they've passed into a parallel universe by accident.
** Also used in "Daleks in Manhattan" where the Doctor attempts to work out the date from how complete the Empire State building is, whilst Martha picks up a newspaper from a bench behind them.
** Kathy Nightingale does this in "Blink", though it's as much to convince her that she time-traveled at all as to determine the date.
** In "The Unicorn and the Wasp", the Doctor figures out what year it is by other clues, but the exact date turns out to be important.
** In "The Unquiet Dead", the Doctor uses a paper to determine that they are not, in fact, in 1860 Naples, but rather 1869 [[AliensInCardiff Cardiff]]. Rose doesn't care until she hears [[SelfDeprecation that last bit]]. "Right..."
* Happens around OnceAnEpisode in ''QuantumLeap''.
* As well as in its modern incarnation, ''{{Journeyman}}''.
* That was a key element of a two-part FakedRipVanWinkle ploy in the first ''MissionImpossible'' series. After escaping the futuristic hospital he had woken up in, the mark goes to the first newspaper booth he sees (right in front of the hospital) and "discovers" that he hasn't been out ''that'' long... but still a day longer than he really was.
* ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'':
** In the episode "In The Beginning", Dean realizes he's been sent back in time by the angel Castiel when he goes into a diner and sees the date on the newspaper of the man next to him (who happens to be his father).
** He also does it when he is raised from the dead in "Lazarus Rising" due to time flowing much slower in Hell than on Earth.
* An episode of ''TheOuterLimits'' has a variation. A group think they have been transported to an alien planet, but gradually figure out they are in the distant future. A look at the expiration date of a discarded candy bar wrapper confirms this. (By no means accurate, but close enough for their purposes).
* In the 1981 Afterschool Special ''[[http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0243434/ My Mother was Never a Kid]]'' Victoria Martin, after getting into an argument with her mother, seemingly travels through time during a subway trip, and meets her mother as a teenager she only confirms her travel by finding a newspaper dated 1944. She comes to realize that she and her mother are very much the same. In the end we find out [[spoiler: it was all just a dream]]
* Subverted in an episode of ''[[ThirdRockFromTheSun 3rd Rock From The Sun]]''. Dick, who already thinks he's losing his mind, is in a doctor's waiting room filled with, of course, old magazines. After rifling through them, he panics, declaring "Oh my god, it's 1994!" (The episode aired in 1997 in case you were wondering.)
* Subverted in ''Series/RedDwarf'', "Backwards" - the date on the newspaper was 3991, but by that point Kryten had realized that everything was backwards, so the actual year was 1993.
* This trope is how the protagonists of ''[[FlashForward2009 Flash Forward]]'' find out that the eponymous flash forwards are supposed to show the future.
* This shows up in the ''Series/{{Charmed}}'' episode "That '70s Episode", when the protagonists time-travel [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin back to the 1970s]].
* ''{{Angel}}''. After spending sixteen years in a hell dimension, Holtz looks at a newspaper to see what year it is and is shocked to find that [[YearInsideHourOutside only days have passed since he left]].
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[[folder:Video Games]]
* In ''VideoGame/TimeSplitters: Future Perfect'', Cortez picks up a photo of the BigBad. The MissionControl proposes a complex scheme to determine when/where to send Cortez to, regarding the building heights and designs. Cortez waits through the speech, then reads out the date, time and place from the back of the photo.
* Deliberately subverted in ''TheLostCrown: A Ghost-Hunting Adventure'', because newspapers only say what day of which month it is, not the year. Other documents that do suggest dates by year are wildly contradictory (e.g. a book given as a signed gift in the 1950s, yet published in 1978).
* In ''ProfessorLaytonAndTheUnwoundFuture'', Layton first realizes how far into the future he is when he finds a newspaper and realizes that the date is 10 years into the future.
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[[folder:Web Comics]]
* Parodied in ''Webcomic/TheAdventuresOfDrMcNinja''. The time traveler in question looks at a newspaper to see what year it is, and, well... [[http://drmcninja.com/archives/comic/17p29/ see for yourself.]]
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[[folder:Western Animation]]
* In ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheBraveAndTheBold'''s universe-jumping adventure, Batman discovers that he's travelled into the future ''as well as'' across universes from a newspaper.
* ''GIJoe'' also does it to confirm they haven't time-traveled, with the same result, in their universe-jumping adventure in the original series.
* ''WesternAnimation/JusticeLeague'' did this to confirm that they ''hadn't'' time traveled when they went to an alternate universe containing the Justice Guild, and ''[[JusticeLeagueUnlimited Unlimited]]'' did it in "The Once and Future Thing, Part One: Weird Western Tales".
* On the ''WesternAnimation/LooneyTunes'' short "The Old, Grey Hare", Elmer is sent to [[{{Zeerust}} the far-off year of 2000 AD]], which he figures out from a conveniently placed newspaper. He also learns that, among other things, television has been replaced by smellovision.
-->Carl Stalling sez, "It will never work!"
* In the episode "Agent Doof" of ''WesternAnimation/PhineasAndFerb'', Candace attempts to use this to convince her Mom that Phineas and Ferb were turned into babies when the pictures she sends are mistaken for old, scrounged-up baby photos.
* In ''WesternAnimation/{{X-Men}}'', when Bishop time-travels he simply picks up a newspaper and reads the date off the front page.
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