One way to get a glimpse of the past is to read what people read, to see what people saw. In other words, to use primary sources -- evidence left by the past. There are many kinds of primary sources including texts (letters, diaries, government reports, books, newspaper and magazine accounts, novels, autobiographies), images (photographs, paintings, advertisements, posters), artifacts (buildings, clothing, sculpture, coins) and audio/visual (songs, oral history interviews, films). More contemporary examples include video, blogs, organizational webpages, tweets, etc.
Newspapers are a primary source providing a first rough draft of events. Since most newspapers are local in scope, there is good coverage of local issues. Newspapers also provide a good feel for the time period.
Popular magazines (news, fashion, sports, etc.) also provide a good feel for the period. However since most magazines are national in scope, there is limited coverage of local topics. In addition to the articles, the illustrations and advertisements that are imbedded in magazines are useful primary sources especially for the study of consumerism, gender roles, material culture and popular culture.
For more information on using newspapers as primary sources see: Analyzing Newspapers, Newspapers & Learning to Do Historical Research: Prowling the Periodicals.