Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Journalism Now - The history of major wholesale news reporting agencies

News agencies are organisations that provide news coverage to newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations. Some examples of news agencies are Reuters, the Press Association (PA) and Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Reuters is one of the most important news agencies to be formed. It is a London based agency and was opened by a German man called Paul Julius Reuter. It began by transmitting stock market quotations between London and Paris via the new Calais-Dover telegraph cable. The organisation continued to grow, soon extending to the whole of Britain and parts of Europe. It also began transmitting economic and general news. The reputation of Reuters was rapidly increasing, and in 1865 it had it's most important scoop. The story was that of President Abraham Lincoln's assassination. It was the first agency in Europe to provide news of this development, and it is believed that this story is one of the major reasons for Reuters' success. In 1883 it began to transmit messages electronically to all London newspapers, making the distribution of news even faster. Reuters are famously known for objective reporting, but during the two World Wars it was subject to pressure from the British Government to serve national interests. This went against the objective view that it had, but in 1941 it managed to avert this pressure by making itself a private company with the new owners forming the 'Reuters Trust'. This effectively safeguarded the organisations independence and neutrality.

The Agence France-Presse is one of the most important news agencies. It was originally founded under the name Agence Havas, by Charles-Louis Havas, and was the first international news agency in the world. It provided information to many French newspapers, periodicals and magazines. It was this agency that influenced the formation of other agencies such as Reuters in Britain. It originally began distributing news via traditional methods, such as carrier pigeons and horse-drawn carriages. In 1842 France's railroad system was built, meaning distribution was made easier and quicker. Three years later the telegraph was invented meaning the AFP were able to distribute their news around Europe. It was all going very well for the organisation, until it was stripped of it's distribution service during World War Two. Just before the end of World War Two it was reborn under the new name Agence France-Presse. Journalists in the resistance seized the Paris headquarters as France was liberated from Nazi occupation. Like other news agencies, the organisation had a strong belief to be objective, and in 1957 it formed a statute that defined the independence and freedom of it's journalists. Article two from this statute reads 'Agence France-Presse may not under any circumstances take account of influences or considerations that would compromise the accuracy or objectivity of the news; it must not under any circumstances pass under legal or de facto control of an ideological, political or economic group'. It wanted the reporters to be fast, fair and accurate, and under no circumstances be influenced otherwise.

The Press Association (PA) is another example of a news agency that is committed to providing fast, fair and accurate news. It was founded in 1868 by a group of newspaper owners. The aims of the Press Association was to produce a more accurate and reliable alternative to the telegraph companies. One man who joined the Press Association, Chris Moncrieff, has written a book on the history of the organisation, 'Living on a Deadline'.

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