news agency

Evolution of News Agencies

As early as the 1820s a news agency, the Association of Morning Newspapers, was formed in New York City to gather incoming reports from Europe. Other local news agencies sprang up, and by 1856 the General News Association—comprising many important New York City papers—was organized. Out of this agency emerged in the 1870s the New York Associated Press, a cooperative news agency for New York papers that sold copy to daily papers throughout the country; the United Press began in 1882. Ten years later these organizations were merged, but the same year a rival agency, the Associated Press of Illinois, was founded.

In Europe three international agencies had arisen—Agence Havas of Paris (1835); the Reuter Telegram Company of London (1851), known simply as Reuters; and the Continental Telegraphen Compagnie of Berlin (1849), known as the Wolff Agency. These began as financial-data services for bankers but extended their coverage to world news. By 1866 national agencies were arising in many European countries; they covered and sold news locally, relying on the major services for coverage and sales abroad.

After the Associated Press of Illinois signed exchange contracts with the worldwide networks, the United Press went under (1897). In 1900 the Associated Press of Illinois, desiring to restrict its membership, reincorporated in New York state and was thereafter known as the Associated Press (AP); in 1915 the United States forbade the agency to restrict its members' use of other services. A Supreme Court decision in 1945 ended the exclusion of members' competitors. In 1906 William Randolph Hearst founded the International News Service (INS), available to papers of other publishers as well as his own. The United Press Association, usually called United Press (UP) although there was no connection with the earlier organization, became an affiliate of the Scripps-Howard newspapers and sold reports to others.

The AP, UP, and INS grew steadily, and by the 1930s their foreign operations freed them of dependence on the European agencies, which tended to reflect national viewpoints in political news. In 1958 INS was merged with UP, forming United Press International (UPI). Since the 1980s, UPI has had a series of owners and undergone extensive downsizing; many other agencies have reduce the number of their employers since the late 1990s, as new agencies have been forced to adjust to changes in newspaper publishing and broadcasting due to the rise of the Internet. After World War II many agencies, including Reuters, AP, and Agence France-Presse (the renamed Agence Havas) became cooperatives owned by their member publishers. In 2008 Reuters was acquired by the Thomson Corp., which became Thomson Reuters. CNN, the television news network, began offering a wire service to newspapers in 2008.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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