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How News Agencies Produce News

Barbara Czarniawska

Have you ever wondered how organizations decide which news is important? This insightful book portrays in detail everyday work in three news agencies: Swedish TT, Italian ANSA and the worldwide Reuters. This unique study is about organizing rather than journalism, revealing two accelerating phenomena: cybernization (machines play a more and more central role in news production) and cyborgization (people rely more and more on machines). Barbara Czarniawska reveals that technological developments lead to many unexpected consequences and complications.
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Chapter 2: Three Histories

Barbara Czarniawska


I begin the story with Reuters, as it is commonly considered to be the oldest news agency in the world still in operation,1 and I end it with ANSA, the news agency with the shortest history. Although shaped by local circumstances, the construction of the three agencies was linked, directly or indirectly, primarily through new technological inventions, as news production was becoming increasingly global. In all three cases I attempt to bring the historical account up to the present, focusing especially on the most recent developments that are relevant for descriptions that follow. REUTERS: HISTORY UP TO THOMSON Reuters was founded in 1851 by Paul Julius Reuter, born Israel Josaphat – a German who started publishing a newssheet in Paris in 1849 (Read, 1992). When the Paris venture failed, he moved to Aachen, a German city close to the borders of the Netherlands and Belgium. There he opened the Institute for Promotion of Telegraphic Dispatches, and used the newly opened Berlin–Aachen telegraph line to send news to Berlin. The Paris–Brussels news was still sent by train, however, as there was a 122 km gap in the telegraph line between Aachen and Brussels. Reuter saw an opportunity to expedite the news service between Brussels and Berlin by using homing pigeons to bridge that gap, a device that he probably learned about at Agence Havas in Paris in 1848. The French Agence Havas was the first news agency in the world, and for a long time (until it became the...

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