If you’re a news junkie and read multiple news sources a day, you may notice sometimes that there is an article repeated almost word for word in more than one publication. That’s because the story originates from a wire service. News agencies like Reuters, Bloomberg, and the Associated Press (AP) hire journalists to write original articles that are published on the wire and picked up by a variety of subscribing news outlets. These articles will always have the journalist’s name included, and the news agency they work with.

In today’s changing and competitive media landscape, many outlets now rely on news agencies to provide their baseline news copy. This allows the outlet to employ fewer reporters and redirect resources instead to creating more robust editorial content to give the publication its unique flavour and characteristic “voice”.

News wires of all varieties were invented to help journalists do their job more effectively, and most are subscribed to

both news-agency and press-release-feed news wires. In fact, according to a study by Vitis Business Consulting, despite being quick to point out their flaws, 67 per cent of journalists use news wires with as many as 37 per cent checking them daily.

With our 24/7 news cycle and tech-dependent media landscape, it’s easy to forget that at one time, transmitting news from one location to the next was a multi-day affair. Without the benefit of the Internet, fax machine, or even a telephone, the early-mid 1800s were characterized by news being dependent on postal service and reporters going down to the docks in major coastal cities like Boston and New York to get transatlantic news from the ships arriving in port. But what about the reporters who didn’t live in a coastal city where they could access international news? And never mind international news, how did anyone quickly and efficiently find out about anything going on outside of their own city? Key words: “quickly” and “efficiently”.

Until the mid 1800s, news had to be transmitted through letters and the national postal service. Well, in 1846, five New York City newspapers decided that method wasn’t fast enough. Together they formed the Associated Press to create an express pony trail that would get news of the Mexican War to the northern United States quicker than the post. Shortly after, the Associated Press would have an even more effective tool at their disposal.

Enter the telegraph. The telegraph, developed by Samuel Morse (Morse code anyone?) in the 1830s and 1840s, allowed users to transmit and receive messages over long distances using wire and electricity. Telegraphs became a staple of news rooms world wide and were used to communicate news with each other. If a wire didn’t exist to connect certain cities, that’s where the carrier pigeons came in. In fact Reuters, now an internationally recognized news agency, began as a bird service, using pigeons to transmit messages between Brussels, Belgium and Aachen, Germany until the telegraph finally connected the two in the mid 1800’s.

As for international news, reporters still had to go down to the docks to meet the ships before heading back to transmit via telegraph to other news rooms in the region, until the first transatlantic wire came into permanent operation in the 1860s.

Since the telegraph’s transmission capacity was limited, the press discovered quite quickly that it was in their best interest to pool news-gathering, instead of competing for transmission over an already-crowded service.

The continued existence of multiple wire services proves that the benefits of news-pooling is still as relevant now as it was well over one hundred years ago. {read}