Friday, June 24, 2011

News Wire Services

Most radio stations run some news programming. Maybe it's a quick 5 minute headlines, traffic and weather, or maybe it's core programming but most stations have at least a little something. Doing your own news is expensive. The more news you do the more expensive it is. More important than that the broader the scope the more expensive it is. State news is more expensive to do than local news, and National news is more expensive to do than State news, and international news is more expensive to do than National news. That's the basic reason that wire services exist. It's most cost effective to write a news story once and sell it 300 times than for 300 radio stations to research and write 300 stories. It's simple math. They became so powerful so quickly that Congress held hearings about their connections and loyalties as early as 1879.

But it has pitfalls. There is a political homogeneity to the mass airing of news. In 1955 The Kruglak did a study on AP reporters and found a few things. In that year there were 169 people working in Europe for the three major news services: AP, INS, and UP. Those people constituted 60% of the U.S. press in that region. You can derive your own political revelations about newswriting bias. Kruglak was more concerned that they were inexperienced and poorly paid. (I'm quoting from the book The American Wire Service by Richard  Schwarzlose.) His stats were as follows:
  • 52% of them were from the American Midwest
  • 33% from the East Coast
  • 50% were under the age of 36
  • 50% were married
  • 13% had non-journalistic backgrounds
  • 26% had less than 5 years experience
  • 60% were on their first foreign assignment
But by 1963 another researcher, John Wilhelm estimated the total number was 1,233 news people. In all fairness these numbers were fudged a bit according to his contemporaries. Other estimates put it as low as 450. But clearly, news was growing as an industry. Between 1849 and 1927 the staff of the AP nearly quadrupled. They had almost doubled before WWI and the wartime coverage clearly increased demand. But staffing was regional; at the end of WWII in 1946, the AP cut staff from 150 European respondents down to 42. UP made similar cuts.they all have been suffering from a more serious decline with the fall of newspapers. Many no longer exist. For example, As of 1999 UPI (United Press International) ended its traditional wire service.

The AP (Associated Press) is the most familiar wire service to most laypeople. It began in 1846. But it's not the oldest, that title goes the AFP (Agence France-Presse) which was founded in 1835. Two early AFP employees went off and founded their own competing services Reuters News Agency in 1851 in London, and Wolffs Telegraphisches Bureau in 1849 in Berlin. You'll notice all of these predate radio by almost a century.  These early services were marketed to news papers and the text was delivered by Morse code over telegraph, hence the "wire" in wire service. Below is a short list of available news wires. Some are free, most are not. There is a much more complete list here.

  • Metro Networks: A daily feed of world, national, state and local news, weather, with en emphassi on traffic. Delivery by satellite or download. Formerly owned by Westwood One now owned by Clear Channel.
    • USA News Network: A daily fax of national/world news, along with news of interest to college students, entertainment news, alternative music news, and national sports.
      •  The Weather Center:  real-time localized weather forecasts via fax or e-mail. Audio segments also available. Note: their website it terrible, but the programming is fine.
      • Feature Story News  They offer hourly newscasts of five minutes, three minutes and 30 seconds on weekdays and a weekend "week in review" newscast (5:00 and 3:00).  Delivery is via mp3 download and cost is $15/month (pay via PayPal!).
      •  Total Traffic Network: Another traffic -centric Clear Channel property. Don't be surprised if they end up merged this year. Live local traffic feeds, GPS maps etc.
      • Reuters America Wire : The world's biggest international multimedia news agency. Soft on local news, but great on international, national and decent coverage of big state events.