News agencies as content providers and purveyors of news: A mediahistoriographical study on the development and diversity of wire services

Kenny, Peter (2009-03)

Thesis (MPhil (Journalism))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.


This study examines the history, development and diversity of news agencies. It studies the major agencies and pinpoints how smaller wire services that sometimes purvey niche news seek to offer a more diverse global news-flow. The linkage between news agencies and technological developments, and how wire services have helped advance technology, is examined since the first agencies began in the 1800s, up to the current era of the Internet. The rise of television and the subsequent ascent of the Internet prompted new demands for more diverse news procurement. This accelerated the convergence of different media and has exposed challenges and opportunities to news agencies, large and small. Alongside the telegraph, news wire services expanded from supplying news and information locally to being global players, helping the world shrink. The mediahistoriographical approach engages a critical examination of literature sources regarding the development of the major wire services, and some of the smaller players. The literature, along with interviews with news agency experts, provides the material to examine wire services. The study shows how some original agencies leveraged opportunities offered by their standing in powerful nations to become dominant transnational players. The ascendancy of the mega-agencies compounded limited news-flows from developed to poorer nations, while an expansion of diversified news-flows has not matched technological progression. This study concludes by recommending greater recognition of the importance of news agencies and more scholarly examination of them, as studies on them appear scarce compared to those on other media branches, such as newspapers, the electronic media and the Internet. More studies into the development of both mainstream and alternative news agencies would pave the way for a better understanding of how they function and could provide clues as to how they might be able to better sustain themselves as more diverse entities for the benefit of the public discourse. Through the above, this dissertation seeks to contribute, in a small way, to rectifying a knowledge disparity regarding a key component of the mass media, namely the news agency.

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