news agency

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Related to news agency: AFP, BBC

news agency,

local, national, international, or technical organization that gathers and distributes news, usually for newspapers, periodicals, and broadcasters.

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 HearstHearst, William Randolph,
1863–1951, American journalist and publisher, b. San Francisco. A flamboyant, highly controversial figure, Hearst was nonetheless an intelligent and extremely competent newspaperman.
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 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.

Government Agencies

Government ownership of news agencies stems from the early 1900s. In 1904 the St. Petersburg (later Petrograd) Telegraph Agency was founded by the Russian government. In 1918, Soviet Russia founded Rosta, the Russian Telegraph Agency, by merging the telegraph agency with the government press bureau, and in 1925 Rosta became TASS, the Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union. Renamed the Information Telegraph Agency of Russia in 1992 and known as ITAR-TASS, it became the official news service of Russia. Since 2014, when it was renamed Russian News Agency TASS, it has been known as TASS. In 1915, Germany established a service called Transocean to broadcast war propaganda. The New China News Agency (Xinhua), founded in 1931 as the Red China News Agency, maintains official news and financial service wires, publishes dozens of newspapers and magazines, has its own advertising and public relations firms, and runs a school of journalism. Since 1990 independent news agencies have appeared in Eastern Europe, including Interfax in Russia and A. M. Pres in Romania.

News Transmission

From 1915 until the 1940s, news agencies in the United States transmitted most copy over telephone wires to teletypewriters in newspaper offices. The late 1940s, however, brought the introduction of Teletypesetter machines, which allowed the stories from the agencies, in the form of perforated paper tape, to be fed into typesetting, or linotype, machines, without the use of human operators. In using Teletypesetters to save labor, publishers ceded to the agencies some of their editing prerogative, thereby standardizing usage and writing style in newspaper stories.

Newspapers moved from linotype to photocomposition in the late 1960s to 1970s. Information is now transmitted by satellite service or the Internet, and newspapers reconstruct the information in their own format. Most news agencies also offer their clients photographs, news analyses, and special features; for radio and television stations they transmit news-broadcast scripts, video, and programming. Since the advent of computer technology, many news services have become available on line, and their products are also available for mobile phones and other devices.


See K. Cooper, Barriers Down (1942, repr. 1969); UNESCO, News Agencies, Their Structure and Operation (1953, repr. 1969); V. Rosewater, History of Cooperative News Gathering in the United States (1930, repr. 1971); L. E. Atwood, ed., International Perspectives on News (1982); J. Fenby, The International News Services (1984).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

News Agency


an organization which collects, processes, and distributes information on a contractual basis to newspapers, magazines, radio, television, publishing houses, government agencies, public organizations, and private persons. In capitalist countries news agencies are usually private enterprises, sometimes with government and private financing or, more rarely, official organs of the state. In socialist countries news agencies are either government or public organizations.

News agencies arose with the development of periodical publications. The earliest newspapers and magazines, which appeared in the 17th and early 18th centuries, gathered their own information. The volume of information was increased when major newspapers hired staff reporters to cover news first at home and then abroad. The first news agencies, some of which became known as telegraph agencies as a result of the development of telegraph communications, were created in the first half of the 19th century. In 1835, C. Havas founded his own agency in France, which functioned for over 100 years; in 1851, Havas’ collaborator P. Reuter created the present-day Reuters Agency in London; another colleague of Havas’, B. Wolff, organized Wolff’s Telegraph Agency in Berlin in 1849.

In Russia the first telegraph agencies were the Russian (RTA), founded in 1866; the International (MTA), founded in 1872; and the Northern (STA), founded in 1882. They were, as were all West European news agencies, private enterprises. The first national Russian telegraph agency was founded in 1894. In 1904 the state-run St. Petersburg Telegraph Agency was created, and it became the Petrograd Telegraph Agency (PTA) in 1915.

In 1918 the Russian Telegraph Agency (ROSTA) was founded. It was followed in 1925 by the Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union (TASS), news agencies of the Soviet republics, and in 1961 by the public Novosti Press Agency (APN). Some of the largest news agencies in socialist countries are the Polish Press Agency (PAP), the Hungarian Telegraph Agency (MTA), the ADN in the German Democratic Republic, and Prensa Latina in Cuba. A news agency’s goals in the USSR and other socialist countries are to supply its country’s news media and the foreign press with accurate information on the construction of socialism and communism, to expose the bourgeois lies about countries in the socialist camp, to inform people of events that have taken place in the world, and to contribute in every way to the solidarity of strength in the struggle for peace, democracy, and socialism.

A few national news agencies have now been founded in the developing nations of Asia and Africa—for example, the MEN in the United Arab Republic.

The major news agencies in capitalist countries are Reuters in England, Agence France Presse in France, Associated Press and United Press International in the USA, and Kyodo Tsushin Sha in Japan. In capitalist countries news agencies have ties with ruling circles and monopolies; they are actually the apparatus for organizing biased information and for supplying misinformation that meets the political, military, and economic interests of the monopolies.

A great change took place in the function of news agencies at the turn of the century. At first they provided newspapers and magazines with news items and official government information. Now they also supply news stories, articles, reviews, sketches, and illustrations. Some news agencies supply clients with made-to-order special newspaper columns or entire issues. The range of information has broadened extraordinarily, encompassing various aspects of social, political, scientific, and cultural life. Scientific and technical items have proliferated. News agencies can receive, process, and deliver information quickly by using modern communication methods: radio transmitters and receivers, multiconductor telegraph and telephone cables, teletypewriters, phototelegraphy, facsimile apparatus, calculators, and computers.


O partiinoi i sovetskoi pechati: Sbornik dokumentov. Moscow, 1954.
Pal’gunov, N. G. Tridstat’let. Moscow, 1964.
Beglov, S. Monopolii slova. Moscow, 1969.
Pechat’ zarubezhnykh stran. Moscow, 1962.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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