New Directions, New Challenges
Edited By Stephen Cushion and Richard Sambrook
Chapter 9: View of the News Agencies: The Struggle for Renewal and Renaissance
← 102 | 103 →CHAPTER NINE
View of the News Agencies: The Struggle for Renewal and Renaissance
DAVID SCHLESINGER, FORMER EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THOMSON-REUTERS
The era of the news agency dinosaurs ended on the night of January 16–17, 1991; the comet that changed their world forever was the first live broadcast of the start of a war. In the flash of a cruise missile over Baghdad, in the light of a bomb blast marking the start of the first Gulf War, the now shaky foundation of the news agencies’ dominance was exposed.
CNN’s live coverage of the war brought it directly into the audience’s living rooms. The middlemen were dis-intermediated. Worse yet, the suppliers became dependent on their customer!
The news agencies—at the time notably Worldwide Television News, Visnews, Associated Press (AP), Agence France-Press (AFP) and Reuters1—supplied the world’s media with text, photos, and video as they had in various guises since the modern news agency era began with the founding of Agence Havas (the forerunner to AFP) in 1835.2 That night, however, the tables were turned. Scores of breaking news alerts on the war were written not from Baghdad itself, but from New York by subeditors watching television and citing CNN’s live coverage. Video clips from that live coverage beat agency video packages by substantial margins.
As I sat in the Reuters Beijing bureau watching the news come over our slow teleprinter—until that moment as...
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