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News wire services in the nineteenth-century United States

Journal of Historical Geography
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0305-7488(81)90119-5
  • Communication


Abstract News wire services were established in the United States in the mid-nineteenth century to gather and distribute news for local newspapers, using the new technology of the telegraph. With that early beginning in the era of electronic communication, the expansion of news wire services spans the change from a society of local communities to a more nationally integrated society. This paper assesses the importanceof changes in the medium's spatial organization which promoted national culture. The first wire services were local, ad hoc groups, organized to achieve greater efficiency in news-gathering. Formal services were first organized on a local basis, but in 1848 they began to sell news to the major urbanized portions of the United States. As the nation grew, the desire for greater efficiency conflicted with the desire for greater autonomy. Regional wire services persisted from the 1860s to the 1880s but after the 1880s, a tenuous national organization was achieved, cementing itself into a national system after the turn of the century. Efficiency in news collection was the primary reason for the increasing scale of news collecting groups. Each step toward larger spatial coverage, fed the growth of a complex interdependent urban system.

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