Foreign Correpondents Reporting From Afar

The Beginning:
pigeons and cables



THE DIRECTORY

HOME

PIGEONS AND CABLES

THE FIRST CORRESPONDENTS

THE ADVENT OF TELECOM

FROM TELEX TO LAPTOPS AND CELLULAR

TODAY'S FOREIGN REPORT

SOURCES AND RESOURCES

ABOUT YOUR INTREPID WEBMASTER


Charles-Louis Havas was no stranger to foreign news when he opened his Havas Agency, the forerunner to todays Agence-France Presse, in 1835. He was already known for using his linguistic abilities to translate articles from the foreign press for French newspapers and other clients.


Carrier Pigeons and a Reuters carrier pigeon dispatch

With his news agency, Havas began supplying information to the French press to use as they saw fit -- a novel idea at the time. Foreign news became a part of the newspapers that were blossoming during these early, more liberal years under King Louis Phillipe. But since these newspapers lacked the means to gather foreign news, Havas stepped in and began providing his daily service.

Havas first started doing this by translating the important extracts from foreign newspapers after they had arrived in Paris, then delivering them to clients. It soon became evident, though, that this was not the most efficient means of gathering the news and getting it out. So Havas put correspondents in the major European capitals to monitor the press in those countries and provide the office in Paris with texts and summaries. To do this, Havas enlisted every means of relay possible at the time: mail coaches, couriers, and of course carrier pigeons.

As the AFP noted for its 150th anniversary in 1985, "From the beginning, the technical challenge has been indivisible from the survival of news agencies...The news must be transmitted in the quickest and most reliable method possible."

Havas soon had every newspaper in the country signed up to his service, as well as government offices and businesses.


A Havas telegraph and telephone receiving room.

By 1840, cable and the telegraph had arrived as well. The tehcnological development took news agencies to the next level and solidified the business of international news because it connected countries across borders and helped this burgeoning industry meeting its growing demand. At first, due to the costs, cable was used more for reporting the news rather than delivering it. Havas' daily news report now consisted of three pages with foreign and domestic news, stock market news and government announcements. His clients demanded more information more quickly.

The advent of cable brought two other news agencies -- the German agency Wolff and the British Reuters. Wolff started his agency with the rise of the German state cable system and soon became the dominant news provider throughout Germany and Prussia with his mix of political and other news. Reuter established his name by vowing that all clients would receive the same news at the same time, rather than favoring bigger subscribers like Havas.

But Reuters became best known for his use of a carrier pigeon system between the German and Belgian cable offices once the cable from Paris to Belgium had been completed. Havas and the Associated Press in the United States also used carrier pigeons, but they became synonomous with Reuter, even when the carrier pigeon system became outdated with the connection of the French and German cable lines in the 1850s.


COPYRIGHT 1999-2000 Eric Burroughs ----- Contact the Webmaster at tmcgee@ufl.edu


Last Updated: December 7, 1999