Friday, July 15, 2016
History of Newspaper Syndicates by Elmo Scott Watson: Chapter 9
The News Syndicates
Although "newspaper syndicates" and "press association" ("news services" or "news agencies") are commonly regarded as two very different types of journalistic enterprises, essentially their functions are the same. Both furnish a newspaper with reading matter which members of its staff are unable to supply. The newspaper syndicate provides feature material and the press association, news from outside the newspaper's territory. Thus the press association is in fact a syndicate, selling state, national and international news.
As stated in Chapter 1, the first example of newspaper syndication in the United States was the distribution of a news story. That was President John Tyler's annual message to congress, which Moses Yale Beach of the New York Sun sold in the form of a printed sheet to other newspapers in 1841. Moreover, the printed sheets supplied regularly by Atwood and Rublee of the Wisconsin State Journal, first to A. N. Kellogg of the Baraboo (Wis.) Republic in 1861 and later to other weeklies in the Badger state, contained news as well as "miscellany" (feature material). The same was true of the printed sheets sold by Cramer, Aikens and Cramer of the Milwaukee Evening Wisconsin. Very soon after the first independent syndicate was organized by Kellogg in Chicago its service included one column of news.
In 1873 the Chicago Newspaper Union began offering state news in its readyprint and from that time on the early syndicates supplying the country field included news matter in their services. In fact, the idea of a weekly "News Review," an interpretative news feature now so popular in many metropolitan papers, originated in the service of one of these syndicates—the Western Newspaper Union, which started it in 1914.
In 1883 the Kellogg Newspaper company inaugurated the practice of supplying daily papers with a daily news service in plates, which, according to a Kellogg advertisement, "furnished a complete summary, morning and evening, of the day and night telegraphic news, thus enabling the country daily to compete successfully with metropolitan papers in giving the important news of the day well digested and comprehensively edited and prepared for such service." Kellogg was able to do this, as was the American Press Association later, through a contract with the Associated Press to deliver copies of its daily report as received.
As both syndicates developed this feature of their service, their patrons often were able to print news from stereotype plates as soon, if not sooner, than member newspapers of the Associated Press who received the report by wire and had to set it in type. Objection to this practice by the member papers, because they were thus fostering competition with themselves, resulted in the Associated Press declining to renew this arrangement with both syndicates when their contracts expired. Thereafter the Kellogg company obtained a news service through the Chicago Inter-Ocean from the New York World and the American Press Association got its news reports from the New York Sun.
The Western Newspaper Union also maintained a daily plate service for a number of years and in 1913 supplemented this with a daily news picture mat service which continued until 1918. Suspended during the war, this was resumed in 1922 when a daily mat service of both pictures and reading matter was inaugurated and continued until 1924.
Thus it will be seen that the service of the feature syndicates overlapped that of the press associations and continues to do so, to some extent, even today. Similarly, as noted in previous chapters, the service of the press associations has overlapped that of the feature syndicates, a fact which has become especially noticeable during the last decade.
The history of press associations in their original role of news-gathering and news-distributing organizations began in New York about 1830 when the Association of Morning Newspapers was founded to maintain boats to meet incoming ships bringing European news. In 1849 the Harbor News Association (which Beach had helped establish the previous year) was reorganized and a little later the Telegraphic and General News Association was founded. In 1856 these two organizations were consolidated into the General News Association of the City of New York, which has been called the "Father of All Associated Presses."
Out of this association grew the New York Associated Press, founded in 1857 as a cooperative organization of New York papers, who pooled their news-gathering and news-distribution efforts during the Civil War. Later the New York Associated Press began selling (or "syndicating") its news reports to papers outside New York City and eventually a number of sectional news-gathering agencies, such as the New England Associated Press, the Southern Associated Press and the Western Associated Press, came into existence.
A rival national organization, the United Press, was established by the newspapers that were not affiliated with the New York Associated Press, but in 1892 it combined with the latter organization.1 Late in the same year the Associated Press was incorporated in Illinois, to succeed the Western Associated Press. Prominent in the new set-up were Victor F. Lawson, who in 1888 had bought the Chicago Daily News from his partner, Melville E. Stone.2 Through the influence of Lawson, Stone became general manager of the Associated Press in 1893 and this marked the beginning of the rise of the AP to its position of supremacy in the press association world.
One of the first things Stone did was to go to London to secure a contract with the Reuter Telegram Company, and through it, with the Havas Agency of Paris and the Wolff Agency of Berlin. The contract which the New York Associated Press had had with these agencies since 1865 expired on January 1, 1893. Stone's coup in obtaining this valuable European connection was a death blow to the United Press, which went into the hands of a receiver in 1897. Furthermore, under Stone's direction, the Associated Press in May, 1900, was incorporated under the Membership Corporation law in New York as a purely cooperative association that could declare no dividends and that shared the cost of operations among its members. By doing this it could limit its membership and serve only its members, despite the fact that the Illinois supreme court, in a test case, had ruled that the Associated Press was a common carrier and must furnish its news to any paper that was willing to pay for it. From that time on the Associated Press operated as a mutual news-gathering and news-distributing organization serving only its member papers who hold an AP franchise, in contrast to the other press associations who sell their news service to any newspaper.
In 1921 Stone retired as general manager of the Associated Press, although he remained as counsellor for it until his death in 1925. He was succeeded by Frederick Roy Martin, who in turn was succeeded by Kent Cooper in 1925. Under Cooper's regime a feature service, an outgrowth of a mail and obituary service which had been in operation for some years, was established on January 1, 1927. At present approximately 1,100 of the 1,350 members of the Associated Press use one or more divisions of the feature service.
The service is classified in five divisions: 1. the basic proof sheets carrying text matter—-close-to-the-news stories, set features, special articles on sports, science, agriculture, fashions, food, aviation, religion, finance, radio, etc.; 2. the feature service mats, supplying mats of all illustrations on the proof sheets, in addition to crossword puzzles, radio programs, style, interior decoration and house plan features going only to feature mat subscribers. (There are separate services of proofsheets and feature mats for morning and evening papers) ; 3. the daily news photo mats, prepared in five regional strategic centers and sent daily from these matting centers to members; 4. the comics and daily news cartoon budget comprising a three-column cartoon, five comic strips and four comic panels; 5. the state mat services, which supplement the daily news photo mats with subjects of primary interest to their states, are prepared by the state bureaus and sent only to members in the states where the pictures originated.
The Associated Press' latest expansion was Wirephoto, for the quick transmission of news pictures, which was inaugurated on January 1, 1935. It is now participated in by 55 member newspapers served with prints and by more than 500 through the news photo mat service. Altogether approximately 1,000 member newspapers participate in some manner in the picture service, which, like the feature service, is available only to newspapers which are members of the association.
During the time that Melville Stone was building up the Associated Press to its position of supremacy in the news field, a new competitor sprang up. This was the Scripps-McRae Press Association, organized in January, 1897, primarily to serve the newspapers in the Scripps-McRae League, although later it began selling its news to other papers.3 When the United Press went into receivership, the Publishers' Press Association was organized in New York City. The Scripps-McRae Association and the Publishers' Press entered into an arrangement by which the former covered the territory west of Pittsburgh and the latter east of that city.
In 1904 Scripps-McRae bought out the Publishers' Press and three years later the two associations were reorganized by E. W. Scripps as the United Press Associations, now popularly known as the United Press. At first the United Press maintained a news service only for evening and Sunday papers but later the United News was established in connection with the UP to serve morning papers. Both sold news to any newspapers willing to buy it, whether or not competing papers in the same field were already using it or were members of the Associated Press.
In 1912 Roy W. Howard, who had been New York manager of the Publishers' Press Association and later of the United Press Associations, became president and general manager of the United Press. Under his management the organization, especially during the war, gained rapidly in prestige and number of clients. It established bureaus in a number of European cities and soon grew into a world-wide organization.
From the beginning of the UP the importance of human interest had been stressed in its news and this was emphasized even more under Howard. “Interviews and features were to be played up in preference to mere routine. Signed articles, written by and from the angle of the men and women making the news, were introduced as a regular part of the day's report . . . . The United Press was working in intimate cooperation with Scripps services supplying features to the same journals; it took the lead in graphic news-feature stories, in news photography, in special signed correspondence, in covering distinct fields such as sports or politics, by particular assignments by special writers."4
These policies, inaugurated by Howard, were continued by William Waller Hawkins, who succeeded him in 1920, by Karl A. Bickel, who became president in 1923, and by Hugh Baillie, the present executive, who succeeded Bickel in 1934. Its service today includes an eight-hour daily leased wire news service, delivered by teletype; a "pony" service delivered by telephone; and the Red Letter, a daily mail service, which includes a full newspaper page of advance news, "canned cable," sport gossip, Washington letter and Paris fashions.
The history of the third of the leading press associations, or news syndicates, the International News Service, has been given in a previous chapter in its relation to the Hearst syndicates. One other such organization which combined both the news and feature characteristics deserves mention. That was the Consolidated Press Association.
In 1919 David Lawrence resigned as correspondent for the New York Evening Post and began syndicating his telegraphic Washington correspondence under the name of David Lawrence, Inc. The next year he reorganized and enlarged the service and began operating under the name of the Consolidated Press Association.
His was a service for evening and Sunday morning papers only and was sold to not more than one paper in a town to be used to supplement or substitute for parts of the regular news report obtained from press associations. Later by a combination with the Chicago Daily News, the distribution of the latter's extensive foreign correspondence, coming from 20 special correspondents abroad, was included in the service.
The value of these news stories lay largely in the prominence of the writers under whose by-lines they appeared and the announced object of the service was to "give the news behind the news," to furnish "a national perspective to the day's developments in sports, business, politics and economics" with interpretations by specialists in those fields. Subsequent additions included fashion news, radio activities and "big events" covered by specially-assigned staff men.
While headquarters remained at Washington, offices were established in New York, Chicago and San Francisco, all linked together by telegraph trunk lines which facilitated the speed of delivery to the papers purchasing the service. For papers not on the leased wire circuit, live news was relayed in the form of press messages and other matter, in which the element of time was not so important, was sent by mail from the nearest distributing center. This service continued until 1930, when it was absorbed by the North American Newspaper Alliance, another news feature organization (noted in a previous chapter) similar to the Associated Press in the mutual element of its operations.
In addition to these various co-operative press associations, represented today by the Associated Press and the North American Newspaper Alliance, and the news agencies or news services, represented by the United Press and the International News Service, various newspapers have "syndicated" their news to other papers. Among the first to do this were the New York World and the New York Sun, and later the Philadelphia Ledger. The list of those who do it now includes the New York Herald Tribune, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Ledger, Baltimore Sun and Washington Post.
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1. This was the "old United Press," referred to in Chapter 6, and should not be confused with the "new United Press'' or United Press Associations, founded by E. W. Scripps in 1906 by consolidating the Scripps-McRae Association and the Publishers' Press association.
2. Stone was born in Hudson, Ill., in 1848. His first newspaper experience was as a reporter on the Chicago Tribune in 1864 and from 1871 to 1874 he edited several Chicago dailies. With a partner he established the Chicago Daily News in 1875 and the next year bought out the partner and sold that interest to Victor F. Lawson. Stone served as general manager of the AF for more than a quarter of a century. He died in 1925.
3. This league, the first chain of newspapers, was founded in 1895. It was headed by E. W. Scripps, who retired in 1908. Roy W. Howard became general manager in 1920 and two years later the name was changed to the Scripps-Howard Newspapers. Scripps died in 1926 at the age of seventy-one.
4. Rosewater, "History of Co-operative News Gathering in the United States."