2.3 Newsgathering and newspapers
Taylor now discusses some early information and communication technologies and the extent to which they had an impact upon newspapers.
So let me start by looking at what was often optimistically called 'news' in the early years of the 20th Century.
Before the establishment of regular radio services in the early 1920s the public were entirely reliant upon the newspaper industry for information about what was going on locally, nationally and internationally.
Despite the development of the telegraph by William Cooke in 1837, and later the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876, it was really not until the 20th Century that lines infrastructures were developed sufficiently for newspapers to be in a position to report the remoter national events in the same week that they occurred. Reporting of events abroad was often many weeks or even months behind the occurrence. Photography had been invented in the 1830s but even by the 1900s newspaper photographs were a rarity and stories were frequently illustrated by sketches, diagrams and cartoons (interesting to note that in the UK at least artists' sketches are still the way we illustrate what is happening within a courtroom where cameras are prohibited). Newspaper photographs did exist of course but had to be hand carried back to the newspaper offices by train, ship or road – a time consuming business in those days.
This situation improved dramatically for the newspaper industry by the development of the wire picture by Reuters in the early part of this century. It is worth noting that the Reuters system was a very early example of digital coding and even incorporated data compression with a form of what we now call 'run length coding' – not much is really new, is it? This development enabled pictures to accompany the telegraphed or telephoned reports from many major cities in Europe and the US.
As a consequence, the newspapers prospered and fortunes were made by the now infamous press barons whose influence on both the public and governments was considerable.
The lines infrastructure refers to the network of wires connecting different places together ('line' as in 'telephone line' or 'transmission line').
The idea of a wire picture is that an image is coded in a method that allows it to be transmitted over 'a wire' – i.e. sent along a telegraph link.
Taylor highlights the development of the lines infrastructure and invention of the wire picture as being developments that enabled telephony and telegraphy to be exploited by the news industry.
These are two themes you will find coming up all the time in discussions of IT systems: networking issues – specifically 'network reach' – and coding