Read “Who is Mr Reuter?”, an article from Andrew Wynter

Today, Reuters is one of the most important news agencies in the world. In the article “Who is Mr. Reuter?”, the author tells the story of the man Mr Reuter. The report is contemporary to Mr Reuter’s life and career, which make it even more interesting for us, readers from the 21st century.

The way that Andrew Wynter introduces the topic is interesting, because it questions how could a single person do as much as an institution:
“If he be (a person), by what extraordinary organization does he manage to gather up over night a summary of events over the entire continent, and to place it before us as a startling interlude between coffee and toast at the breakfast-table?”

The author offers an explanation:

“Mr. Reuter’s history is like that of all courageous and energetic men, who, seizing upon a new idea,career  work it persistently and silently, until one fine morning, from comparative obscurity they suddenly find their names famous.”

Mr. Reuter was convinced that a new era in correspondence had arisen as he saw the success of the first working telegraph on the continent — that between Berlin and Aix-Ia-Chapelle in 1849. He decided to work in the improvement of this communication system.

Paul Julius Reuter, the founder. Reproduction: Aix-Ia-Chapelle in 1849. He decided to work in the improvement of this communication system.

In that city of Aix-Ia-Chapelle Mr Reuter opened his first office. He employed a service of carrier-pigeons to gain time in the journey between Aix-la-Chapelle and Brussels. Concerned about the regularity and safety in the transmission, Mr Reuter required three different pigeons to despatch each message. As a consequence, the passage from Brussels to Aix-la-Chapelle would take about one hour to be completed.

However, when the line was extended, a gap of five miles remained between French and Prussian capitals. It resulted in an enormous delay in the correspondence. To fix this, Mr Reuter provided horses to forward despatches between the two points.

Reuters Commercial Department in London, 1938 Reproduction: forward despatches between the two points.

Then, more lines were opened and after the connection between Calais (France) and Dover (England) was made successfully, in 1851, Mr. Reuter transferred his office to London. Since that moment, connections with the principal continental cities became possible.

As the writer tells, Mr Reuter analyzed that it was the moment to make the telegraph “the handmaid of the press”.

The Times was investing a lot of money to catch up on the news from all the world. So Mr Reuter offered them the telegraph system. However, they denied. There was some prejudice about the political telegrams, which frequently contained errors. Besides that, sometimes the telegram had to be translated into three or four languages before they reached the British public, so the newspaper wouldn’t like to risk publishing an imprecise  information.

In 1858, he made another offer to the press. At this time, he has chosen a different strategy. He sent his telegrams for one whole month to all the editors in London, leaving it to their option whether they used them or not. The quickness of Mr. Reuter’s telegrams, and the accuracy of the information they contained, were appreciated by the press, and one newspaper after another became subscribers of Mr Reuter’s system.

Though, Mr Reuter’s telegrams still wasn’t noticed by the great public. One day, The Times published a French emperor speech, just one our later than the time it was pronounced. It wasn’t a regular speech: it’s meaning war was the following start of a war with Austria. The news has shaken the stock market and since then, everyone started looking for Mr Reuter’s telegraph system.

The war began, and Mr. Reuter sent special correspondents to the French, Austrian, and Sardinian camps.The telegrams were impartial and accurate, which made Mr. Reuter gain the confidence of the press.

The work of Mr Reuter continued. He had located agents to transmit news from America, India, China, the Cape and Australia. Wynter evaluates Mr Reuter’s contribution to the 19th society:

“What Mr. Reuter has already done for Europe, he is about to do for the other quarters of the globe. It will have been observed that all our earliest information from America, India, and China, the Cape, and even Australia, is derived from this gentleman’s telegramAs a conclusion, the author reflect about Mr Reuter’s importance to their future, that is, our present:

“The pedestrian, as he walks along Fleet Street and the Strand, will perceive high over head what might be termed the political spinal cord of the metropolis; every here and there it gives off right and left fine filaments; these are going to the Globe, the Sun, the Morning Post, the Herald, the Standard, the Telegraph, and all the other daily papers which line this great thoroughfare. These are the lines by which Mr. Reuter puts the whole British public in possession of the thoughts, and records the actions of the rest of the world; and as we watch the wires ruling their sharp outlines against the sky, for all we know they are conveying words which may affect the destinies of millions yet unborn.”

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