Reuters is the world largest international news agency, with over 2400 staff in about 150 different countries. It is a wholesaler of news – in the form of text stories, photographs and video footage – to the media industry. Clients pay a subscription which entitles them to use Reuters news stories, pictures or video footage in their papers, magazines, websites or news bulletins.
Open any major daily newspaper and you will see that much of the news, particularly international or ‘foreign’ news, comes from agencies such as Reuters. This is because most papers only have a handful of journalists based in countries other than the one they publish in. Agencies, however, have large networks of correspondents, photographers and cameramen around the world.
International news agencies tend to focus on the major stories of any country – those that are likely to be of interest beyond that country’s boundaries. Reuters covers the main political and economic news from all the countries it is based in, as well as some that it isn’t allowed to operate from such as Iraq and Angola. It also covers financial news about the leading companies of a country, its stock market and its local currency. The rest of its news output consists of coverage of major sports around the world such as football, tennis and golf; major disasters ranging from train crashes to volcanic eruptions; and stories about bizarre events.
The sources of an agency’s news coverage varies widely. Every office compiles a comprehensive diary of routine events that have to be covered: a government minister’s speech, the publication an economic indicator such as inflation data, or a major company’s annual general meeting. Unexpected news about both politics and finance will often come from a tip off from a good contact or source, be a trader at the local stock exchange or the aide to a politician. News about local disasters often come from the local media, often TV, or from eyewitness reports.
Whatever medium the journalist is working in – text, pictures or video – he or she needs to check their facts. If it’s a text story the journalist will ring the subject of a story and ask for an official comment. They will probably ring a few experts to get their opinions – unlike newspapers, agencies never give their spin to a story, their job is to report the facts and the reaction to them. Both photographers and cameramen also have to check their facts so they can write the accompanying caption or script to go with their photos or video footage.
Before the news is transmitted to clients it is checked by an editor to ensure the facts are correct and that it doesn’t conflict with anything already published by the agency on that story. Unlike newspapers there is no need to cut the story or crop the picture to fit it to a page. The whole story or complete picture is published to the clients who then choose how much or how little of it to use. For the same reason, very few stories are spiked (never published) by an agency.
Deadlines don’t exist at agencies and you write the story or produce the pictures or video as soon as you can after an event. For that reason, and because we are based in so many countries around the world, there’s a steady stream of news pouring through Reuters 24 hours a day, seven days a week.