Global journalistic outlets refer to those outlets that either have — or have access to — staff members or contractors and informational resources that are sufficiently widespread to justify a global status. In the case of news agencies (also called newswire services), such outlets often supply information to clients around the world. In the case of individual journalistic outlets, they typically have audiences that are themselves global in nature.
Such organizations are deserving of special attention because they are major sources of international news, and thus often come to be among the primary definers of the world outside one’s national borders. Put another way, these outlets often see it as their mission to help inform individuals about the world and, as a consequence of their output, play a major role in shaping those individuals’ understandings of it.
While journalistic outlets like The New York Times can be said to be global in nature, there is another category of journalistic outlets that is particularly influential when it comes to international journalism: news agencies.
News agencies are effectively wholesale suppliers of news. They have large staffs of reporters and freelancers who gather the news, package it, and distribute it to their clients: other news organizations. Put another way, much of the international (and domestic) news a reader of the Boston Globe might come across is actually originated by a journalist working for a news agency. This is especially true for journalistic outlets that do not have their own foreign correspondents — which are most journalistic outlets these days, due to the cost of maintaining a correspondent network. As such, international news agencies are particularly influential given their direct and indirect reach.
Three of the leading international news agencies today trace their roots to the mid-nineteenth century. The first, The Associated Press, was established in New York in 1846 as a cooperative comprised of member newspapers and broadcasters. Basically, members of the non-profit cooperative (which are mostly daily newspapers and online news sites) may contribute a portion of their coverage to the cooperative, which other AP members can then republish in their own publications. Moreover, they also pay subscription fees, which allows the AP to employ hundreds of foreign correspondents — in addition to domestic journalists — and operate more than 60 foreign news bureaus (satellite offices) around the globe. The Associated Press produces more than 2,000 news stories each day (though only a portion of that is international in nature), and its content appears in nearly all major print and online media.
Another major news agency is Reuters, which was established in London in 1851 but is now a part of a publicly traded, Canadian-based multimedia conglomerate. Reuters has an even larger international footprint than the AP, employing hundreds of foreign correspondents in more than 80 different news bureaus around the world. While Reuters has historically specialized in financial news, it also provides coverage of a large range of subjects, from international conflicts to sporting events.
A third major news agency is the Agence France Presse (AFP). AFP is the successor to Agence Havas, the world’s oldest news agency, having been established in 1835. Today, AFP employs hundreds of foreign correspondents in more than 60 foreign news bureaus. Although it derives a portion of its revenue from the French government, it has a fairly independent governing structure that includes representatives from the French press, French public service broadcasters, the French state, AFP staff, and external experts.
More recently, two other major players have joined these historical outlets. The first, Bloomberg News, was established in New York in 1990 and specializes in financial news. Although it has fewer foreign news bureaus than its competitors — and those news bureaus are primarily located in financial centers — it has a comparable number of foreign correspondents. The other recent addition is the China-based and state-owned Xinhua News Agency. Although it was established in 1931, Xinhua’s rapid growth is a more recent phenomenon. Today, it rivals those other international news agencies in size, scope, and reach.
Four of these five major international news agencies are based in the U.S. or western Europe, and they largely adhere to similar news cultures despite being headquartered in different countries. The AP, Reuters, AFP, and Bloomberg tend to focus on so-called ‘hard news’ (e.g., stories about public affairs, politics, business, and so on), though they also cover some areas of so-called ‘soft news’ (e.g., sports and entertainment). They also tend to adhere to a very neutral approach to reporting and writing, and typically use the inverted pyramid style of writing, where the ‘who,’ ‘what,’ ‘when,’ and ‘where’ tend to appear at the top, followed by quotes from different sources, and then some background information near the bottom to contextualize the story. Stories tend to feature a terse writing style and short paragraphs. Although these agencies also produce news analyses that are more interpretive in nature, they clearly label them as such. This neutral and systematic approach enables news agencies to serve a wider range of clients (member outlets), and consequently reduce those clients’ newsgathering costs by providing them with a steady stream of prepackaged news that cover even expensive genres, such as international news.
There are, of course, smaller news bureaus that serve more regional clients and are often less Westernized. Put another way, while they may not be as significant globally, they are highly significant in bringing the world to their regions. These include the state-supported EFE agency in Spain, the state-supported Anadolu Agency in Turkey, the non-profit Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) in Germany, the non-profit cooperative Kyodo News in Japan, and the non-profit cooperative Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata (ANSA) in Italy.
Another subset of particularly important global journalistic outlets includes international broadcasters. When it comes to ‘wholesale’ international television news, the market has been largely dominated over the past three decades by subsidiaries of the print news agencies.
For example, The Associated Press has a subsidiary called Associated Press Television News, or APTN. APTN produces more than 200 video stories per day, each with an average run-time of two and a half minutes. It also broadcasts more than 11,000 hours of live video per year, which can be tapped into by any of its member outlets. Reuters Television, a subsidiary of Reuters, produces more than 350 video stories per day, in addition to thousands of hours of live video. Reuters TV’s content is used by nearly 800 broadcasters around the world. Other major suppliers to the global wholesale television news market include AFPTV and Bloomberg TV. In short, the most significant providers of televised international news are outgrowths of the dominant suppliers of print international news.
However, some individual broadcasters have also developed into global newsgatherers and disseminators. Of these, the two largest are state-supported BBC World News, which is part of the London-based British Broadcasting Corporation, and the commercial CNN International, which is part of the Atlanta-based Cable News Network. BBC World News claims to reach 99 million weekly viewers in over 200 countries and territories through its satellite, cable, streaming, and, in the U.K., free-to-air channels. It further claims to be available to more than 440 million homes worldwide, and BBC World News also produces more than 10 live news programs of 30 minutes or longer, in addition to several prerecorded news programs. CNN International has a similar global footprint.
Many nations also have sizable international broadcasting outlets that may operate as commercial, state-supported, or state-owned organizations — or in some hybrid fashion. Some organizations that are especially notable for their influence and reach are Qatar-based Al Jazeera, Russia-based RT (formerly Russia Today), China-based CCTV, and Venezuela-based Telesur.
Global journalistic outlets are major components of what can be thought of as a global news system that incorporates print, broadcast, and online gatherers and disseminators of news. Once published by a global outlet, the information is made available to member organizations as a resource they can republish or adapt (in the case of news agencies) and/or to the general public via packaged news stories. Even when the news content is not directly republished or rebroadcast, it often inspires further information gathering — as with an Associated Press story about the spread of an animal-borne disease in Europe inspiring an editor to assign an original local story about the effects of the disease on local meat exports.
In light of their reach, global journalistic outlets can serve as instruments of soft power as they help seed and distribute certain ideas, values, and perspectives. The historical dominance of Western outlets, for example, played a major role in the diffusion of capitalistic and democratic values around the world, especially after World War II. Such efforts do not have to be concerted or planned, such as by forcing journalists to publish stories in support of certain policies or perspectives. They often emerge naturally from the journalist’s socialization and biases, and are diffused over time. Critics will sometimes describe this phenomenon as a form of cultural hegemony.
However, some governments have instrumentalized global outlets as vehicles for intentionally exerting soft power. This is especially the case for large, state-owned media. For example, after the 1916 Russian Revolution, the Soviet Union-based TASS news agency became a leading supplier of international news for the communist world, and especially for countries in eastern and central Europe. TASS did not operate on a commercial basis. Instead, it was a subordinate of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and tended to produce news that aligned with (if not promoted) the Party’s perspectives. Today, critics contend that the Xinhua News Agency has received substantial state backing in recent years to support its rapid growth in order to advance China’s growing soft power around the world. Xinhua’s extensive newsgathering and distribution operations have made it particularly influential in the emerging economies of Africa, Asia, and South America.
Other commercial and state-supported outlets have emerged in recent years that are widely seen as credible news sources while challenging perspectives from the Global North, even as they adopt some of its techniques. For example, the Qatar-based, state-owned Al Jazeera (established in 1996) and Al Jazeera English (established in 1999) recruited many reputable journalists (including a number of BBC veterans) and granted them a considerable amount of autonomy to produce impactful pieces of investigative journalism. In some cases, Al Jazeera’s journalism (especially that of its English-language sibling) pointedly challenges policies favorable to Qatar, which adds to the outlet’s credibility around the world. The rise of global broadcasters like Al Jazeera have helped promote the dissemination of counter-hegemonic perspectives across international news ecosystems.
Global journalistic outlets refer to those that either have (or have access to) staff members or contractors and informational resources that are sufficiently widespread to justify a global status.
International news agencies are especially influential since they produce the majority of international news. Their work is subsequently disseminated through a large number of member organizations or subscriber outlets, making them important definers of reality.
Global journalistic outlets may also be instrumentalized to promote soft power. This sometimes happens unintentionally as journalists naturally impart the values and perspectives they have been socialized into, but it can also happen intentionally as states instrumentalize those media to promote the state’s interests and values.