The Associated Press
New Policy for Handling Telegraphed News

Daniel Craig's Letter
May 1851

I have found everywhere but one sentiment,
and that is that the general character of telegraphic news,
as published in the leading newspapers of the country,
is a positive disgrace to all concerned...

The public have come to regard all telegraphic newspaper despatches
with suspicion or disgust...

I beg to state to you, very briefly, the leading features
of the news arrangements which I am now making on behalf of the
New York Associated Press, to improve the inefficient and
irresponsible system which has heretofore prevailed...

Also see:   A Fierce War:
The Electric Telegraph Lines
Between New York and Halifax

Note: Italicizing is shown here as it appears in the original.

New York, May 1851       

To Hon. G.R. Young

The New York Associated Press, (embracing the Courier and Enquirer, Journal of Commerce, Express, Herald, Tribune and Sun,) seeing the necessity in the rapid extension and more general use of telegraph lines throughout the United States, of introducing a more enlarged and better organized system, than at present exists, for the early acquisition of important news, by telegraph, for publication, have authorized me to make, on their behalf, such arrangements as I may deem best calculated to attain the object in view.

In the furtherance of this object, I am now making, in addition to other arrangements, an effort to bring all of the leading Presses of the country into one general telegraphic news scheme, whereby all shall contribute, in proportion to means and relative advantages to be derived, to the expense and trouble of collecting and transmitting, from one end of the Union to the other, all important news — as well that relating to commerce as to general events — the wish being to raise the standard of telegraphic reports, both as regards the matter and the manner of the same, — to make them what they ought to be; — reliable for accuracy, and the medium through which all really important or decidedly interesting news shall be placed before the public, with the utmost despatch.

It is believed that Telegraph Companies, not less than Publishers of Newspapers throughout the country, will consult their best interests by making an united and vigorous effort, in conjunction with the New York Associated Press, to bring about an entire reform in the matter suggested; and I address myself to you, with a confident hope that you will regard the enterprise, in which we are engaged, with great favor, and that you will extend to us such assistance, in perfecting the same, as your valuable opportunities may offer, or your good judgment suggest.

In a recent journey from Halifax, N.S., through the Atlantic cities to New Orleans, and from thence to Louisville, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Albany, &c., I have taken great pains to obtain the view of editors and other interested parties, in regard to the subject of my mission; and I can truly say that I have found everywhere but one sentiment, and that is that the general character of telegraphic news, as published in the leading papers of the country, is a positive disgrace to all concerned.  Every publisher seems to realize that he is paying, from week to week, large sums for telegraphic reports, and that their character is of such a low standard as to render them utterly valueless to the merchant or other man of business, whilst the general reader views their statements only, at best, as possible truths, — but they have regarded the evil as utterly beyond the power of any one establishment to remedy, even should its whole revenue be expended for the purpose; and as what is everybody's business is nobody's, publishers have felt themselves bound to tolerate the system, because their neighbors did, although they have, almost without exception, regarded their expenditures for telegraphic news much in the same light as they would regard a contribution to an unjust and unlawful tax-gatherer — a species of imposition which it is not quite safe to resist.

The public, for the most part, are accustomed to consider the telegraph as solely responsible for the unreliable and trifling character of telegraphic reports: but, although this may be, and probably is, true, to a great extent, yet it is believed to be by no means true to the extent generally imagined.  Doubtless there is great culpability on the part of telegraphic operators and copyists, who, through carelessness, (which nothing can excuse) or general want of appreciation of their most responsible duties, commit numerous and, in too many cases, most gross blunders; — but operators and copyists are not alone, nor, I believe, chiefly, in fault, for the suspicion or disgust with which the public have come to regard all telegraphic newspaper despatches.  This, it appears to me, is the natural result of the bad system — or rather, the want of all system — which has heretofore prevailed for reporting or collecting news for transmission by telegraph: and it is mainly to this point that I have thought it necessary to address myself, in the news arrangements which I am now making, on behalf of the New York Associated Press.  I beg to state to you, very briefly, the leading features of those arrangements, and I shall do so in full confidence that their improvements over the inefficient and irresponsible system which has heretofore prevailed, will commend them to your warm approval.

In the first place, then, the Associated Press propose to employ, at a liberal salary, a competent, prompt, and perfectly reliable telegraphic correspondent, at every important point to which the wires are extended; whilst at points of less importance, it is proposed to make reciprocal connections with editors and publishers, through whom we may receive reliable information in regard to every local event of interest to the public at large.  We thus expect to obtain, from authentic sources, all the important news of the day, over ten or fifteen thousand miles of telegraph wires, radiating from New York to nearly every city or town of note in the United States or British American Provinces.  Very particular care will be taken in the selection of correspondents, especially at points from whence it may be desirable to receive commercial reports; and it is confidently predicted, that after our arrangements shall have been fully completed, the reports, of every description, which may be published under the telegraphic head, by the New York Associated Press, and by such other papers, in different parts of the Union, as become connected with them, will be found to exhibit a vast improvement in every respect, over those heretofore published — they certainly will, if it is possible to effect the object of the constant aid of the most competent, careful and experienced correspondents, and the unlimited expenditure of money.

We are aware, that however accurate and excellent our reports may be, they may be rendered valueless through the carelessness or incompetency of telegraphic operators or copyists; — but upon this point, we shall rely much upon the kindness and attention of gentlemen connected with the various lines of telegraph, from very many of whom, (all, in fact, that I have been able to confer with,) I have received gratifying assurances of their unqualified approval of the objects we have in view, and of their entire willingness to be held responsible for all inaccuracies which may occur in the transmission of messages to or from the Associated Press.  It is not doubted, therefore, but that, by the exercise of proper vigilance, we may obtain, from one end of the Union to the other, both commercial and general news, which shall be reliable for accuracy and respectable in every other point of view — certain it is, that these desirable results will not fail to be accomplished for want of ample means or of untiring efforts on my part.

Thus, by continuing our arrangements at Halifax, whereby the New York Associated Press are enabled to publish the news by the steamers at that port from one to two days in advance of their arrival at Boston; and by completing arrangements, now in progress, for procuring, much earlier than ever heretofore, the European and California news, by steamers arriving at New York, the Associated Presses will soon be in a position to discharge their whole duty to the commercial public and to the general reader throughout the country, by becoming the medium through which all really important foreign and domestic news, from authentic sources, shall be laid before their readers with a degree of promptness which will place competition from individuals at defiance.  When this point shall have been reached by any newspaper in the country — when it shall ever be first to obtain and lay before its readers, correctly and in an intelligible form, all important foreign and domestic news, — as well that relating to commerce as to the general events of the day, — then will is heavy expenditures for telegraphic dispatches be appreciated, and that class of intelligence will cease to be, what it heretofore has too often been, worthless to its publisher and despised by those for whose benefit it has been procured.

Special reporters — gentlemen of known capacity, fidelity and promptness will be employed, at liberal salaries, by the Association, at New Orleans, Mobile, Charleston, Norfolk, Richmond, Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston, Albany, Buffalo, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Detroit; also, at Toronto, Montreal and Quebec, at Halifax, N.S., and at St. John, N.B.  Correspondents at all of those points will report, except when otherwise ordered, directly to the Committee of the Association at New York, and their Agent there will report, when necessary, directly to each of their correspondents in the cities above named, and they, again, will report to each other, for the benefit of such Presses as can most conveniently receive the news through them.  Measures will be taken to place the special reporters of the Association in direct communication with editors in their vicinity, whereby all interesting events occurring at places of little general importance, may speedily reach the Committee through the said special reporters at the cities before named.

Thus a community of interest; a uniformity and concert of action will prevail between all of the Presses connected in our proposed arrangements, — they will employ the same telegraphic correspondent at every point, and, of course can well afford to pay sufficient salary to command the services of such as possess every desirable qualification; — they will use, to a large extent the same dispatches, at a considerable saving in tolls, and so may well afford to have full reports of all really important intelligence.

In conclusion, I think it proper to state, as I do, emphatically, that the Associated Press will aim at no objectionable exclusiveness in any of their telegraphic news arrangements; but will cheerfully admit, to a fair participation in all their facilities, every newspaper in the country, whose publisher shall be willing to pay an equitable proportion of necessary expenses, and conform to such reasonable rules as may be required for the protection of the several parties concerned.

Should you require more full information in regard to the details of our arrangements, it will afford me pleasure to answer such enquiries as you may think proper to make.

Respectfully, but earnestly, soliciting your co-operation in perfecting and sustaining an enterprise in which the interest and convenience of the Press, of Telegraph Companies, and of the whole public, are equally concerned,

    I am, (on behalf of the Committee of the N.Y. Associated Press,)
    Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
    D.H. CRAIG
    Domestic and Foreign News Agent, New York Associated Press

Note (written 10 March 1999, by ICS):
This letter was printed in May 1851 and Craig sent copies to many people, including officials in most telegraph companies, and editors and publishers of most newspapers, in "nearly every city or town of note in the United States or British American Provinces."  In 1851, the term "British American Provinces" included Upper Canada (now Ontario), Lower Canada (now Quebec), New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland.

The original document, from which the above text was taken, is located in the Public Archives of Nova Scotia, in Halifax.  This copy is addressed to George R. Young, who at that time was a Commissioner (in modern terms, a member of the Board of Directors) of the Nova Scotia Electric Telegraph Company.

The principles and policies outlined by Craig in this letter quickly became the basic working principles and policies of the Associated Press, and to this day have remained its defining framework.

George Renny Young

Young, George R. journalist; born 4 July 1802 at Falkirk, Scotland; immigrated with his parents to Nova Scotia in 1815; educated at the Pictou Grammar School, Nova Scotia; founded the Novascotian newspaper in 1824, later selling it to Joseph Howe; MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) for Pictou County, 1843-1851; Member of the Executive Council 2 February 1848 to 28 April 1851, (resigned over railway policy); Board of Registration Statistics, July 1850 to April 1851; member of the first cabinet after winning of Responsible Government; author of On colonial literature, science and education (published in London, 1842) and other books and phamphlets; died 30 June 1853 in Halifax.
The Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia 1758-1983: A Biographical Directory, edited and revised by Shirley B. Elliott, 1984, ISBN 088871050X.  This volume was prepared as a contribution of the Public Archives of Nova Scotia to the celebration of the bicentenary of the establishment of representative government in Canada.

George R. Young
Dictionary of Canadian Biography

George R. Young was one of the original Commissioners (in modern language, a
Member of the Board of Directors) of the Nova Scotia Electric Telegraph Company,
which owned and operated the province's first electric telegraph line, built in 1849
from Halifax through Truro and Amherst to connect with the New Brunswick Electric
Telegraph Company's line at the New Brunswick border, making it possible to send
messages from/to Halifax to/from Boston and New York all the way by electric telegraph
– much faster than before, when the best speed obtainable on land was a galloping
horse, and on water a boat propelled by sails or at best a primative side-wheel steamship.

The completion of this telegraph line in November 1849 put an immediate end to the
operation of the Nova Scotia Pony Express between Halifax and Victoria Beach, and
launched Nova Scotia into the modern era of electric communications.

Go To:   Nova Scotia Pony Express of 1849
Go To:   History of Telegraph and Telephone Companies in Nova Scotia

Go To:   A Fierce War: The Electric Telegraph Lines Between New York and Halifax
Go to:   Ode to the Code ...Morse Code is officially retired...
Go to:   Farewell to Morse Code
Go To:   The Duke of Kent's Signal Stations by S.G. Roscoe
Go To:   Transportation and Communications Links between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in 1849
Go To:   History of Electric Power Companies in Nova Scotia

Go To:   History of Railway Companies in Nova Scotia

Go To:   Nova Scotia History, Chapter One

Go To:   Nova Scotia Historical Biographies

Photographs of War Memorials, Historic Monuments and Plaques in Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Quotations

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