Magic Connections: German News Agencies and Global News Networks, 1905-1945

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Magic Connections: German News Agencies and Global News Networks, 1905-1945

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Title: Magic Connections: German News Agencies and Global News Networks, 1905-1945
Author: Evans, Heidi Jacqueline
Citation: Evans, Heidi Jacqueline. 2012. Magic Connections: German News Agencies and Global News Networks, 1905-1945. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: A Nazi news editor declared in 1934 that there were indefinable "magic connections" between news and politics. This dissertation demystifies those links between communications and society. An untold story of news networks lies behind the media sources that we mine constantly as historians. In particular, news agencies, the essential bottleneck of news supply, remain obscured behind the newspapers printing their reports. This study explores why news agencies became the intuitive modern form of news collection and dissemination and how they functioned as a central locus for tussles over the creation of news from events, the limits of government or business control over news, and the role of technology in revising communications infrastructures. 1905 to 1945 represented the zenith of German faith in news agencies’ ability to overturn the existing world order. Along with industrialists and academics, politicians and bureaucrats thought that news agencies could change not only Germany’s role in global communications, but politics, economics, and society too. Coupled with technical advances in wireless telegraphy, news agencies seemed the best means to improve Germany’s international reputation, boost foreign trade, and create societal cohesion at home. News agencies seemed the key to controlling public opinion as well as to creating global news networks conducive to Germany. This news agency consensus united German elites of all political stripes in the belief that news agencies provided an ideal outlet to solve political, social, and economic problems. While such schemes did not always succeed, German news agencies often altered the modern infrastructure of global communications. They briefly achieved media dominance on the oceans, challenged Reuters’ and Agence Havas’ control of European news, and became a leading supplier of news to South America and East Asia in the Nazi period. This work illustrates the interdependence of communications and history by integrating approaches from business history, communications studies, sociology, book history, and the history of technology. It shows the spread and success of German news at a moment when news agencies played a central and underappreciated role in the negotiation of a new relationship between politics, economics, and society in first half of the twentieth century.
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