Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Thomson Buys Reuters:eNidhi is little sad, little happy

Glancing over Business Standard newspaper today in my office Canteen, I saw the news in cover page that Thomson Corporation will be buying Reuters for US $ 17.2 Billion.[Derailed news here and here] This might be just another business news for most of the people but to me, this is something partially heart breaking/ partially delighting.

I love journalism to the core of my heart and I like Reuters founder Paul Julius De Reuter very much for his innovations in news media. Paul Julius Reuters [Full details
here and here] was probably the first in modern history to sell news for money. He identified the value of having right information and right time, devised mechanisms to collect and distribute news at a time when news used to be hand delivered by messenger boys (and used to take days to travel across from one place to another) and eventually founded Reuters news agency. Julius Reuter, also known as Israel Beer Jeseph Josaphat, struggled in his early days to make people realize the importance of information and to make them pay for it. He used pigeons, telegraph, trans atlantic cables and several methods and mechanisms which were extremely innovative at that time to ensure that he could get important news (such as stock information) delivered to his customers (mainly merchants)at the earliest so that they could take advantage of the news and make money by taking appropriate business decisions. If time permits read more about him to understand and appreciate how he struggled and succeeded.

We may not be in a position to appreciate all these today because we have everything at the click of a mouse. But in the 19th century, things were not so. During my higher primary education (Class 11 I think) we had a lesson on Reuter in our English text book (CBSE), ever since, I have been his fan. The Reuters news agency he founded that time is valued now at US $ 17 Billion and I have to admire the courage and vision of this man and his company.

There are other startups (like Google/Microsoft/Dell etc etc) which have achieved billions of dollars of market capitalization in a very short time and have been started single handedly by one or two people. Still, Reuter's circumstances were different.

Inspired by Reuters, I had introduced couple of enhancements in our school's News telecast approaches during my school days. I was studying in
Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV) located at Chara village, near Hebri, Udupi District, Karnataka. This is a residential school run by Ministry of HRD, Govt of India. We used to have daily assembly where news reading was one the rituals performed everyday. One identified person had to collect latest available news and read it in assembly in front of hundreds of student and staff to update them of latest happenings. Our school was far from city, so news papers were coming late. A news paper dated today used to get delivered by today evening or next day morning [I’m speaking about year 1999-2000], and this paper was referred to the next day to prepare news. Effectively the news read today was used to be 3 days old and I was upset that we are giving obsolete news. We had a television in school using which we could see DD News every evening (that was the only available channel, with limited news telecasts that time, 8 pm to 8.30 pm in Hindi, 8.30 to 9 pm in English). I started preparing news by taking notes from TV news instead of referring to newspapers. This way I was able to provide news which was less than 12 hours old for next day's assembly. Others were forced to follow the same practice and many people used to hate me for this because now they had to listen to TV news and take notes, while earlier they could simply lift the title and content from newspaper. Later when internet was introduced in our school I was one of the first few to take advantage of that and I started giving latest news collected and compiled afresh few minutes before assembly. Not that my work changed the school overnight or made some difference to people, but still I recollect those days. [This incident re narrated in this post]

Now that Reuters is getting sold, I’m just taking a look back. Good thing is that the name Reuters will still be retained in the new entity, so the identity will not be lost for ever.