Death of Baroness Reuter Ends Family Line of News Service’s Founder

January 26, 2009 12:58 PM
by Josh Katz
Marguerite, Baroness de Reuter, the last in the Reuters family line, has died. Reuters has come a long way since her grandfather-in-law set up his service in London.

Reuter Baroness Dies

Marguerite, Baroness de Reuter, died on Sunday at the age of 96, according to the news service that her ancestors founded. Marguerite, born on July 14, 1912 in Switzerland, was the last in the Reuters family line; she and her husband did not have any children.

“The name dies with her,” said Michael Nelson, a former general manager of Reuters and friend of Marguerite.

Marguerite was the widow of Oliver, fourth Baron de Reuter, who died four years ago. Oliver’s grandfather, Paul Julius Reuter, started the now international news service in Aachen, Germany, with the use of telegraph cables and more than 200 carrier pigeons, before officially founding the company in London in 1851, according to the Company History section of the Thomson Reuters Web site.

John Fox, a close friend of the baroness, said that Marguerite had suffered “successive strokes late last year,” Reuters reports. She died in a nursing home in France Sunday morning.

Thomson Reuters chief executive Tom Glocer commented on Marguerite’s death: “Although the founding family of Reuters were no longer significant shareholders in the company, the baroness did notably attend a service at St Bride’s Church, London, to mark Reuters’ historic move from Fleet Street to Canary Wharf in 2005.”

The Thomson Corporation and Reuters Group PLC merged in 2008 to create Thomson Reuters.

Friends in England, who referred to Marguerite as Daisy, “remembered her as a generous woman who spoke numerous languages, loved bridge, opera and ballet, and enjoyed skiing until well into her 70s,” according to Reuters.

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Historical Context: The founding of Reuters

According to the Web site of the Reuters news service, now called Thomson Reuters, in 1851, Paul Julius Reuter “open[ed] an office with the help of an 11 year-old office boy at 1 Royal Exchange Building in London’s financial centre.” From that office, Reuter transmitted “stock market quotations and news between London and Paris over the new Dover-Calais submarine telegraph cable, using his ‘telegraph expertise.’”

When the company began it was mainly focused on commercial news, “serving banks, brokerage houses, and leading business firms,” according to Encyclopedia Britannica. The London Morning Advertiser became the first newspaper to subscribe to the news service in 1858, and Reuters continued to gain more clients because of its quick reporting from correspondents worldwide. For example, Reuters was the first news service to report that Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated.

Reuters went on to provide images to newspapers as well as text. Then in the 1960s, Reuters “became one of the first news agencies to use computers to transmit financial data overseas.”

Related Topic: The struggling print news industry

The world of news is changing, and the Internet is the culprit. Newspapers throughout the United States are struggling to survive; the Internet is robbing print newspapers of their advertisers, and as the current economic crisis is making funding hard to come by.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer recently announced that it is for sale, and its city-counterpart, the Seattle Times, could fold as well. The Tribune Co., one of the nation’s largest newspaper publishers (controlling the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel, Hartford Courant, Morning Call and Daily Press), filed for bankruptcy protection in December, and the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune did the same in January. In Philadelphia, the group that owns the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News is struggling to make payments.

Recently, The New York Times Company, which owns and controls The New York Times, accepted $250 million from Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helú; advertising sales have dropped and the newspaper is $1.1 billion in debt.

Bloomberg News, however, is prospering while other papers fight for survival. In an analysis of operations at Bloomberg for Vanity Fair, Seth Mnookin, contributing editor at Vanity Fair, suggests that Bloomberg is succeeding not as a rival to newspapers, but as a supplement, with several newspapers publishing branded Bloomberg pages in place of their own content. Bloomberg may pose a threat to leading wires like the Associated Press and Thomson-Reuters, though the latter sees Bloomberg more positively—as a possible purchase.

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