In 1879 there were only 3,543 miles of pole line over which to send telegrams; transmission was manual. (The first telephone exchange was opened in 1881.) The association (with a staff comprising a manager, assistant, and eight paid correspondents) sent 3 million words, costing £6,190, to 48 members. There were 40 words in an average message. The association, which has a staff of 25, now distributes to its members about 17 million words of news annually, divided almost equally between overseas and New Zealand news. Distribution by leased teleprinter network, printing the news directly into newspaper offices, began in 1950. The network has since been duplicated to provide more capacity. For overseas news, the association has worked with the main Australian newspapers and agencies since 1887. Transmission from Australia to New Zealand was entirely by cable until 1954, and for the next 10 years mainly by radio. A great technical advance came in December 1963 with the leasing of facilities on the new Commonwealth Pacific submarine cable. News now pours into the Press Association's Wellington headquarters on reliable circuits which are not subject to sunspot activity or other interference as were the previous radio links. For news photographs as well as for the printed word, the new cable is a great advance in communications. Illustrations of faraway events can be received by New Zealand newspapers with astonishing clarity within two or three hours of their happening.
Before 1887 news was obtained from Reuters, which re-entered the field in 1916. The association has since 1947 been a partner in Reuters and the Reuter Trust. It also has traditional arrangements with the Associated Press of America and with United Press International, the two major American news agencies, and with other news sources.
by Reginald Brian O'Neill (1932–65), Journalist, Christchurch.