In the U.S. there are three main wire services: the Associated Press, United Press International and Reuters. AP is by far the dominant player, with UPI struggling with near-bankruptcy in recent decades and Reuters, based in Britain, still building its American base.

Each has its quirks, but all wire services are alike in one way: Almost all reporting is done by phone, with very few reporters available to go to the scene of a breaking story. They must work fast – they have a deadline every minute – and their stories aren’t very long, so the more skilled you are in concisely and accurately describing your action over the phone, the better.

Wire services also offer a great opportunity for getting coverage even when no reporters show up: If you have a reasonably skilled photographer on hand, he or she can take an action photo and offer it to the wires as a freelancer. If it’s an interesting breaking-news photo, the wires often aren’t that picky about who took it.

AP reaches nearly everywhere, and seems to have reporters everywhere as well. Dozens of major American cities, and all state capitals, boast AP bureaus, and smaller cities and towns usually have an AP “stringer” – typically, a reporter for the local paper. In most metropolitan markets, AP also circulates the Daybook, a listing of news events happening that day, consulted religiously by all other news outlets. The Daybook is a great place to get a press conference or demonstration listed – send a press release a day in advance to “Daybook Editor,” then call to confirm – but obviously, you don’t publicize a direct action this way.

UPI’s remaining strengths are two: Its reporters, although harried, are often more accessible to unusual stories; and a majority of its remaining clients are radio stations. In some states, UPI operates its own radio network.

In Europe, REUTERS is as dominant as AP is in America. For now, U.S. papers use it as a secondary service, often emphasizing business news. But if your action has an international angle – for example, stopping a shipment of rainforest plywood – there’s a good chance Reuters will move a story. (In the largest markets, check also for bureaus of other foreign services, such as Japan’s Jiji Press. Anytime you’re doing an action against an international corporation, make sure you get word to the press in the company’s home country.)

Many cities now have a LOCAL WIRE SERVICE – City News Bureau in Chicago, Bay City News in San Francisco – that covers stories the big papers and TV stations don’t have time to get to. They also publish daybooks.

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