Using carrier pigeons and telegraph lines, Julius Reuter pioneers the first news service in western Europe.
In 1833 the boy Julius Reuter works in a bank and shows an English courier inventor Gauss and his wire signals. Years later Julius Reuter (Edward G. Robinson) asks Max Wagner (Eddie Albert) to put up posters about his pigeon service. In an emergency Reuter sends a pigeon with a message about poison to Aachen. Dr. Magnus (Otto Kruger) gets the message before giving the poison. Banker Bauer (Gene Lockhart) ridicules Reuter's pigeons. Reuter complains to Dr. Magnus that he kept it secret, but he and his daughter Ida Magnus (Edna Best) explain about the doctor's reputation. Ida calls on Reuter and gets early news of war that will depress stocks. At a dance Dr. Magnus tells Bauer why he sold stocks. The next day Bauer apologizes to Reuter and wants exclusive service; but Reuter aims to serve the community. Bauer signs up with others. Reuter says that Max is unreliable, and Ida offers to lecture him in Brussels. Ida helps Max be more efficient. Reuter learns that Bauer is cheating with his office boy and gives him a wrong price. Dr. Magnus tells Reuter that Ida is running his Brussels office. By pigeon message Ida agrees to marry Reuter.
Telegraph closes the gap between Aachen and Brussels. In Paris with Max, Reuter decides to report news, not just prices. Reuter asks for the speech of Louis Napoleon before it is given so he can telegraph it to London. Reuter tries to sell his news service, but Delane (Montagu Love) of the Times declines. Reuter gives others the first month free. Sir Randolph Persham (Nigel Bruce) complains but loans Reuter money. Ida tells Reuter he will be a father. As Louis Napoleon speaks, Max wires it. Reuter tells Randolph he sent it to the Times also. Delane shows the historic article with the Reuters byline, and the Times subscribes.
Reuters telegraphic service reports the news from around the world. Delane tells Reuter that he has competition from the Anglo Irish news service that built a line to save two hours. Anglo Irish offers Reuter 20,000 pounds and a position. Instead Reuter asks Randolph for 5,000 to build a line. Reuter sends Bruce to America and uses a canister in the sea from the mail ship. Max gets the canister in Ireland and sends news of Lincoln's death by their new wire to Reuter in London. Ida asks him to hold it so that Randolph can sell his stocks to avoid ruin, but Reuter says he can't. People and Randolph doubt the Reuters report; but Reuter tells Randolph it is true, and he sells. In the House of Commons Reuter listens as they discuss his report and the stocks crash. After the news is confirmed, Reuter speaks about how a free press preserves truth and avoids slavery.
This true story shows early steps in the modernization
of the news business, especially how the information affects capital
markets. As well as being innovative, Reuter was successful because
he had integrity in being truthful and fair to all.