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United Press International

United Press International (UPI) is a news agency headquartered in the United States with roots dating back to 1907. Once a mainstay in the newswire service along with Associated Press (AP) and Reuters, the popularity of the televised evening news and the resulting decline in the afternoon newspapers began a period of decline for UPI. This decline accelerated after the sale of UPI by the founding Scripps family culminating in two bankruptcies. In 2000 UPI was purchased by News World Communications, a media company owned by Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church". The news wire's daily coverage today includes domestic and international top news, business, entertainment, sports, science, health and "Quirks in the News" through its NewsTrack service, as well as coverage and analysis of emerging threats, the security industry and energy resources. UPI's content is presented in text, video and photo formats. Its news stories are filed in English, Spanish and Arabic.

History

United Press Associations

Newspaper publisher E.W. Scripps (1854–1926) created the first chain of newspapers in the United States. After the Associated Press refused to sell its services to several of his papers, Scripps together with partner Milton A. McRae combined three regional news services (the Publisher's Press Association, Scripps McRae Press Association, and the Scripps News Association) into the United Press Associations, which began service on June 21, 1907. Scripps founded United Press on the principle that there should be no restrictions on who could buy news from a news service.

United Press became the only privately-owned major news service in the world at a time when the world news scene was dominated by the Associated Press in the United States and by the news agencies abroad, which were controlled directly or indirectly by their respective governments: Reuters in Britain, Havas in France, and Wolff in Germany. William Randolph Hearst entered the fray in 1909 when he founded International News Service.

The AP was owned by its newspaper members, who could simply decline to serve the competition. Scripps had refused to become a member of AP, calling it a "monopoly, pure and simple" and declaring it was "impossible for any new paper to be started in any of the cities where there were AP members." (AP appeared in 1848, when six New York City newspapers formed a cooperative to gather and share telegraph news, but the name Associated Press did not come into general use until the 1860s.)

Scripps believed that there should be no restrictions on who could buy news from a news service and he made UP available to anyone, including his competitors. He later said: "I regard my life's greatest service to the people of this country to be the creation of the United Press."

Creating UPI

Frank Bartholomew, UPI's last reporter-president, took over in 1955, obsessed with bringing Hearst's International News Service (INS) into UP. He put the "I" in UPI on May 24, 1958, when UP and INS merged to become United Press International. Hearst, who owned King Features Syndicate, received a small share of the merged company. Lawyers on both sides worried about anti-trust problems if King competitor United Features Syndicate remained a part of the newly merged company, so it was made a separate Scripps company, which deprived UPI of a persuasive sales tool and the money generated by Charles M. Schulz' popular Peanuts and other comic strips.

The new UPI had 6,000 employees and 5,000 subscribers, 1,000 of them newspapers.

Later that year, it launched the UPI Audio Network, the first wire service radio network. In 1960, subsidiaries included UFS, United Press Movietone, a television film service, was operated jointly with 20th Century Fox, the British United Press and Ocean Press.

Decline

The Associated Press - AP - was a publishers' cooperative and could assess its members to help pay for extraordinary coverage of such events as wars, the Olympic Games, or national political conventions. UPI clients, in contrast, paid a fixed annual rate; depending on individual contracts, UPI could not always ask them to help shoulder the extraordinary coverage costs. Newspapers typically paid UPI about half what they paid AP in the same cities for the same services: At one point, for example, the Chicago Sun-Times paid AP $12,500 a week, but UPI only $5,000; the Wall Street Journal paid AP $36,000 a week, but UPI only $19,300.

UPI was hurt by changes in the modern news business, including the closing of many of America's afternoon newspapers, resulting in its customer base shrinking. It went through seven owners between 1992 and 2000. UPI's end as a truly viable news service occurred in 1999 when its remaining contracts were sold to its one-time rival - AP.

UPI purchased by the Unification Church

UPI was purchased in 2000 by Sun Myung Moon's global media conglomerate News World Communications, becoming an addition to the Unification Church media portfolio. At the time Moon said:

"We even have to utilize the media for the sake of church development. The church is the mind and the media is the body, to reach the external world. We should begin that movement and activity in the United States, because the Washington Times and UPI are headquartered there. Once we establish our organization in the United States, it can be expanded to the world without much alteration."

After 57 years with UPI, its best-known reporter Helen Thomas resigned her position as UPI's chief White House correspondent in May 2000, the day after it was acquired by News World. Since the resignation of Thomas, UPI for the first time, does not have a reporter in the White House press corps.

In 2004, UPI won the Clapper Award from the Senate Press Gallery and the Fourth Estate Award for its investigative reporting on the dilapidated hospitals awaiting wounded U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq.

By 2007, UPI, which once had 6000 employees in 223 news and picture bureaus around the world, thousands of nonstaff “stringers,” and 7,500 customers in 100 countries, had fewer than 50 employees. In August 2007, the company reduced that number further, and currently has only five reporters in its Washington D. C. headquarters. Several dozen stringers still file regular reports from key regions of the world. More than a dozen editors are stationed in various cities in the United States and elsewhere.

People of UPI

United Press editor Lucien Carr, whose roommate Jack Kerouac wrote On the Road on a continuous roll of UP teletype paper, once said: "UP's great virtue was that we were the little guy [that] could screw the AP." News people who worked for UPI are nicknamed "Unipressers". Famous Unipressers from UPI's past include journalists and reporters Oscar Fraley, Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley, Howard K. Smith, Eric Sevareid, Helen Thomas, Pye Chamberlayne, Frank Bartholomew, Hugh Baillie, Vernon Scott, Chauncey Bailey, Robert H Tanji (Tokyo journalist/editor murdered on the job), William L. Shirer (who is best remembered today for writing The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich), The New York Times's Thomas Friedman, The Times of London's Marie Colvin, and Myram Borders, longtime reporter and chief of the Las Vegas bureau for nearly 25 years (and who broke numerous stories, including Elvis Presley's marriage to Priscilla as the wedding was in progress).

UPI photographers saw their work published in hundreds of publications worldwide, including Life, Look, and other magazines, as well as newspapers in the United States. Under their work, the only credit line was "UPI". Not until after the 1970s, when their names began appearing under their pictures, did a number of UPI's photographers achieve celebrity within the journalism community. UPI photographers who won Pulitzer Prizes include Andrew Lopez (1960), Kyoichi Sawada (1966), Toshio Sakai (1968) and David Hume Kennerly (1972). Tom Gralish won a Pulitzer Prize and the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award in 1986 after leaving UPI for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Dirck Halstead founded "The Digital Journalist".

Books about UPI include Joe Alex Morris's Deadline Every Minute (1957), Gregory Gordon and Ronald E. Cohen's Down To The Wire (1990); Richard M. Hartnett and Billy G. Ferguson's Unipress (2003), and Gary Haynes's Picture This: The Inside Story of UPI Newspictures (2006) with a foreword by former Unipresser Walter Cronkite. Well-known photographers from UPI include Joe Marquette, Darryl Heikes, Carlos Shiebeck, David Hume Kennerly, Ernie Schwork, James Atherton, James Smestad, Tom Gralish, and Bill Snead.

Richard Harnett, who spent more than 30 years at UPI, recalls what is often considered its greatest achievement: Merriman Smith's Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of John F. Kennedy's assassination. "Smith was in the press car...When he heard shots, he called in to the Dallas office and sent a flash bulletin," Harnett says. "The AP reporter started pounding on his shoulder to get to the phone, but Merriman kept it from him." (Quoted - Brill's Content, April 2001)

Nine staffers have won eight Pulitzer Prizes while working for UPI: Russell Jones (International Reporting, 1957), Andrew Lopez (News Photography, 1960), Yasushi Nagao (News Photography, 1961), Merriman Smith (National Reporting, 1964), Kyoichi Sawada (News Photography, 1966), Toshio Sakai (Feature Photography, 1968), Lucinda Franks and Thomas Powers (National Reporting, 1971), and David Kennerly (Feature Photography, 1972).

Arnaud de Borchgrave, Newsweek's chief foreign correspondent for 25 years, covering more than 90 countries and 17 wars, is currently UPI Editor-at-Large. He began his journalistic career at United Press in 1946.

Martin Walker, editor of UPI's English edition, was a winner of Britain's "Reporter of the Year" award when he was Deputy Editor-in-Chief at The Guardian.

UPI also employs columnists, whose articles are sent to international papers and agencies. Current UPI columnists include, amongst others:

U.S. employees of UPI are represented by the News Media Guild.

Milestones

  • In 1908, UP pioneered the transmission of feature stories and use of reporter bylines.
  • In 1914, Edward Kleinschmidt invented the teletype, which replaced Morse code clickers in delivering news to newspapers. Press critic Oswald Garrison Villard credits United Press with the first use of the teletype.
  • In the 1920s and 1930s, United Press pioneered its financial wire service and organized the United Feature Syndicate.
  • Founded in the 1930's was "Ocean Press", a news service for oceanliners, consisting of copy from United Press and later United Press International. This ship-board publication was published by a separate corporate subsidiary of Scripps, but essentially under one roof with UP/UPI at the Daily News Building in New York. The subheadline under the "Ocean Press" logo was: "WORLDWIDE NEWS of UNITED PRESS . . . TRANSMITTED by RADIOMARINE CORPORATION OF AMERICA" ... which appears to have been a subsidiary of RCA. Some mastheads were labeled "UNITED PRESS - RCA NEWS SERVICE."
  • In 1935, UP was the first major news service to offer news to broadcasters.
  • 1945 saw it launch the first all-sports wire.
  • In 1948, UP Movietone, a newsfilm syndication service, was started with 20th Century Fox.
  • In 1951, United Press offered the first teletypesetter (TTS) service, enabling newspapers to automatically set and justify type from wire transmissions.
  • In 1952, United Press launched the first international television news film service.
  • The 'UPI March', as written and performed by the Cities Service Band of America under the direction of Paul Lavalle, debuted at the Belasco Theater in New York on December 9, 1952. The UPI March was also played at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
  • In 1953, UPI had the first, fully automatic photo receiver, UNIFAX.
  • In 1958, it launched the UPI Audio Network, the first wire service radio network.
  • In 1974, it launched the first "high-speed" data newswire - operating at 1,200 WPM.
  • On April 19, 1979, UPI announced an agreement with Telecomputing Corp. of America to make the UPI world news report available to owners of home computers. Later, UPI was the first news service to provide news to dial-up services and web search pioneers Yahoo! and Excite.
  • In 1981, UPI launched the first satellite data transmissions by a news agency.
  • In 1982, UPI pioneered an eight-level Custom Coding system that allows clients to choose stories based on topic, subtopic and location. It developed one of the first news taxonomies.
  • In 1982, UPI is sold by Scripps to Douglas Ruhe and William Geissler for $1.
  • In 1984, UPI descended into the first of two Chapter 11 bankruptcies.
  • In 1985, Mario Vazquez Raña purchases UPI out of bankruptcy.
  • In 1988, UPI broke the "all or nothing" news service tradition by introducing component products.
  • In 1988, Vazquez Raña sells UPI to Infotechnology Inc.
  • In 1993, UPI closed its bureaus and dismissed nearly all of its longtime employees, leaving them without pensions and medical benefits.
  • In 1998, UPI sold its broadcast operations to AP Radio, which shut it down and converted clients to its own service.
  • In 2000, UPI was acquired by the Unification Church.
  • In 2005, UPI launched a direct-to-consumer web site.
  • In 2007, UPI launched "Ed" (Editorial Workshop System), a content management system to handle rich media content and distribution, and re-launched its Web site, www.upi.com.
  • In 2008, UPI launched UPIU, a multimedia journalistic forum for U.S. college and university students.

References

External links

History

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