Biggest News Agencies UPI or United Press International Part 1

About one of the biggest news organizations the UPI or United Press International, history of its founding, operations, and scoops.



Name of Agency and Country: United Press International, U.S.

When and How Founded: Current agency created by merger in May, 1958, of United Press (UP) and International News Service (INS). UP was founded in 1907 by newspaper publisher E. W. Scripps. INS was born two years later, when William Randolph Hearst set it up to service his own chain of papers and outside clients.

Modus Operandi: Still privately owned, UPI is headquartered at 220 East 42nd Street, New York City. It sells news, features, photographs, and other services to 1,131 newspapers in the U.S. and has a total of 3,650 radio station and television clients. Worldwide it services 6,972 recipients. Teletype service is provided to newspapers on both an "A" and a "regional" wire. There are also special financial, sports, racing, and radio wires designed for quick "rip and read" utilization. All UPI writers are, in a sense, "correspondents" covering their host cities for the outside world and relying heavily upon local media for information. UPI has 211 bureaus worldwide and more than 2,500 fulltime employees. Its projected 1977 budget exceeded $73 million.

Who's behind It: Scripps-Howard owns 95%, Hearst retains 5%. The president is R. W. Beaton. The vice-president and editor in chief is H. L. Stevenson.

Biggest Beats: UPI's first bulletin on the assassination of Pres. John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, was probably its most memorable. UPI White House correspondent Merriman Smith managed to scoop the AP reporter by grabbing a car radiophone, calling in the bulletin, and then ducking under the dashboard to keep his frantic competitor from calling in. Equally memorable (but highly embarrassing) was UP's announcement of the "Premature Armistice" in November of 1918--some days before peace was actually declared. Such antics have led many editors to seek AP verification before running UPI scoops.

Quirks and Prejudices: Due to a tight budget, understaffing, and the pressure of a "deadline every minute," speed is too often substituted for perspective and veracity. One veteran UPI staffer noted that he's writing "with the prejudices of the editors who buy the service" in mind. Because of the differing positions of clients, exposes and significant social commentary are avoided. What results is a rather bland, breezy report of contemporary history heavily featurized but lacking interpretation and analysis. Keeping those "editors' prejudices" in mind, wire service reporters have a pronounced tendency to belittle unpopular causes and "troublemakers." A National Educational Television analysis of UPI coverage of a late 1960s peace demonstration by the Women's Strike for Peace found bias in the service's selection of words to describe the participants, which included "dowager queen," "peacock," and "hippy."

When Sen. Thomas Dodd, a conservative Democrat, was under fire for accepting legalized bribes, UPI chose to ignore most of the accusations and censored from its report of official Senate proceedings such words describing Dodd as "arrogant," "insolent," and "brutal."

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