Biggest News Agencies UPI or United Press International Part 2

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



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

The frantic effort to report a story "first" (correct or not) has spawned a fantastic new communications system in which newsmen use video typewriters which flash the words on a screen rather than printing them out on paper and, at the same time, feed them into a central New York computer which--after corrections and further electronic editing--can feed the story directly onto the wires. An even faster system, called Data-News, is now being initiated. It will provide copy at the rate of 1,000 words a minute through computer links. Clients will receive one-paragraph abstracts on their own machines. If they want the entire story, they have only to press a coded button and it will be provided.

This momentous technological shift has changed the employee balance at UPI, bringing in more and more technicians and reducing the number of newsmen. It has also led to a major shuffle in New York resulting in a new management team. UPI, like its fierce competitor, AP, tries to be an all-purpose service. This means that a wire service employee may cover everything from "presidential assassinations to the price of chicken feed in Utah, bicycle accidents, water levels in the reservoirs...."

In rural areas, poorly paid and often unreliable stringers are used exclusively. Despite its more featurized approach to the news, UPI does not produce a great deal that is different from what AP produces. As New Yorker columnist A. J. Liebling once commented, UPI clients are "in the position of motorists on a state throughway that is served only by Howard Johnson restaurants. What they get will not make them eager for more."

But the customers probably get what they deserve. "Most small papers don't seem to give a damn about the quality of wire service copy," commented Norman Isaacs, executive editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal, "as long as the price is kept low and they can get it delivered on tapes from which type can be set automatically."

As to foreign coverage, Liebling noted that most of it is generated by underpaid stringers whose "necks are in imminent danger if they deviate from the Government line in many countries, so it is the Government line they stick to...."

The emphasis on news from abroad has shifted, said Liebling, "from information to speed.... The substitution of a duel in mechanics for one in intelligence is the essence of this age....Competition in speed has cancelled out the merits of both AP and UPI, like escaped convicts, one white, one black, shackled together in a recent motion picture....Neither can stray from the source of handouts for fear that the other will get one while he is away trying to see what goes on...."

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