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Front of UPI Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

United Press International (UPI) is a global news agency headquartered in the United States filing news in English, Spanish and Arabic. Once one of the three biggest news agencies in the world, with the Associated Press and Reuters, it has dwindled in size and continues to redefine itself. Today, it is owned by New World Communications, which is in turn wholly owned by the Unification Church.


Early history

Newspaper publisher E.W. Scripps 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. This formula made UP a direct threat to the monopolistic and exclusionary alliances of the major U.S. and European wire services at the time.

UP's announcement on July 15 said: "It is announced that the United Press will not be run on narrow or monopolistic lines, but will seek to give fair and impartial service to all legitimate newspaper publishers in the field." Scripps later said: "I regard my life's greatest service to the people of this country to be the creation of the United Press," because the competition provided by UP prevented the Associated Press from having a monopoly in determining what news was provided to the public.

On May 24, 1958, United Press merged with International News Service, which had been formed in 1909 by newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, to become United Press International. UPI, in later 1958, launches the UPI Audio Network, the first wire service radio network.

Recent history

"In UPI's heyday, 6,000 employees and dozens of bureaus fed hundreds of bulletins per day to 5,000 subscribing news organizations and competed with The Associated Press for front-page space in the world's great dailies. But the beleaguered news agency has lost nearly all of its clients and cachet and hasn't turned a profit since 1961." (Quoted: Brill's Content, April 2001)

UPI was hurt by changes in the modern news business, including the closing of many of America's afternoon newspapers, and was unprofitable for years. It went through seven owners between 1992 and 2000, when it was acquired by News World Communications, owner of the Washington Times. UPI's White House correspondent and most famous reporter, Helen Thomas, resigned in protest of News World Communications' links to the Unification Church.

Current UPI Editor of English edition, Martin Walker, a winner of Britain's 'Reporter of the Year' award when he worked for the Guardian, says he has experienced "no editorial pressure from the owners - which very few British newspaper editors can claim in the era of Rupert Murdoch and Conrad Black."

With new investment from News World in its Arabic and Spanish-language services, UPI has been making a comeback. 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.

People of UPI

News people who work for UPI are nicknamed "Unipressers." Famous Unipressers from UPI's include journalists Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley, Howard K. Smith, Eric Sevareid, Vernon Scott, Pye Chamberlayne, Frank Bartholomew, Hugh Baillie and William L. Shirer, who is best remembered today for writing Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and The New York Times' Thomas Friedman. Helen Thomas, who retired after 57 years as UPI's Chief White House Correspondent, was known as the "Dean of the White House Press Corps". Merriman Smith reported first-hand the deaths of two presidents, being in Warm Springs, Georgia when Franklin D. Roosevelt suffered his fatal stroke, and in Dallas, Texas with John F. Kennedy's motorcade when he was shot. His coverage of the assassination won him the Pulitzer Prize.

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 and began his journalistic career at UPI in 1946.

"From its inception, UPI was the underdog, offering young journalists little pay but a lot of opportunity. Time and again, the upstart, pocket-poor wire managed to beat its competition. According to Lucien Carr -- whose pal Jack Kerouac wrote On the Road using a roll of Teletype paper swiped from UPI's office -- "UPI's great virtue was that we were the little guy [that] could screw the AP." 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)


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 first use of the teletype.

In the 1920's and 1930's The United Press pioneered its financial wire service and organized the United Feature Syndicate.

Also founded in the 1930's was "Ocean Press" a news service for ocean liners comprised 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 Services Band of America under the direction of Paul LaValle debuted at the Belasco Theater in New York on Dec. 9, 1952. The UPI March was also played at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

UPI, in 1958, launches the UPI Audio Network, the first wire service radio network.

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 such as Prodigy, CompuServe and world-wide web search pioneers Yahoo! and Excite

In 1982 UPI pioneered an eight-level Custom Coding system that allows clients to choose stories based on topic, subtopic and location. Developing one of the first news taxonomies, UPI use of metadata helped define how information was categorized and customized to the user.

External links

de:United Press International ja:UPI


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