Rod Beaton's 1979 Letter to The Wall Street Journal



(The following is then-UPI President Rod Beaton's response to a negative story on UPI that appeared in the July 11, 1979, issue of The Wall Street Journal):



July 17, 1979
Mr. Warren H. Phillips Chairman of the Board Dow Jones & Company, Inc. 22 Cortlandt Street New York, N.Y. 10007
Dear Warren:
I must protest as vigorously as possible, and at the same time register my utter dismay, over the completely distorted picture of United Press International in The Wall Street Journal, July 11.
After dozens of hours and interviews with UPI personnel at all levels, as well as with many American newspaper representatives, it seems apparent that your reporter had preconceived notions and was listening only to what he wanted to hear.
It is most unfortunate that these facts were totally ignored in the Journal profile:
--Investments of more than $21 million in the past decade in computers, video terminals, newspicture receivers and transmitters and other technical improvements that have been hailed and copied by the U.S. media. This effort is continuing today.
--Additionally, within the past few days UPI opened a $10 million technical center in Dallas, the first communications and computer facility ever exclusively designed for a worldwide news agency. Such investments are not made by companies with a siege mentality or who are just "hanging on," as suggested by the Journal.
--Our budgets for news-gathering in this country and abroad have been steadily and substantially increased in recent years; not reduced, as the story citing our Spokane bureau implied. Spokane and the State of Washington have had a 100% increase this year in staffing expenses. There has been no staff reduction, as stated in the Journal story. . . all facts which could have been easily verified.
--UPI's record for accuracy is very good indeed, notwithstanding the anonymous Minnesota editor who trotted out the old canard that we inflate death tolls to "grab headlines." What is puzzling to me is that the Journal reporter talked to other editors who expressed their high confidence in our accuracy and reliability. Why did he not choose to report their comments?
--I'm particularly sympathetic to our man in Spokane being quoted out of context on his spending, because my own comments also were reported out of context. It is very true that fewer newspapers today buy two general news services. It is absolutely not true that UPI's share of the market is less or that we have a small number of clients. In many segments of the business, our share of the market has increased. We have remained the dominant American news agency abroad, and a number of major U.S. dailies have added UPI's basic news and picture services in recent months.
--UPI has aggressively promoted the use of satellites for transmission of news to newspapers and broadcasting, but not because we've "run out of ways to prune manpower costs." As the Journal itself has already proved, satellites permit large amounts of information to be transmitted to distant points. It can be done more economically and efficiently than by so-called land circuits. The result will be a better product for American readers and a check on rising costs for the country's newspapers.
--UPI's own costs have indeed been rising, but the "pruning" we have done has been directly related to elimination of unprofitable support activities or in efficiencies derived from very large investments in new technology. The savings have been reinvested in the job we are suppose to do--report the news.
As you well know, a basic requirement in our business is to have the hide of a rhinoceros. We expect to be criticized, and I'm confident that UPI has that toughness. However, what we cannot accept is a story by us or about us that is so unfair or so badly out of balance that it threatens the credibility of us all.
I sincerely believe the Journal has accomplished that unworthy aim and has insulted hundreds of dedicated men and women and a very great institution that has contributed so much to our industry and the public we serve.
Sincerely,


Rod Beaton

cc: UPI Subscribers UPI Staff Members

RWB:JL