1993 Memo on Desking Change

Here's an undated 1993 message wire memo from Robert Kieckhefer on a desking change:

Effective August 22nd, we will reorganize the way the national desks operate and the way they interact with the regional operation. The primary goal is to revitalize the UPI news report for all clients by making it more immediate, more enthusiastic and more direct. The change also will eliminate redundant rehandling of copy on UPI desks and provide greater opportunities to use the individual talents of UPI staff regardless of where they work.

The primary change is the combination of the A-wire (also known as the World Desk) and National Broadcast desks into a new Universal Desk, which also will take over some functions for the sports and financial desks. The Universal Desk, in broad strokes, will be run by a team of News Editors who will assign organizational, writing and editing tasks to one or more assistants working with them. Staffers will be assigned to the Universal Desk on a permanent basis, just as they are now to the A-wire or National Broadcast desks. Eventually, such assignments may be made to staffers working in bureaus other than Washington, provided appropriate communications are available.

As this reorganizaton takes effect, each region will modify the way it handles copy that's of national interest, taking responsibility for selecting the stories for national distribution and sending them to the wire. When such a story breaks, the region will be expected to file the first version as a 150- to 200-word UniStyle format, coded with ampersand CustomCoding, to both its regional wires and to the national wire. When there are new developments, another 150- to 200- word UniStyle story will be filed, structured as a complete writethru. Semidetailed instructions are available in cgh508 for those not already handling copy in this format. These stories will make up the bulk of the UPI national report for newspapers.

Stories, obviously, must be edited before they are filed. If there is no one available in the originating region, the Universal Desk can edit the copy, but this will slow the system. If this becomes a problem, we'll make adjustments.

The Universal Desk editor-in-charge will monitor the UniStyle stories and will organize the best of them into the every-four-hours sked, just as we do now for newspapers. These updated skeds form the basis of the SelectNEWS service, which will become a more crucial delivery method for newspapers. Stories included on that sked will be rewritten by the regions at the appropriate - longer - length and filed back to the national wires by the regions with "y" CustomCodes.

The Universal Desk will suggest angles, treatment, handling, scheduling, etc., and will monitor the report for quality. As new developments occur, these stories also will be written through, again as writethru leads.

So it's clear: Every time there is a new story or new development, UniStyle item first (200-word maximum), for all customers, then if warranted, newspaper lead.

Regions also will be responsible for contributing broadcast-style briefs items to the national report. Details of format and filing will be available. The Universal Desk will write and compile the national broadcast packages, incorporating this material from the regions. Note that in this new system, the Universal Desk supervisor is responsible for the hour-by-hour filing of the ENTIRE UPI national report - newspaper, UniStyle and broadcast - just as has been the case at the state and regional level for many years.

The upshot of this system is that all clients will be able to see more copy. Broadcasters who want more detail, more volume and more immediacy will see that in the UniStyle stories. Newspapers will see more stories on the wire, written in the abbreviated format used by most newspapers for wire copy on secondary material.

The Universal Desk, freed from many of its filing duties, will have more time to organize and quarterback a report, as it used to do in the pre-computer days.

We would urge that state reports be handled the same way as the national report - giving newspapers copy they can use without delaying the delivery of copy to broadcasters. Broadcasters will get more copy that's angled to their needs. These items give the report its immediacy for any news operation. They also provide the framework for packages, making those easier and quicker to prepare.

Will this require more work at the regional level? Perhaps there will be more attention paid to putting a story into shape for national presentation. But at least some of that effort will be repaid in making it easier to file the state and regional reports. Again, we're willing to consider adjustments. And the UniStyle stories will give the author a headstart on the newspaper version when one is done, so that's also a time saving.

Although the sports and financial desks will continue to operate much as they do now during primary filing times because of the expertise required in those areas, the Universal Desk during slack times will take over maintenance operations and filing of those wires, as well, under the direction of the sports and financial editors.

Please note we're open to suggestions, questions, etc., about any and all of this. Address them to me on cin-czm. As warranted, we'll address the questions and mutually solve problems in a daily message for the rest of the week.

Thanks and cheers. Bob Kieckhefer-HX