'New UPI Editors Take Control"

Here's a story by George Garneau from the Nov. 28, 1987 edition of Editor & Publisher:


United Press International tapped its veteran journalists to form a new management team to replace three top editors who abruptly quit a few weeks ago amid feuding over financial control and impending layoffs.

As had previously been speculated, veteran science editor Al Rossiter Jr., was named executive editor and will head what amounts to the fourth management team to run UPI news operations since Mexican publisher Mario Vazquez Rana last year bought controlling ownership of the financially ailing news service.

Bill Ferguson, managing editor for broadcast news, was made managing editor for national news. Senior correspondent Leon Daniel was named managing editor for international news. And Michael Freedman will succeed Ferguson as managing editor for broadcasting.

The appointments by Vazquez contrast with his hirings last January of three editors from outside the company. That trio quit en masse last month after financial authority had been stripped from them and extensive layoffs were planned to cut continuing financial losses.

The latest appointments were announced Nov. 19, the day editors Ben Cason, Barry Sussman, previously of The Washington Post, and Kim Willenson, who came from Newsweek, departed.

Rossiter, 51, has spent 28 years with UPI. He takes over management of about 850 editorial employees after leading a UPI science team of about seven. Science editor since 1973, Rossiter has managed UPI's coverage of the space program.

Ferguson, 61 joined UPI in 1950 as a reporter and entered broadcasting in 1957, He has helped create many of UPI's services and systems.

Daniel, 56, joined UPI in 1956 and went on to become its chief roving reporter, covering major stories all over the world.

Rossiter told E&P, as he was about to meet with the staff for the first time in his new role, that he had "no illusions" about his job.

"There will undoubtedly be some cutbacks, there's no question about that," Rossiter asserted.

He said he had "assurances in writing" that when a new operating plan and budget are approved he would have "complete authority" to manage editorial operations -- a major cause of the recent editors' resignations.

Rossiter said the first task was to re-evaluate the entire editorial operation in an effort to find where to cut and where to reinforce. He expected to have a plan in effect early next year.

A Wire Service Guild spokesman welcomed the appointment of editors with knowledge of the company. The union, which has fought UPI's imposition of working conditions but remained neutral in the fight between top editors and managers, issued a statement protesting the departing editors' claim that they could not "ensure the quality and integrity" of the UPI report.

UPI's 850 journalists are the "pillars of UPI," it said, not "three newcomers who walked in the door nine months ago with little or no knowledge of how a modern wire service operates."

"We understand the company," Rossiter said. "We know the ins and outs of the company. That is our key advantage."

Rossiter said he will report to Claude Hippeau, who rejoined UPI recently as executive vice president and reports to Vazquez.