Henry Shapiro Was Legendary UP Moscow Correspondent

Here's one of the "Gems from Wire Service History" compiled by the late Unipresser Richard Harnett of San Francisco:



Henry Shapiro was not the first United Press correspondent to have a special relationship with the Kremlin.

After the Revolution, Frank Taylor of the Berlin bureau, sneaked into Russia with some returning war prisoners from Germany and scouted news operations there. The Soviets kicked him out. Karl Bickel, president of UP at the time, sent John Graudenz to open the first bureau of a foreign news agency in Moscow.

Graudenz was specifically chosen by Bickel because he had known communist sympathies. After two years he vanished from UP mysteriously. Later, in 1942, Graudenz was caught spying for the communists in Germany and was executed.

In 1933 Bickel sent to Moscow Eugene Lyons, then an employee of TASS in New York and a known communist sympathizer. That is what Bickel wanted.

Lyons, after seeing conditions and the purges in Russia, became disillusioned. The Soviets asked Bickel to pull him out and he did.

Shapiro was stringing for UP in Moscow. He was named Moscow manager in 1934 while Bickel was still president. He was there about 40 years and was never expelled. Others were. When the KGB wanted to expel Aline Mosby, Shapiro was able to go to top Kremlin people and prevent it.

Shapiro said his success was due mainly to an understanding of the role of the press in the Soviet. It was considered a branch of government and unless you worked with the government functionaries you were blocked off from all news, not invited to functions, and were subjected to the country's strict law of the press, which forbade the publication of anything until it was published by the government. If a correspondent were thus ostracized he might as well go home, Shapiro said. He conceded that he sometimes bribed Soviet officials to get information.

Shapiro said the difference in news in Russia frm the democracies was that "the public airing of disputes in Russia occurs after the decisions have been made."

All of the above is not to condemn Bickel or Shapiro. They were living with the facts of life in news gathering. It may not have always been beneficial to informing the world. That can be eternally debated. But it was seen as the best way to get information in those years.

The overwhelming majority of the world's nations are, throughout history, intolerant of objective reporting by their own press and especially by foreign correspondents. As some others on this wire could testify first hand, United Press International correspondents were frequently expelled and bureaus shut down by governments that didn't like what we reported.

UPI tried to have people in foreign capitals who could "get along" with the regimes. This was on the premise that it was better to have some reporting from these capitals than none. The clients demanded it. Other agencies were worse than UP. A New York Times correspondents in Moscow became blatantly known as a conduit for Soviet propaganda. The Associated Press in many places, was worse than the UP in cow-towing to regimes.