Manager's Report - June 1989

Here's the June 1989 Manager's Report, written by then-UPI President Paul Steinle:

to: All UPI Management date: 27 June 1989

This is the first in a series of monthly management letters. My objective is to share more background information with you about the current status of the company.

* Happy 82nd Anniversary -- June 21, 1989

As we begin our 83rd year, UPI is implementing major improvements in a number of technical areas which will assist us in reporting in disseminating the news, and in running our business.

The purpose of these improvements is to increase speed, reduce downtime, and make UPI competitive technologically so that improvements and changes can be instituted more rapidly.


* Technical enhancements improve services

I hope that you have heard about UPI's new satellite distribution system for photos. The network went up in May and about a third of our customers will be converted to it by early July. The target for conclusion is August 1st. In addition to providing a faster, more reliable distribution channel, the new system will reduce communication costs for pictures by about $1,00,000 annually.

That satellite system, which operates using a new FM- squared, KU-band satellite technology, will form the backbone for the UPI distribution system of the future. The receivers can adapted for text and for audio as well, so that when funds are available we will expand the use of this technology for other services.

Another feature in the cap of the communications department is the improved UPI stocks service. Soon, we expect to be off the antiquated RCA Spectra computer in Dallas, and running stocks on a high-speed DEC FAX cluster in Vienna, Va. The state-of-the-art computer with its new data feed from Standard and Poor's promises to give us a much more reliable, and less costly stocks feed.

Sales is also bullish about the new, UPI CustomStocks/2000 service. That integrates the improved stocks feed with new software developed by Tab Data, allowing newspapers to program their own stocks feed on site and format stocks however they wish.

Custom Stocks/2000 also enjoys a competitive advantage. This product is available in advance of a more complicated and more expensive stocks manipulation product which the AP has been promising for some time, so sales sees a major opportunity.

* Replacement of IS&R imminent!

The conversion of the information storage and retrieval (IS&R) system -- the Dallas news computer -- from our ancient Burroughs 90-80 computer to the DEC VAX cluster is also underway this summer.

A test version of the new IS&R system -- which is designed to replicate the current system in its initial phase -- is already operating in Bill Ferguson's office, although it is not yet totally debugged.

A new communications protocol for the IS&R system -- called X.25 -- is also being installed. X.25 employs a combination of up to date modems and software that promises to reduce waiting time on the news terminals and allows Communications to diagnose network problems before they become critical, ensuring network availability.

In the past, modifying the Dallas IS&R software was tremendously cumbersome, and in many cases impossible. The new configuration eliminates those hardware and software barriers to improvement.


* Fax Machines will be ordered

On a more fundamental operations level, we are in the process of obtaining 24 FAX machines for selected news bureaus, hopefully before the end of the summer.


*Sales goes high-tech

A new sales and marketing management software system called MarketTrieve has installed on the VAX. This system allows sales personnel to accumulate and feed sales activities data to the VAX on a daily basis, if necessary.

This computerized management information system (MIS) will also reduce filing time for reports and will assist sales and marketing management in monitoring results.

Currently, after an encouraging step up last March, sales are flat. Obtaining and analyzing this data more rapidly and in a more efficient manner is expected to help sales significantly.

* Operation front page

Over the summer the sales department is focusing on newspaper sales during the newspaper's annual budgeting season. Heavy emphasis is being placed on the Regional Business News and the new UPI CustomStocks/2000.

Al Rossiter has requested that editorial news managers lend whatever assistance they can in referring editors and news directors to the sales personnel in their area -- assistance that is certain to help.


* Maintaining staffing levels

In June, we decided to begin advertising in newspapers for editorial personnel. This represents a more pro-active effort to increase our editorial talent pool.

Our goal is to make certain that we can keep our staff levels filled during this summer and in the months (and years) to come. Too often bureaus have to scramble to find people on short notice when turnover occurs, so we asked the personnel department to create a larger pool that we can draw from -- nationwide.


There has been significant energy expended in an effort to position the firing of Greg Gordon as a First Amendment issue. Not true. In fact, the company was operating under a UPI/Wire Service Guild contract rule which states that:

"outside employment . . . Should not interfere with an employee's job performance, (and) should not create a clear conflict of interest for the employee . . ."

Al Rossiter and Bill Ferguson inquired first verbally and then in writing to determine what Greg Gordon was working on, with whom and whether he had been given permission to proceed with such a project. Greg refused to answer any of their questions after one week, so Al notified Greg on May 26 of his dismissal effective June 3.

To set the record straight, all of this was handled under the mantle and jurisdiction of the UPI/Wire Service Guild Agreement -- there were no First Amendment issues involved. This issue was Greg's refusal to fulfill his obligation to apprise us of the propriety of his conduct under the contract provision.

This dispute may not be dead. Gordon and the Guild may wish to take this to arbitration -- which is the purpose of that process. But, please rest assured, the management of UPI has no intention, now or in the future, or curtailing anyone's First Amendment rights.

As the drafters of the UPI/Guild agreement understood, materials that are written by employees of UPI are reasonably expected to serve both the interests of UPI and its employee, and the company has the right to inquire to determine if that is the case.

This rule has been used at UPI before and similar situations have been adjudicated under this rule in the past. In this case the employee would not cooperate in our investigation of the propriety of his conduct under the contract. So the company faced no other fair and consistent option than to act in the manner we did.

* Negotiations -- update

As I write this letter, our negotiating team has only been able to meet with the Guild representatives once in the last two weeks, and for a period limited to 90 minutes -- at the Guild's request.

Therefore, since the next meeting has not yet been scheduled, it is safe to conclude that the current contract between UPI and the Wire Service Guild shall expire quietly at midnight, July 1st.

In order to keep operating smoothly, we shall continue to honor and adhere to the so-called "terms and conditions of employment" as stated in the current agreement. This means that we shall adhere to all current wage scales and all the operating conditions described in the contract. Essentially the relationship between the company and our Guild-covered employees shall remain intact.

However, the contracted items between the company and the Wire Service Guild, such as dues checkoff and membership maintenance, shall no longer be in force. We intend to continue bargaining in good faith on those occasions when the Guild makes itself available to do so. And, given the pace of the negotiations, some time may pass before all the issues are addressed.

In the meantime, we expect the company to operate as it has in the past 16 months since the new management arrived. If you have questions about operations or other comments please feel free to contact me at anytime.

Paul Steinle