Mike Hughes Obit

Malcolm K. ("Mike") Hughes

Malcolm K. ("Mike") Hughes, whose 30-year career with United Press International began as a teletype operator and ended as vice president and editor-in-chief, died Sept. 11. He was 66.

Hughes suffered stomach cancer, his third bout with the disease in 18 years.

A Briton, Hughes built his UPI career around sports, becoming European sports editor in London in 1967 and, in 1973, executive sports editor in New York. His sports writing career took him around the world and to seven Olympic Games.

Hughes transferred to the news side of the agency in 1977 as regional news editor for Pennsylvania and West Virginia, based in Pittsburgh. In 1978, he moved to Toronto where, as editor-in-chief, he helped create United Press Canada, a joint venture of UPI and the Toronto Sun Publishing Corp., and a successor to UPI of Canada.

He returned to New York in 1980 as a regional executive, selling the service in New York City, New York state and New Jersey. Named vice president and general manager of UPI's international division in 1983, he moved to Washington where, the following year, he became executive vice president and editor-in-chief.

Hughes was prominent among those who sought to preserve UPI, which had been sold by the E.W. Scripps family and was in the midst of financial and organizational difficulties. He resigned in 1986 in a dispute with the new owners over how the agency should be run. His involvement in UPI's internal battles was documented in the book, Down to the Wire: UPI's Fight for Survival, by Gregory Gordon and Ronald E. Cohen, published in 1990 by McGraw-Hill.

Hughes' courage at the time of the UPI crisis and in his battles with cancer inspired his colleagues.

"Mike was a hell of a newsman, a Unipresser right down to his toenails," said author Cohen, a former UPI writer now with Gannett News Service. "He was also, medically, the toughest guy I ever met."

Lucian Carr, who spent 47 years with UPI in New York and Washington, said Hughes "practically carried UPI by himself during its dark days. He was a cheerleader and kept us all going with his never-say-die spirit."

Patrick Harden, Washington bureau chief for LRP publications, who worked at UPI with Hughes in Europe, the United States and Canada, said his sense of humor, and "sheer guts" in fighting cancer led Hughes, made bald by chemotherapy, to send friends pictures of himself sucking a lollipop. Across the photograph was written, "How do you like my Kojak look?"

Hughes was recognized as an innovator who inspired many young reporters to expand their careers.

Pohla Smith, now with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who in 1975 was selected by Hughes to be UPI's first female sportswriter, described him as "the most colorful and inspiring man I could ever hope to work for.

"I carry the most vivid memory of him at the (Los Angeles Olympic) Games in sandals because his feet were so messed up from chemotherapy that he couldn't wear shoes, but he was carrying on, just as he always told us to do. You couldn't help but work your fanny off, because he did."

Skip Wachter, news editor of the Harrisburg, Pa., Patriot-News, whom Hughes trained in Pittsburgh, said he owes his career to his former editor. "He set the bar very high," he said.

After leaving UPI, Hughes served for a year as a visiting lecturer in journalism at Baylor University. He then joined the American Press Institute in Reston, Va., as an associate director. He took medical retirement from API in 1992 when he suffered a brain tumor.

He was diagnosed with stomach cancer in April.

Born Jan. 13, 1934, in India of an Irish-Italian father and Spanish-Portuguese mother, Malcolm Keith Mary Ignatius Hughes went to England at 17. He spent five years in the Royal Air Force before joining UPI in 1956. He is survived by his wife of 46 years, Morfydd (Nicky) of Arlington, Va., their daughter, Christine Dian, of London; one brother, Desmond, of Essex, UK, and one sister, Shirley, of Malaga, Spain.