Paul Steinle's Missives



Here's one of the so-called "hotline" messages posted in 1988 by then-new UPI president Paul Steinle, who came in with the FNN takeover:


338m memo 3-9 to: all staff from: paul steinle re: management update 3 date: march 9, 1988
the responses the management team have received to our questionaire seeking your opinions on our current products and your suggestions for our direction in the future have been extensive and excellent. they have confirmed what we knew when we joined upi: that the upi staff has intelligence, perception and skill. within the very tight time frame that we have set for ourselves to develop a business plan -- a time frame necessitated by the need to find a way to keep the company from liquidation -- we can't get back to everyone and comment on every idea and suggestion. but i wanted to share with you some parts of some analyses that we consider to be especially thought- provoking and perceptive -- analyses that are going to be part of our thinking as we put the new business plan together. from sports editor david tucker: "the basic mission of the few upi reporters we have is to arrive at the office each morning and begin reacting to the events of the day, whether they be the governor's next speech or a four-car traffic pileup. this is the ap tune, it's the ap notion of a general wire service: disorganized, unthinking, poorly planned, and deliberately designed to lose money year after year. "the ap has no trouble covering the world under loosely defined general heading 'news' because its basic undertaking with the american newspaper industry is to provide news at cost. each year it is in the interest of the ap to cover more news so that its costs increase, because if they ever once begin to make money, they are in big trouble. they will get less money in the next budget and they will no longer appear to be a cooperative. "and, this is the kind of 'business' we are trying to imitate in every state of the upi union. true, we no longer cover quite as much as ap and in some areas we cover a lot less, but again this is the bitter legacy of being a bloody imitator, because once you find you cannot compete at every level against a company that sells news at cost then you are left with only one identity: you are similar to the ap, but smaller and headed for bankruptcy. "that's why we have to begin defining ourselves and forging our own mission rather than letting our competition do it for us. and we have to start by defining the mos amorphous section of the upi report: the news. "saying we are going to cover only broadcast news or only state news is just not going to turn the trick, because once we have done that we still have not defined what specific kinds of news we are going to cover. the information to be gathered is endless. ap is proof, and for that matter, so are we. we produce enough information to fill a newspaper 50 times over, yet still we wring our hands and fret that we don't produce enough. "it's such bs. we produce enough all right, but we produce basically what ap produces. we have a little bettere quality in some areas and less quality in others. "the quality would be one hellava lot better if we finally did some targeting. every single bureau in the company must be told what the daily priorities are for the general upi report, what information is needed and what must be ignored. "if this were to be done it would finally provide us with something upi has never had as far as i can tell: a ruthless sense of purpose. and, it would mean that each upi staffer from the president to the reporter in the florida state house would know where the battle lay each morning." david's well-thought-out overview shows the sort of thinking that we need in order to make an appropriate place for ourselves in today's marketplace -- where excellence in the criterion that will set us apart. in fact, the theme of excellence has been taken up by a number of unipressers and by most of the clients we have been contacting around the nation and the world. example: ken whitehurst in toronto: "i do not think upi's problem is that it fails to cover enough, or write enough. we move more copy each day than anyone can possibly use. we have enough people to tell an interesting story about the world every day. the question to ask is how much of it is pertinent to readers, and don't think i'm calling for long 'in-depth' stories because that is not what i mean. what i do mean is such as skipping the bafflegab of news conferences in favoring of covering real news. just because some governor or some mayor says something does not mean it is newsworthy ... "i think the way to the resurrection of upi involves patience, salesmanship and solid reporting. in our bureau in recent weeks, mike babad has methodically dominated the cover of robert campeau's efforts to take over federated stores and, now, macy's attempt to do the same. he has had five byline stories in the washington post (four of them consecutively). he has interviewed campeau repeatedly while others, including the new york times and wall street journal, have reported campeau 'declined to be interviewed.' his stories have outstripped those of the local papers. his success is not because of a better market for business stories versus sports or news stories (mike handles those with aplomb, too). it's because there is a market for 'better' reporting. we need more of this and we need to be unflinching in promoting it. there is no place anymore for what i once heard called 'traditional upi modesty'." more upi 03-09-88 03:16 pcs

339m memo-1stadd 3-9 XXX UPI MODESTY ken is one of many people urging us to look at what the marketplace is accepting and make our management judgments accordingly. that's what we're trying to do, of course, by talking with current customers, recent dropouts, and potential customers who do not currently believe upi is offering them what they want or need. gary edwards in dallas presents the market-driven approach forcefully: "with things in the dreadful shape they are in i'd suggest that we find out what portions of upi are in the best shape and most wanted and place all our energy into shoring thoses areas up -- and discard the rest ... cut the weak, improve the strong portions of the company and should a time arrive somewhere down the road that upi is once again healthy, then the company can look at going back into some areas it has been in the past. for some it will mean loss of jobs and i'm not kidding myself, mine might be one of them. but for the good of the company these eliminations and these changes in the basic product need to be made. it's safe to say that without a healthy company none will have jobs shortly anyway, so let's not waste any more time." the possibility of staff cuts was on the minds of a number of you, including lance herdegen in milwaukee: "there is a great nervousness among clients about upi's continued existence. the publicity given possible staff cuts has caused rampant fear there will be no upi service with no notice. if these cuts are necessary to keep upi liquid, they should be made immediately, to the level needed to ensure survivability, and explained in every forum possible. clients generally can understand business and editorial decisions. it is the uncertainty that is most worrisome." it continues to be our goal to eliminate the uncertainty with which most of you have lived for so long -- and to do so as quickly as possible. we are heartened, and impressed, to find so many excellent ideas and strategies emerging from your responses to our questionnaire. of course , as a number of you have told us, anything we decide is going to upset some people while pleasing others. to cite just one exampe: a number of you have said our sports coverage is a major benefit to clients and ought to be expanded, while others have told us that sports takes too much time and energy away from news coverage for the sake of dealing with little-used stories in little-followed sports. there is no way we can satisfy both sides of that equation. but we just wanted you to know that we appreciate your useful insights and your opinions about what is right and wrong with upi as it currently stands. we are determined to save this company from liquidation by whatever means necessary and we need your continued help and support as we get our business plan together in the next couple of weeks. and we will share our thinking with you, just as you have generously shared it with us. pms upi 03-09-88 03:21 pcs