UPI on Khrushchev's Death

Following is a collection of eurologs, contributed by Richard Roy. As background on the dates involved, ex-Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev died on Sept. 11, 1971, at age 77 from a heart attack:


In the London bureau early one Saturday afternoon, mailer Harry Stevens and copy boy Scotty Burnett came in shouting a stop press item in an edition of The London Evening News. The single paragraph, in red ink, carried a Moscow dateline and said Nikita S. Khrushchev had died of a heart attack. No source was given. There was no by-line. It was the same newspaper which in a one-paragraph 1964 item reported Khrushchev's ouster.

The Evening News' man in Moscow was one Victor Louis, or at least a Russian who used that name with the West.) London bulletin-messaged Moscow and Al Webb storified The Evening News item.

Jim Jackson in Moscow takes the story from there:

"In Moscow, Murphy's law is inviolable: the worst possible thing always happens at the worst possible time. When Henry Shapiro had a heart attack and went to hospital, we expected stories to break. And when, Saturday, when the wire to London was down, Dave Nagy started loading sheets into a typewriter. Right on schedule, TASS announced the demise of Luna 18. Bulletin. Then Khrushchev died. Flash.

"When we got word via telex from London that Victor Louis had reported the death, Peter Shaw leaped for the K file, Dave Nagy bade goodbye to a rarely scheduled day off and I called Ludmilla Shapiro. Ludmilla called some friends and within 15 minutes called back with the confirmation and the details, both of which Louis lacked.

"Shaw pencilled up the tentative bulletin he had been holding and rolled with it on an open telex line to London as soon as Ludmilla telephoned.

"To that he added a 'short' obit that had been written a few months ago. London rolled with a file, full-length obit that had been written and kept up to date over the years. Dave reached into the Moscow files and came up with his piece on K's style, written six months ago.

"With Ludmilla's clearance, I called on Henry at the hospital to take down his memoiur on Khrushchev, hiding my notebook each time a doctor or nurse came in. Of course, a plethora of sidebars and analyses still had to be done but the basic layout had been written long before. There's a lesson there."

The whole division went to work on the story. the hunt for reaction from the men and women who dealt with Khrushchwev was on. Karol Thaler, plumbing Hungary that Saturday. sat down beside Lake Balaton and analysed the Krushchev impact. In Paris, Aline Mosby delved into her thousands of pages of Moscow notebooks and produced her memoir of Mr. K's salad days.

In London, Ray Paganelli was conferring in the second floor newsroom on another matter when the K-dead shout went to him. He galloped up to the third floor and pix shot ahead.

In Audio, where Pat Thoroughgood was arranging a voicer from Moscow on Luna 18's demise, he nodded at the newsroom's report and told Moscow on the phone that he was now more interested in another Soviet death.

The overcoming of Murphy's Law, said the log, soon became known.


LONDON -- The Evening Standard phoned to say UPI was unbeatably ahead of all competition.

PARIS -- Alex Frere messaged Moscow, "Jackson. Your confirmation Khrushchev's death quoted in all French radio flashes. At least 20 minutes ahead of others, they say."

CARACAS -- "We 19 (minutes) ahead of AP."

BOGOTA -- "First opposition report on Khrushchev was Reuters' 'unconfirmed rumour' at 1335 GMT, 30 minutes after London dispatch and six minutes after our Moscow family sources confirmation."

The Observer, a British national Sunday newspaper, the next morning published on its front page comments on Khrushchev from the few it judged significant -- Ave Harriman, Lord Avon, Olof Palme, Edward Kennedy . . . and Henry Shapiro.