The New York Times Cancellation

Here's The Washington Post' Oct. 28, 1986, story on The New York Times' decision to drop UPI. At the time, many believed this was the beginning of the end for UPI:


By Eleanor Randolph

The New York Times, one of the largest and most pretigious clients of United Press International, has decided to cancel its use of the struggling news service as of Dec. 31, Times spokesman Leonard Harris said yesterday.

The decision against renewing a contract worth almost $1 million a year came after Times editors reviewed their use of the news service and determined "we can better invest our resources in the continued improvement of our own news gathering network," assistant managing editor James L. Greenfield said in a note posted in The Times newsroom.

The decision was seen as a devastating blow to UPI, which has annual revenues of about $75 million.

However, some of those at UPI reportedly held out the hope that Times executives were using the cancellation as a negotiating position and would change their minds at the last minute.

UPI president Maxwell McCrohon said, "I have no comment at this time."

"Sometimes people cancel their cancellations," said former Boston Globe editor Thomas Winship, who is now chairman of UPI's Editorial Review Board.

However, Greenfield said yesterday that "it is not a negotiating position. This is it ... We didn't want to negotiate by putting a sign up in our city room. If we wanted to negotiate, we would send them a private letter."

Greenfield said that he did not believe the loss of The New York Times as a client would be a death blow to UPI, which was rescued from bankruptcy when Mario Vazquez-Rana purchased the service for $41 million this summer.

"We're a customer, a big customer, but we're not the only customer," Greenfield said.

Others within the journalistic community, however, said they believed The Times decision could mean other news organizations would cancel their contracts with UPI.

"This is very serious stuff. I think it's a heavy blow for UPI," said William Thomas, editor of The Los Angeles Times.

"That is devastating news for UPI," said Patrick J. Purcell, publisher of the Boston Herald. "I'm sure with the leadership role The Times has with other media organizations will cause them to question more seriously their own relationship with UPI."

"That's bad news for our business," said Washington Post executive editor Benjamin C. Bradlee. "We had been hoping that with a little more time UPI would get back to where it once was, as truly effective competition for The Associated Press."

The Times allowed its contract with UPI to lapse last June, Greenfield said. However, after UPI officials conferred with Times editors, they agreed to continue to take the service for what Greenfield called "a short test period."

Greenfield said that the editors decided that UPI did not serve the Times' needs because it had concentrated primarily on its smaller clients, such as those who use its radio reports, it statehouse coverage and weekend feature packages.

"If they tailored themselves to us and wrote 1,000 word pieces, they'd probably be out of business," he said.

Greenfield said The Times had notified UPI that the paper wants to continue buying the UPI photo service, which is a small percentage of their contract. Corporate spokesman Harris said that they had not heard from UPI managers about whether that would be allowed.

In his notice to The Times news staff, Greenfield said: "In making this obviously difficult decision, we had to weigh UPI's overall performance against our unique needs now and for the foreseeable future. We will follow UPI's future course with interest, and we wish for its success."

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