'UPI Excels at Panama Coverage'

This is an item from the January 1990 internal publication UPI Advance:

The calls from the White House came around 12:45 a.m. (EST) Dec. 20, 1989. A Panamanian military television report came from Panama City at 1 a.m.

United States military forces had invaded Panama.

UPI Chief White House Correspondent Helen Thomas and UPI Radio Correspondent Bill Small began their days at 1:40 a.m., at the first White House briefing. UPI Managing Editor Bill Ferguson returned to the World Desk in Washington. UPI Correspondent Tomas Cupas and stringer John Otis were in Panama City. Staffers from around the world immediately geared up for a day of intensive teamwork.

"It was an exemplary effort by the people in Panama City and the Washington reporting staff, especially the World Desk," said Ferguson. "They all reacted quickly and kept the story on the mark all day. Everybody went above and beyond the call of duty."

By 11 a.m., Dec. 20, UPI had transmitted nine leads on the main story and 18 sidebars. UPI Radio had been broadcasting extensive reports, including special updates and expanded special reports for hours.

UPI World Desk Editor Pat Walsh and UPI Central American Correspondent Douglas Tweedale (based in Managua, Nicaragua) were making their way to Costa Rica, trying to get to Panama, as was UPI Radio Chicago Bureau Chief Jay Sapir, who managed to get into Panama during the Oct. 3 unsuccessful coup attempt. In addition, there were UPI wire and broadcast correspondent reports throughout the day from Eliot Brenner and UPI Radio Correspondent Ed Connors at the Pentagon; Norm Sandler at the White House; Mexico City Bureau Chief Upendra Nath Mishra; Don Finefrock and UPI Radio Correspondent Rob Navias in Miami; Steve Gerstel and UPI Radio Correspondent Carol Van Dam on Capitol Hill; UPI Radio New York Bureau chief Ed Kerins at the United Nations, and others.

The hard work in those crucial first hours did not go unnoticed. Bob Pearman, dayside managing editor of the Omaha World Herald, called to say, "I just read (UPI's main lead). It's better than AP."