(A personal view by Dan Wooding of Assist Communications - Garden Grove, Calif.)
The Los Angeles Times has done a fine editorial on the demise of the UPI Radio Network under the headline, "An Old News Pro Signs Off." It was a moving tribute to an ailing old friend, but a dear friend to those of us in the news business.
"The radio service was UPI's last presence in mainstream new gathering, aside from the enduring Helen Thomas, still reporting from the White House and dean of it's press corps," said the editorial.
The viewpoint added, "UPI does leave a legacy in newsrooms around the world, where ex-Unipressers (Walter Cronkite is the most famous alumnus) swap fond stories of long hours, bad pay and the adrenaline rush of meeting deadlines around the clock. It was a fine education."
United Press International has gone out of the broadcast news business, selling its last radio contracts to its rival, the Associated Press (AP).
I had the privilege for 10 years of doing a weekly commentary on religious persecution around the world for UPI Radio, and I am sorry that this has had to stop because of management's decision to get out of the broadcast news business. Many of my friends, like Sharon Gotkin, the Religion Editor, and Dennis Daily, who so cheerfully manned the LA office for UPI Radio, have lost their jobs.
My greatest memory of UPI Radio was when, some four years ago, I filed stories for them for a week, from Pyongyang, North Korea. Each morning, a UPI colleague would call my hotel room from Beijing and I would voice two stories, which he would record and then send on to the Washington, D.C., headquarters. We had set up a code so that I could advise my colleague if I felt the North Koreans were listening me to, so that he wouldn't ask too many leading questions. If I thought they were listening in -- which was every day -- I would state, "Say hello to Bill's mother in Amarillo." I was referring to the mother of Bill Clough, a friend who then worked at the DC office.
UPI was always poor in its payments and all I would get for each story was $15.00, for which I would often have to wait for months. Still, like all of us who were correspondents with UPI, we were pleased to file with such a network that had such a wonderful history.
All I can say is, "Farewell, UPI. We are going to miss you."