Cox News on UPI Sale

Here's a story from Rowland Nethaway of the Cox News Service, headlined: 'UPI RIP'

WACO, Texas -- A cynical wordsmith once compared workers on daily newspapers to cowboys on a dinosaur ranch.

The heyday of dinosaurs is long gone, of course. Sometimes I feel print journalism is headed in the same direction.

I'm a little bummed after reading that the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church has acquired the United Press International wire service.

A right-wing Korean cult, according to many observers, now owns the once-venerated wire service that regularly out-wrote and out-hustled all competitors, including the stodgy Associated Press.

My father Charles Nethaway lived and died, literally, a United Press man.

He hooked up with the UP bureau in Dallas after he returned from World War II. Getting the news, getting it first, ensuring that it was accurate, making it sing and punching it out to UP clients ahead of the competition was more than a job for my father. It was his passion.

I used to go to the bureau to watch them work. The place was filled with cigarette smoke, quips and a constant sense of urgency due to the machine-gun rattle of Underwoods, Royals and teletypes pounding out the news.

Some kids rooted for Cardinals or Dodgers. I rooted for UP to whip AP, the International News Service and all the minor-league pretenders to wire service supremacy.

The United Press signed up newspapers and broadcasters as clients. The Associated Press signed up newspapers and broadcasters as members. The broadcasters back then were radio stations. Television was on the drawing boards.

AP had a greater reach since each member agreed to put its copy on the AP wire. A lot of the AP copy, considering its scattered sources, was full of holes and errors and was poorly written, according to my father and other UP word warriors.

Before long, my father was promoted to the New Orleans UP bureau, which was a culture shock for Texas natives. My father met my mother when they both worked on a Texas newspaper. My grandfather and uncle worked on Texas newspapers.

But we left for New Orleans to kick some AP butt, which, I was told, the UP bureau did with both regularity and alacrity.

The next promotion sent us to Kansas City, where the AP needed to be taken down a notch or two. I was happy to get out of New Orleans. The town was sinking under the weight of sadistic teachers.

At one point, my father had the opportunity to take on the AP in New York City. As a family, we decided to pass on the Big Apple.

My hard-charging father died on the job due to a cerebral hemorrhage. I've since watched UP, then UPI when it purchased INS, go downhill.

AP's membership formula proved superior to UPI's client approach as newspapers around the country began to fold.

Afternoon newspapers gave in to morning newspapers. Competing newspapers were either bought out or closed their doors. Few American cities now have competing dailies.

Newspapers also have been hard hit by an explosion of niche media outlets competing for advertising dollars.

Life magazine, one of the last general-interest, mass-circulation magazines, announced its demise the day before the Rev. Moon took control of UPI.

Now traditional news operations struggle to keep up with what passes for news-gathering on the Internet. There's no way to determine if what appears on the Internet is accurate, or even if it occurred.

Traditional ink-on-newsprint newspapers remain the most credible source for news. We hope the public understands this.

It was a sad day in American journalism when UPI was taken over by the Moonies.