1984 Washington Post Story on Relocation of UPI Headquarters

(Here's March 1, 1984, story from The Washington Post, written by Ann L. Trebbe, under the headline: UPI Wires Into D.C.. At the end of this piece is a copy of a letter from President Reagan to UPI congratulating the company on the move from New York to Washington)


United Press International last night celebrated the opening of a new World Headquarters Building here and the migration of most of its news-gathering operation from the Big Apple -- the town that never sleeps -- to Washington.

"It's much better than I thought it would be," said Max McCrohon, the wire service's executive vice president and editor in chief. "I thought it would be much more of a country town than it is. It's very manageable."

"The Mighty Max!" shouted Ray Coffey, Washington bureau chief of the Chicago Tribune, as he shook hands with McCrohon. "Nice digs you have here, Max."

"It's certainly getting that way," McCrohon said. McCrohon spent 20 years at the Chicago Tribune before his start five months ago with UPI in New York.

Everywhere in the smoke-filled, packed eighth and ninth floor offices of the building at 14th and I streets NW could be heard the ticking of wire machines and the clinking of cubes. The most common phrases were, "Now, there's an old face! How have you been?"

About 500 people, many of whom either work or used to work somewhere for UPI or who work for other news media, ate fresh fruit and hot brie and got drinks from the many open bars.

But the reason for the partying was really twofold. In addition to showing off the sleek new offices, the Society of Professional Journalists, Sigma Delta Chi, wanted to mark the building with a plaque as a "Historic Site in Journalism," one of only four such awards made by SPJ/SDX in 42 years.

William Small, UPI president and chief operating officer, accepted the plaque after reading a message of congratulations from President Reagan.

Sen. Larry Pressler (R-S.D.) stopped by and offered congratulations to Douglas F. Ruhe, managing director and chief executive officer.

Ruhe and William Geissler, both Nashville businessmen, bought the news service in 1982 from the E.W. Scripps Co. The purchase prompted some controversy because the two have virtually no news experience, are former publicists for the Bahi' faith and have social activist backgrounds. But both predict that UPI, which has been in financial straits for the past two decades, will be back in the black this year.

"As a matter of fact," said Geissler, "someone just gave the figures for February and we did $7 million in new business . . . and that was the best in UPI history."

McCrohon, however, concentrated on what the move will mean to the news-gathering process.

"The biggest danger in Washington is catching Potomac Fever and seeing everything as politics," McCrohon said. "We best beware we don't think this is the center of the news world. This is just the headquarters; the real UPI is out there in Tokyo and Topeka and Latin America. We've got to remember to keep it all in focus."


Here's a copy of Reagan's letter, dated Feb. 24, 1984:

It is a great privilege for me to extend my warmest greetings to all who gather to celebrate the opening of United Press International's new world headquarters.

This important occasion provides me with a most welcome opportunity to congratulate the management and staff of UPI on this major milestone in your history. You have come a long way since the merger of 1958 brought the United Press Associations and the International News Service together to form UPI.

America's tradition of a free press and the enterprising spirit and hard work of news organizations like UPI have helped build and preserve the precious liberties we in the United States treasure so deeply.

Nancy joins me in wishing you continued success and effectiveness at your new location on Eye Street. -- Ronald Reagan