Saturday, November 22, 2008

Competitive Journalism: UPI v. AP

Remembering "The Wire"

For a fascinating look at tooth-in-nail competition that was wire service Journalism in the 60's the American Journalism Review carried a remembrance of "Smitty" Merriman, one of my idols, and his unbelievable work covering the the JFK assassination.

According to the subhead of this 1998 feature, "Some view it as the finest deadline reporting of the century."

As a reporter for UPI in New Jersey's Statehouse in the late 60's I remembered the pure thrill of beating the Associated Press across the hall on a story. (We called them "Rox" which I believe was a reference to the AP's Rockefeller Center headquarters.)

As poignant a memory is the near depression and embarrassment we felt when the AP beat us on a story.

"Splitting the wire for Pittsburgh," sending photos on a telefax or whatever they called it that took a half hour for one 8 x10" picture; the chuk-a-chuka-chuka mechanical syncopation of the teletypes are still fresh in my mind.

That was Journalism. Here's a photo of a young UPI reporter sending a report from that UPI statehouse bureau in Trenton.

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