United Press International was a great journalistic institution. For
all practical purposes, it no longer exists.
Once UPI was one of the largest and feistiest news organizations in
the world. Today it has no more than a handful of editorial employees
and, even sadder, not one newspaper client in the Western Hemisphere.
Last week, what’s left of UPI was purchased by News World
Communications, Inc., the parent company of the Washington Times.
It was big news because UPI was once a big name in the media world
and because News World Communications is run by … gasp! …
foreigners. Not just foreigners, mind you, but rich Korean foreigners
with unconventional religious practices. Worse yet, these foreigners are
anti-communists and promote the traditional family as the cornerstone of
a healthy society.
The Washington Post, which competes against the Washington Times,
pointed out in its news story on the sale of UPI that News World
Communications “is controlled by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the
Unification Church and the conservative voice behind the Times’
No sooner was the sale announced than Helen Thomas, an institution
within the institution and the dean of the White House press corps,
resigned from UPI. Thomas is 79. Notice that she is not retiring, she’s
resigning. She says she still wants to work and hopes to be back at the
White House for some other news agency. But she wouldn’t work for the
new UPI and the new owners.
Now, I admire Helen Thomas. And, if she’s serious about wanting to
work at the White House as an octogenarian, I’ll make a public offer of
a job to her as WND White House correspondent right here and now. Hey,
after all, we’re both Lebanese. But there’s something strange about this
resignation and about the reaction of the establishment press to the
news about UPI last week.
Helen Thomas put up with a succession of owners at UPI. There were
the Saudi princes. There were the Marxist Mexicans. Even Pat Robertson
flirted with buying UPI for a time. What put Helen Thomas over the edge?
And why is there so much concern, suddenly, about the fate of an
irrelevant news agency in the hands of News World Communications?
Frankly, I think News World Communications has done an admirable job
with the Washington Times over the years — at least from an editorial
perspective. It’s a paper of great integrity. It’s a paper that has a
track record of breaking stories, doing good investigative work and
being more provocative than the Post.
UPI is under the leadership of a great newsman in Arnaud de
Borchgrave, a former editor of the Times and a top-flight talent at
Newsweek for many years. What are people worried about?
I’ll tell you. Those who are making the sideways comments about UPI’s
new owners are, to cut to the chase, racists and bigots.
If UPI’s new owners were not Asians, were not conservatives and were
not religious people, there would be no problem with this deal in the
eyes of the critics. That’s bigotry. That’s small-mindedness. And it’s
one of the reasons the establishment press is losing its monopoly grip
I think there’s plenty of room in America for more voices — voices
like the Washington Times.
It’s funny, the establishment press holds conferences all year long
promoting “diversity” in its ranks, in its coverage, in its hiring
practices. But when the rubber meets the road, these folks don’t want
real diversity within the industry at all. In fact, they try to stamp it
out at every turn.
So, Helen Thomas, don’t let your colleagues pressure you out of the
news agency you have known and loved for 57 years. Go back to UPI where
you belong. And, if not, consider doing your thing for WND — the next
great journalistic institution.