Tuesday, January 20, 2015

AP vs. UP: So, what's the difference?

Ruth Brown, the main character in my stories, is a small town reporter in New Hampshire who signs up with the Associated Press (AP) to cover World War II in Europe. Why didn’t I have Ruth join the United Press Associations (UP)? To be honest I simply picked one, thinking it didn’t matter. Now that I’ve researched both organizations, I realize how very different they are.
By the time WWII began, the AP was nearly 100 years old having been started by five New York City newspapers in 1846. Prior to that, news was delivered through the United States Postal Service. With the Mexican War in full swing, the AP needed a faster system. As a result the five newspapers joined together to fund a pony express route through Alabama.

Mark Kellogg, AP reporter who died with Custer
Time passed, and the AP took advantage of new technology as it was invented. First the railroad then telegraph and teletype, followed by wire then radio. In 2005, the AP created a digital database that according to their website has “allowed the agency to deliver news instantly…nearly as quickly as the news itself unfolds.”
On the other hand, United Press Association was an upstart in the early days of WWII. Founded in 1907 it was just over thirty years old at the start of the war. The founder, E.W. Scripps, began UP in an effort to break the AP monopoly on the U.S. news dissemination industry. UP had fewer resources, so armed itself with a “we try harder attitude” and reporters who would do just about anything to get the story. UP reporters were called “Unipressers” and were known for being highly competitive. With no formal training program, journalists were expected to “sink or swim” on their own.

In 1935, UP became the first major news service to supply news to radio stations, beating out AP by several years. The organization grew through WWII, and in 1952 acquired Acme News pictures which enabled them to offer news picture services. During its heyday, UP had more than 6,000 employees and over 6,200 subscribers.
In 1958, UP merged with International News to become United Press International, however the company did not fare well during the rise of television and struggled to maintain its market. A series of owners and two bankruptcy filings have taken their toll on the organization. As of 2007, UPI no longer has a White House correspondent or UN coverage, instead focusing expanding operations in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa, and reporting on security threats, intelligence and energy issues. Now, located in only six major cities, the UPI website cites its use of “lay reporters, photographers and videographers, and a plethora of sources to publish and receive information.”

As a scrappy, young “newshound,” Ruth may find the United Press Associations more to her liking. What do you think?
A freelance writer for over ten years, Linda Matchett also writes historical fiction. She is currently seeking a publisher for her series about war correspondent Ruth Brown. Visit her at www.LindaShentonMatchett.com


  1. Linda, what an ingesting post. I have to be honest, I have never known much about UPI. Now I do. Thank you!

  2. You're welcome. Glad you liked the post.

  3. I was not familiar with the United Press and didn't realize the Associated Press dated back so far. Thank you for sharing this interesting and informative post!