WASHINGTON, May 16 (UPI) -- United Press International said Friday it was restructuring its editorial and business operations to focus on new and growing global markets, and would be laying off 16 of its editorial staff.
The company said it will concentrate on two main products -- commentary, news analysis and in-depth news reports; and news brief packages tailored for wireless devices, digital kiosks, television and Web sites.
Those affected received 4-weeks notice individually on Friday and were provided with job placement services. Some details of the layoffs were still under negotiation with the Wire Service Guild, which told the UPI staff about the layoffs Wednesday after meeting with the company. Staff voted last year for union representation and a contract with the Guild is in negotiation.
"This repositioning will enable UPI to focus its strongest journalism on its strongest market opportunities," said Editor-in-Chief John O'Sullivan, former editor of National Review who came to UPI in 2000. "I am only sorry that it has had to be accompanied by the loss of so many able, loyal and hardworking colleagues. I wish them well."
Under O'Sullivan's tenure UPI has focused on adding high-quality reporters and writers with proven expertise in their coverage areas, to increase the amount of authoritative commentary, news analysis and depth reports being produced by the company.
The company, founded in 1907, lost money steadily for years as a general news service under five previous owners before the company was purchased in 2000 by News World Communications Inc., founded by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. UPI officials said the layoffs and restructuring to focus on core strengths were necessary to establish the 96-year-old news agency in new markets.
"We are looking forward to moving in this exciting new direction," said Bill Creighton, UPI company spokesman. "The world has become saturated with breaking news from many, many sources and we believe that the value of our products is not simply in reporting the news, but in telling readers what impact the news will have on them."
Executive Editor Tobin Beck said the commentary, analysis and in-depth reporting would focus on issues of major concern -- particularly those of interest to business decision makers. He said most of this material would be produced by staff and would incorporate news reporting into the final product.
"We are taking the best of what we do now and concentrating on that," Beck said. "One thing this company has always done over the years is adapt to markets in ways that maintain UPI's integrity and independence."
He said UPI's newsbriefs products would be produced seven days a week, from 6 a.m. to midnight, and would consist of about 250 items a day touching on general news, sports, business, entertainment, health, science and oddball stories. Beck said much of the newsbriefs material would be produced by stringers.
Beck said neither product is new to the company. For example, United Press journalists have regularly written analysis, particularly during both World Wars. In mid-1941, a young Harrison Salisbury, then on the New York cables desk, wrote dispatches that correctly forecast Germany's invasion of Russia.
UPI was also a pioneer in the production of news briefs for radio and more recently has fine tuned that technique for new electronic markets.
In addition to the new products, Creighton said UPI would expand its Spanish language services with information "focused on issues relevant to the Hispanic community in the United States, adding to its existing Spanish service from Latin America."
The company will also will be "Enhancing Arabic language coverage, including original analysis and commentary from reporters in the Middle East, and content from partner news agencies in the Arab world."
The company was founded as United Press by newspaper publisher E.W. Scripps in 1907. It merged with International News Service to form UPI in 1958.