Former UPI editor Don Reed dies

By United Press International

Former United Press International Managing Editor Donald Upham Reed has died in Tulsa, Okla. He was two weeks shy of his 76th birthday.

Reed worked nearly 34 years as a reporter, writer, and editor for UPI until he retired in 1983, when the wire service moved its headquarters from New York to Washington. He continued working as a professor of journalism at Oklahoma State University, until he retired in 1994.


Reed, who died Oct. 31, was known and admired by UPI colleagues as an unflappable newsman whose mentoring helped produce a generation of professional writers and editors.

"He gave us plenty of slack and was never stingy about handing out praise if it was due," said Don Mullen, longtime UPI general desk editor who worked for Reed in New York.

"His method of operating was to help steer you along the right track -- gently, so that at the conclusion you felt it was your accomplishment, even though you might not have been able to do it alone," said Ronald E. Cohen, who succeeded Reed as UPI's managing editor in 1983.


Born Nov. 17, 1926 in Fresno, Calif., the son of a newspaper production worker, Reed enlisted in the Navy in 1944 and was on a troop ship headed to the Far East for the final invasion of Japan when the war ended.

He returned home and enrolled in Fresno State College on the GI Bill. In the crush of post-war enrollment in 1946, Reed met Marcia Snyder in a biology course registration line. They were married Aug. 10, 1947.

In 1950, having earned a bachelor's degree in journalism in three years, Reed landed an opening in the Fresno bureau of United Press for $32 per week.

Reed reported from Fresno for UP until 1963, when he was named manager of the Salt Lake City bureau of UPI, as the service was known after the 1958 merger with International News Service.

He was named San Francisco bureau manager in 1965 and became Southwest division news editor in Dallas in 1969. While in the Southwest, Reed was a key participant in UPI's Apollo space program coverage.

During the harrowing Apollo 13 mission, Reed invented a system of writing advance leads on key moments of the drama -- re-entry, splashdown and rescue -- allowing editors around the world to get the news out quickly. Recalled Cohen: "I am all but certain this was unique in wire service annals, and it worked perfectly. If I recall, UPI won the play on splashdown, no doubt largely because of this incredible planning innovation."


Reed moved on to head the UPI Central Division in Chicago in 1975 and was named worldwide managing editor in New York in 1979.

Reed also took part in coverage of the Robert F. Kennedy assassination; national political conventions, presidential campaigns and elections; deaths of presidents Truman and Johnson; the Iranian hostage crisis and Pope John Paul II's U.S. visit, and major sports events ranging from Winter Olympics to golf tournaments and track and field championships.

"In my career with UPI every day was a challenge to beat The Associated Press," Reed wrote in his memoir, published in 1994. Although as an editor he got few bylines, Reed said, "My joy came from being able to rewrite copy to make the reporter worthy of a byline and to beat the AP in daily logs of stories used in major newspapers."

Known as a stickler for style and precise writing, Reed, in a farewell message to UPI colleagues on October 7, 1983, wrote: "Strive for tight writing, with solid color and meaningful quotes, and above all, be accurate."

He is survived by his wife Marcia; sons Hal, David and Richard; and several grandchildren.

Funeral services were being arranged through the Church of the Holy Spirit in Tulsa.


(Thanks to Andy Yemma, a UPI alumnus, a Unipresser)

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