More Wirespeak: A Story About Sharks

By Bill Mead

Wirespeak msgs were often used to alert a UPI bureau that Rox–the AP–had an edge on an ongoing story. Working in RV–the Richmond, Virginia, bureau in 1958, under H.L. Stevenson–we were frantically following a shipwreck story out of Norfolk. Lots of sailors in life vests were bobbing in the ocean. Rescue boats carried sailors and the boats were in touch with the UPI and AP bureaus. Lots of big fish, mostly dolphins, were in sight, and the UPI observer unfortunately knew the difference between a shark and a dolphin.The AP’s observer did not, and phoned in a report of “hundreds of sharks,” which was sure to win the competitive play against the correct UPI version. But NX–New York, the UPI boss bureau–wouldn’t stand for it, so we got this mesg under -95-, which signified urgency:

Rox “hundreds of sharks.” Nd more sharks.

We managed to find some.

Bill Mead toiled for UPI in Richmond, Chicago, Detroit, and Washington.  He moved on to magazine work and to authoring six books on baseball history.

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