More Wirespeak Stories: “Nd more sharks”

Mike Feinsilber posted yesterday about “The Secret Language We Used to Use,” the shorthand method that Associated Press and United Press International journalists used to communicate with other bureaus.

Bill Mead, who worked for UPI in Richmond, Chicago, Detroit, and Washington, remembers this exchange between the Richmond bureau and UPI’s New York headquarters:

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 reporter did not and phoned in a report of “hundreds of sharks,” which was sure to win the competitive play against the correct UPI version.

NX–New York, the UPI boss bureau–wouldn’t stand for it, so we got this mesg under -95-, which signified urgency:

RV – Rox “hundreds of sharks.” Nd more sharks. – NX

We managed to find some.
Ron Cohen, who was with UPI for 25 years and Gannett News Service for 15, contributes this shorthand exchange between UPI’s New York (NX) and Los Angeles (HC) bureaus:

HC — How old Cary Grant? — NX
NX — Old Cary Grant fine. — HC
wire service note from jack limpert:

i started in journalism working for upi, doing a lot of rewriting of news copy for the broadcast wire, and speed was important. with copy going out on teletypes in all-caps, there was no reason to use both lower and upper case so we wrote everything lower case.

when i left upi and worked as a newspaper and magazine editor, i often wrote 30 or 40 notes a day, most quite short, and out of habit wrote everything in lower case, mystifying some people. once we moved from typewriters to computers, i more often wrote the normal way because emails tended to go to a wider audience than the old paper notes. but i kind of missed the speed and ease of doing it the old way.

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