Given that I was only with UPI for 18 months, one might well ask where the hell all these stories come from. Fact is, all the most interesting anecdotes of my three-decade journalism career stem from those 18 months.
I wasn’t the only one who ever filed a personal message on the AAA wire. Three years earlier, it happened to Linda Ellerbee at the Dallas ROX (AP) bureau:
-----------(from a story about Ellerbee’s memoir)------------
[Ellerbee typed…] a chatty private letter into a computer. The letter more or less libeled a Dallas newspaper, the Dallas City Council, Dallas and a man she was dating. She also suggested her employer could meet federal hiring guidelines by hiring a half- black Chicano lesbian.
The computer was owned by The Associated Press. Ellerbee was not computer friendly.
It returned the compliment by sending her letter to every news outlet in the Free World.
---------end ellerbee extract------
All I did was make a cruel and insensitive remark about a NY Times reporter and a woman near death in a hospital.
--------start CYA memo-------- [Explanatory material in brackets]
Oct. 4 
DAD [Donald A. Davis, Boston Buo manager]
This is in case someone asks. Hopefully, no one will ask.
At about 8 pm [on the Saturday 4pm-midnight trick—as you’ll recall, Saturday night was very slow; most Sunday newspapers had gone to bed and few broadcasters required fresh newscasts.] kgc [Ken Caffarel] took a call from New York on the bh-bullet sty.
Jack Griffin on the General Desk said the NY Times was questioning our spelling of Stennes and our designation of him as an internationally known clockmaker (the story is in bgh for mon peems).
Pox [police] said the name was as we had it. I called Griffin. "The Times guy sounded pretty authoritative. He was reading from a world directory of clock makers.” [Who the hell had a world directory of clock makers in a newspaper library?]
On Jack's suggestion, I checked the phone book and the hospital. Both had it spelled e-s. We had discussed the nature of the NY Times nitpicking, and were both yocking it up (I was pretty giddy, having been on a double shift since 6am).
So, I sent Jack this message. My reference to Stennes’ critically injured wife was, at the very least, insensitive. In my memory, the message said “The late Mr. S and the soon to be late Mrs. S,” and insulted the Times desk man’s intelligence, but I found the actual AAA wire copy, and it was not as bad as I recalled.
Well Jack, the word from South Shore Hospital, where the somewhat ventilated Mrs. S is taking an unexpected vacation, is that her last name is spelled s-t-e-n-n-e-s. I guess the guy from The Times got us.
[Imagine my surprise when, while I was on the phone with Jack as he was reading the message, the silent AAA wire sprang to life a few moments later. I looked over, saw the first words of my message, and shouted: “Halt the A wire. Halt the A wire. Halt the A wire.”]
Everything but the words "us. Schindler-bh" moved on the AAA wire as A289. [meaning every cli with a high-speed wire already had the whole message in their computer]. Apparently, instead of hitting “delete” on his Harris terminal, Jack had hit “file”
I was told to treat every wire, even the Interbureau wire, like a client wire. I forgot. I won't forget again.
Pls don't get on Griffin or Ennex, and if they do get on you for a formal response, please do not use this, as it is informal.
Since I never heard back from anyone, I assume nothing happened.
FOOTNOTE 1: I can’t find Ken Caffarel on the Internet. I was told his dad was a UPI executive; can’t find him either. Anyone know what became of Ken?
FOOTNOTE 2: I just checked the Internet; the police and the hospital were right: his name was Stennes.
Here is the Times story, from the Internet, with the incorrect spelling they edited in and attributed to us:
WEYMOUTH, Mass., Oct. 4 (UPI)—Elmer Stennis, described as an internationally known maker of grandfather clocks, was shot and killed early today by two masked men who burst into his suburban Boston home and sprayed the bedroom with gunfire, the police said.