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Note From a Scoop Artist

Adam Bernstein

A strongly worded but fun and, above all, unexpected e-mail arrived today from veteran journalist Henry Raymont. The note regarded an obit I wrote in 2007 about Lester "Ziff" Ziffren, one of the more interesting journalists I ever buried in the pages of The Post. Ziffren died at 101 and was best known for breaking news about the Spanish Civil War while working for the old United Press wire service.

Raymont writes:

I quote your obit:

"Ziff" Ziffren was thought to be the oldest surviving reporter for the United Press wire service. He earned a place in the news agency's lore for his Spanish Civil War scoop revealing that army units were revolting against the government.

I have long considered myself in the aforementioned category. If you had a closer acquaintance with that once noble wire service subsequently gobbled up by, I kid you not, a Mexican furniture magnate, you would know our fraternity was called "the Downhold Club" because every time we asked for a raise the company was experiencing "financial difficulties" requiring a "downhold" on raises. But the excitement and fun of what in Latin America was the most prestigious U.S. medium was well worth the experience.

Anyway, I worked for U.P. for 18 years, starting out in Buenos Aires, then moving to London, Scandinavia, New York, the U.N. at Lake Success, and, finally, the wonderful Washington bureau, where I became the Latin American diplomatic correspondent 1949-1960 until I was sent to Havana where I had my ill-fated scoop -- the Bay of Pigs landings which landed me in jail with a subsequent report that I would be shot -- which got me out of jail with a Castro apology -- how do you like that?

Anyway, it was once a great agency and its demise is journalism's loss -- as are so many other closures these days.

Take out competitiveness you remove the salt and pepper of the business. So now we have infotainment. Thank you very much.

By Adam Bernstein  |  March 24, 2010; 12:40 PM ET
Categories:  Adam Bernstein  
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