PROFILE: Lokey won't rest on his laurels as newswire pioneer

Lorry Lokey is widely credited for playing a key role in streamlining how media gets news. And as Andrew Gordon discovers, the 76-year-old founder of Business Wire remains as driven as ever.

Lorry Lokey is widely credited for playing a key role in streamlining how media gets news. And as Andrew Gordon discovers, the 76-year-old founder of Business Wire remains as driven as ever.

Lorry Lokey has no intention of dying, much less retiring. "It would be such a waste," says the nearly 76-year-old founder of Business Wire. "I'll be involved with this business until I can't do it anymore. If I had to play golf, I'd commit suicide." Forty one years after starting Business Wire, Lokey still insists on running the show, purely for the love of it. A reporter and writer by trade, Lokey admits that the day-to-day management of Business Wire isn't as exciting as chasing a breaking news story as a reporter. Lokey developed his knowledge of wire services as night wire editor for the United Press, now UPI, in his hometown of Portland, OR. But he also isn't about to dismiss the impact he's had on both the media and the PR industry. "The PR industry was very withdrawn when I started this business," says Lokey. "Typically they would give a copy of a press release to a third party, who would then get it to a recipient. But the media people were excited about what I was offering. They were able to get the news right up to the minute, instead of waiting hours or even a few days." And a look outside Lokey's office shows how far he has come. Sitting just outside the door is a dusty Dow Jones ticker, which at its best could spit out 35 words a minute. Now a network of satellites delivers the news hot of the press at a speed of more the 35,000 words a minute. "His contributions to the industry have been significant," says Joann Killeen, president and CEO of the PRSA. "He was a trendsetter way back when. He figured out very quickly a way to assist companies in distributing that information. It has changed the way we communicate. He has changed the multiple-day process to a matter of minutes He made everyone's life easier." For the first 24 years of Business Wire, Lokey was literally a one-man show, doing everything from operating the Teletype to writing checks. But as the PR industry has grown and technology has evolved, so has Business Wire. It now has access to more than 60 international and national news agencies, financial information providers, and web-based news services throughout North America, Europe, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa. "It certainly wasn't the pay," says Lokey of his decision to hang up his reporter's hat and start his own business. "It was the excitement of something new, of change." The business is still changing for Lokey. Business Wire finds itself neck-and-neck with PR Newswire, after getting "clobbered" by taking on too many dot-com clients that disappeared when the bottom dropped out. But Lokey freely admits he isn't in this for the money. "I don't give a damn about the money. I don't take any action based on how much profit it will make. I take an action based on what will make us better. And if you do that, then the money will be there. I run a tight ship, and I think because of that, I've never had to lay anyone off, and as far as I'm concerned, I never will." Lokey's impact on the industry goes beyond revolutionizing how it interacts with the media. He has served as past president of the Public Relations Roundtable of San Francisco, the San Francisco Publicity Club, and the San Francisco chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists. "He has forced the industry to become focused on business strategy," says Killeen. "We now look at it from a higher level. We need to think and act as CEOs, and look at how can we best serve our clients information needs. But Lokey isn't just a shrewd journalist and businessman. He is also a friend, "everyone's pal" says Killeen. He took time to sit down with people in the industry, and help them find work. He started a PR job newsletter called "Seekers and Sought," and did his best to make sure those who needed work found it. "He was the godfather of recruiting," says Killeen. "He always took time to meet with you. And that's what this business is all about - networking." The PR industry's reliance on wire services such as his isn't the only change Lokey has witnessed over his many years. "The kids [in PR] today are a hell of a lot smarter than we were years ago," says Lokey. "They are more business-like. They don't socialize as much as they did in the '40s, '50s, and '60s. They have better backgrounds, and are more educated." And that is part of what still drives Lokey, working with a sharper and smarter PR industry. Everyday presents a new challenge, he says, and he cherishes coming to work and discovering something new and interesting. "You hear people talk about the good ol' days, and that today is not like the good ol' days," says Lokey. "Well, the good ol' days are right now." ----------- Lorry Lokey 1946 Feature editor of Pacific Stars & Stripes, Tokyo, during World War II service 1949 Graduates from Stanford University with BA in journalism 1950-1952 Works as a reporter for the Longview Daily News (WA) 1952 Moves to San Francisco 1953-1955 Serves as PR representative for Shell Development 1955-1961 Works as western news bureau supervisor for General Electric 1961 Establishes Business Wire, still president and founder today

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