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Myram Borders

Myram Borders

A journalist for 36 years, including 25 years as Las Vegas bureau manager for United Press International, Myram Borders broke news, fought for Nevada’s Open Meeting Law and mentored young reporters.

Her efforts to allow cameras in the Nevada courtrooms were a major step forward for print and television journalism in Nevada. 

She was a mainstay to keep the Las Vegas Chapter of the Society of Professional alive, serving three terms as president.

In 1967, tipped at 8 p.m, that Elvis was marrying Priscilla Bealieu at the Aladdin Hotel, she went to the hotel and spotted Nevada Supreme Court Justice David Zenoff and asked him flat out if he was there to officiate. He knew better than to lie to Myram and confirmed it. The wedding occurred at 1 a.m. and Myram was the only reporter there, the first to break the story, another in a long line of her scoops.

“I grew up with Las Vegas,” Myram said on a PBS documentary called “Makers,” where she was profiled as a journalist.

1954 graduate of Las Vegas High

She moved there from Kentucky at age 4 in 1940. The town was about 8,000 people. She went to the Fifth Street School and graduated in the class of ‘54 from Las Vegas High School.

Graduating from the University of Nevada, Reno in 1958, she immediately entered journalism full time working for UPI and later for the Reno Gazette-Journal before returning to the struggling UPI.

After she retired from journalism in 1990, Gov. Bob Miller appointed her as commissioner of Consumer Affairs. Not surprisingly,  the office that had operated under the radar nabbed media attention that helped consumers and hurt fraudsters.

In 1992, she became head of the Las Vegas News Bureau, a job she held for a decade before her final retirement in 2002. Again, her news instincts kicked in and it was her idea to preserve the priceless photos by putting them in a digital form, protecting decades of photographic history from deterioration.

Journalists read Myram’s stories to learn how to write better. Whether she was writing about the mob, gaming or nuclear energy, she was direct, accurate and fast. The competition between The Associated Press and UPI was ferocious.

Sometimes luck played a role in her scoops. She was driving home from work along Sahara Avenue when she heard an explosion and drove straight toward it. Mob associate Frank Rosenthal was standing next to his car. He’d just left Tony Roma’s restaurant.

In 1998, she wrote, he told her, “Somebody’s trying to kill me. I was set up.”

When she asked, “Who is trying to kill you, who set you up?” he didn’t tell her. Nor did he tell law enforcement.

She was honored by UNR as a Distinguished Alumni from the Reynolds School of Journalism in 2016.

— Jane Ann Morrison

Text of Myram’s speech

Thank you for this award. Being recognized by one’s peers is the highest honor. And it is a great honor to be inducted in the Nevada Hall of Fame with the famous and the Infamous.

My journalism career was launched in Reno even though I grew up in Las Vegas. When my parents moved to Las Vegas in 1940 there was no Las Vegas Strip and no hotels other than on Fremont Street. I grew up WITH Las Vegas as well as IN Las Vegas.
But my career started in Reno.

I attended UNR on a full scholarship awarded by Raymond I. Smith, owner of Harold’s Club ..a major casino on Virginia Street in downtown Reno. He awarded a full four-year scholarship to one student at ever graduation at every high school in the state of Nevada. I graduated with a degree in journalism – thanks to Professor Higginbotham aka Higgie.

Upon graduation I was hired as a news reporter for United Press International in Reno. UPI was a worldwide wire service. UPI was the head-on competitor of the Associated Press for most of the 20th Century. UPI had more than 6,000 newspaper and broadcast clients throughout the world.

I worked in an era of no cell phones…no computers….no Internet…it was an era before tweets, Facebook or any social media. It was an era of typewriters, landline telephones and in the case of wire services—teletypes that transmitted news worldwide to a print-heavy era. If you were in the field covering a story you had to find a telephone first …call your main office…and dictate a story off the top of the your head complete with spelling, punctuation and paragraphs.

Reporters primarily dealt with sources eye-to-eye—not via emails…texts…or paid spokespersons who churn out press releases.
It was rough and tumble competition….but it was fun…it was challenging. IT WAS A LIFE PUMPED WITH ADRENALIN. UPI was a closely knit team locally, regionally and worldwide. Some fellow Unipressers here tonight include Cy Ryan, Sandi Chereb, Kristin McQuary and Chris Chrystal.

Nevada was and is an ideal place to be a news reporter. You may not get rich…but you can have the time of your life…and you won’t be bored.

For example during my career some of the memorable stories I covered included:

  • the death of Marilyn Monroe
  • The Bobby Kennedy Assassination and the indictment of Sirhan Sirhan who murdered him
  • The Watts Riot in Los Angeles in 1965 that went on for six days and required 14,000 national guardsmen to quell. It was the largest civil rebellion of the Civil Rights era.
  • The Charles Manson Trial.

When I took over in Las Vegas as the UPI Bureau manager the pace continued
–Stories, trials and murders involving organized crime figures and casino skimming.
–You had a front row seat to the Cold War with Russia as the U.S. continued its intensive testing of nuclear weapons at the Nevada Test Site. At one time the U.S. and Russia conducted a joint nuclear test at the Nevada Test Site.
Once the FBI came after me because they thought I had a leak or a spy at the Test Site alerting to me to the day a test was to occur.
No. It was simple. A guy who lived across the street from me worked at the test site. If his truck was still there when I got up, I knew he had NOT gone to work probably because of a nuclear test. If his truck was still in front of his house, I called the Atomic Energy Commission and inquired about a test they had intended to keep secret.
–Las Vegas and Reno were the datelines for national stories on gaming and super stars. In my work I interviewed Dolly Parton, Tony Bennett, Ann Margaret, Elvis Presley, Sammy Davis Junior, Dean Martin, Tom Jones, Liza Minnelli, Judy Garland, Betty Grable, Cher, Sophia Loren, Johnny Carson, and the list goes on and on – because it was Las Vegas…it was Nevada.
–Welfare rights marches hit the Las Vegas Strip. In the early 1970s, 1,500 demonstrators marched down the Las Vegas Strip led by Jane Fonda and Cesar Chavez. Business was disrupted. Some hotels barred their doors. Other hotels welcomed the demonstrators inside.
–Sammy Davis Junior supported the marches both monetarily and in person. He recalled that once he jumped into the swimming pool with other Rat Pack members and the Sands Hotel drained the swimming pool because a man of his race had been in the water.

–Stories of Howard Hughes buying resort hotels in Vegas and vast amounts of land and real estate filled business pages in Las Vegas and nationwide in the late 60s and early 70s.
–The culinary union, bartenders and stagehands unions struck the Las Vegas Strip and closed every hotel except the Dunes …where mob owners decided to stay open and serve picketing strikers food on the sidewalks. Later Culinary Union boss Al Bramlet was murdered and his body was found buried in the desert.

-Then there was the Pepcon explosion in Henderson in 1988. The plant was one of two in the U.S. that produced a chemical required for space launches. NASA said it was the largest non-nuclear explosion in United States history. Again Las Vegas and Nevada made worldwide headlines.
–And one day the Thunderbirds – the precision flying Air Force team — was practicing at Indian Springs….they are trained to follow the lead pilot….they did…and they all crashed into the desert. All the pilots were killed. An investigation showed there was a malfunction in the lead plane and the pilot was unable to pull out of a dive. – Another worldwide story from Nevada.

I urge you to work late .. that is when a lot of hot news breaks. I urge you to listen to those who try to give you tips, even if it sounds outlandish.

I was always glad I decided to listen to the unidentified voice on the phone late night one who said a radioactive Russian satellite was going to hit the world, imminently. It happened (Tell story)

When you write a news story, you are writing the first draft of history. I urge you to strive for accuracy, objectivity, and — accuracy, accuracy, accuracy.

Technology will continue to rapidly change daily … In my lifetime, we’ve come from manual typewriters, to electric typewriters, and then computers. What next? Technology will change drastically, just as issues will change.
You as news reporters and editors are in a profession that does not necessarily require a high school or college degree, you are not licensed by a governing board as are lawyers, doctors, hairstylists, bartenders and real estate agents.
You are judged by your ethics. To thine own self be true.
I urge you to pull together in defending the First Amendment to the Constitution…The Nevada Open Records Law… and the Nevada Open Meeting Law. When Governor Mike O’Callaghan signed Nevada’s first Open Meeting Law in 1977.it was the strongest law of its kind in the United States. It even carried a mandatory jail term for the first violation. There have been and will be more assaults on these laws in the future. I urge you to stand together in fighting for freedom of the press. Without it, we become no more than government PR agents.
In closing, I leave you with a saying by Confucius: “Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.”
I was lucky enough to find that job with United Press International and a career as a news reporter. I hope you are or will be as lucky.
And regarding my award tonight — as Elvis Presley would say — . “THANK YOU VERY MUCH”..

NOTE: The Sept. 30, 2017 acceptance speech by Myram Borders upon being named to the Hall of Fame by the Nevada Press Association during the banquet/ceremony at the Carson Nugget in Carson City, Nev.

Jane Ann Morrison’s introduction

Myram Borders was a cutthroat journalist, the kind who plotted ahead of time how to beat her competitors. But the real reason for her successful 36 years as a journalist was her penchant for hard work.

Some of you in this room today may sleep with cell phones by your  bed. How many would have a teletype machine installed in the spare bedroom as Myram did? How many of you know what a teletype machine even is?

Myram’s Nevada roots run deep. Her family moved to Las Vegas from Kentucky in 1940 when she was 4.

After graduating from the UNR in 1958, she started with United Press International as an intern in the Reno office.

She tested her chops by working in bureaus in San Diego and Los Angeles before returning to Las Vegas to manage that bureau.

In 1965, Myram became the first female wire service manager in the western United States.

If there was a Nevada gamer or politician worth knowing, Myram knew them, went to school with many of them. More importantly, she knew how they connected to one another. The gamer to the businessman to the lawman to the politician. She connected the dots, which gave her work more depth.

Myram listened. Not only did she have a teletype machine in her home, she had the UPI office number ring at home as well.

ELVIS

In 1967, she received an anonymous call from a man about 1 a.m. at home. He wanted to sell her an exclusive. She didn’t pay for stories but she told him about news outlets that did. He tried them, but they weren’t open, as she well knew. So the hotel employee returned to Myram with his scoop: Elvis Presley and Priscilla Beaulieu (BOLEW) were going to get married at the Aladdin Hotel.

She went to the hotel about 2:30 a.m. and snooped. About 8 a.m. she spied Nevada Supreme Court Justice David Zenoff and asked if he was there to officiate. He knew better than to lie to Myram and confirmed it. Myram was the first to report it, one of many scoops.

Remember, this was the era of telephones, not cell phones, not social media. BEATING AP
The Associated Press and UPI were fierce competitors. She said “If you had a two-minute beat on AP, you thought you’d beat the world.”

Some of her beats relied on trickery, others on luck.

One of the stories she tells over a couple of Scotches was how she helped UPI’s Washington correspondent Helen Thomas beat the boys on the plane. When traveling with a president, Myram  didn’t remember which one, Thomas had a disadvantage. She was short and didn’t run as fast as the guys.

So the night before a presidential visit, Myram went to the area of McCarran International Airport where Air Force One would be landing. There were three pay telephones there. She took out the microphone in the speaker on each phone.

When the plane landed, the boys raced to call in their stories but couldn’t be heard at the other end. Myram screwed in the mic on one and handed Thomas the phone. That’s teamwork, folks!

Another time, when she was covering the trial of the Mormon Will in 1976, Myram and Linda Deutsch of AP were preparing for the verdict, which concluded this will was a fraud. Each woman had someone helping in order to get the result out quickly. Deutsch had a new computer which she set up in the press room and she and her co-worker, Pat Arnold, both went into the courtroom. The computerless Myram told Dave Kelley to stay behind. She told him to disconnect the computer and stay in the room.

The verdict came in and Myram dictated her story on a telephone. Deutsch wrote her story, but then couldn’t get it to send. We all know what that’s like.

Myram said, “She glared at me and I winked at her.”

These are the fun stories, but it’s her more serious efforts that make Myram deserving of joining the Nevada Press Association’s Hall of Fame.

She fought for Nevada’s Open Meeting Law. She was a mainstay of the Las Vegas Chapter of Sigma Delta Chi, now the Society of Professional Journalists, serving three times as president.

She mentored young reporters, including me, Sandi Chereb, Gwen Castaldi and Kristen McQueary.

We read her stories to learn how to write better. Whether writing about the mob, gaming, politics or nuclear energy, she was direct, accurate, fast, tough and principled. She wasn’t snide and in print she kept her opinion to herself.

Even when she was no longer a journalist, she was helping journalists. Between 1992 and 2002, Myram was head of the Las Vegas News Bureau. It was her idea to preserve those priceless photos by putting them in digital form, protecting decades of photographic history from deterioration.

Ann Henderson, formerly with the Las Vegas Sun and now with Range Magazine first met Myram in 1975. Her ex-husband installed that noisy teletype machine in Myram’s spare bedroom.

Ann recalled he thought it was odd. “He didn’t understand journalists or dedication.”

Ann’s statement could apply to most everyone in this room.

Ann nominated Myram for the Hall of Fame award and I seconded that nomination, which is so well deserved.  

Can we raise our glasses to Myram?

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