Milton R. Benjamin
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Milton R. Benjamin (born 1942) is a journalist for publications including the Washington Post and Newsweek who has also worked for public relations firms.
Benjamin began his news career in 1963 at the Springfield (Massachusetts) Union and then spent four years working in the Boston and Washington bureaus of United Press International (UPI). According to a November 1986 report in the New York Times, he "left the news organization in 1968 to spend four years as a roving correspondent for the Voice of America, and joined The Washington Post Company in 1972, where he worked as a foreign editor for Newsweek and, later, a national affairs reporter, deputy metropolitan editor and foreign editor for The Washington Post." Benjamin "also served as assistant to the chairman of The Washington Post Company, and left in 1984 to become a telecommunications specialist for Gray & Company, a large public relations concern. He later became a partner in the management consulting firm of Anderson, Benjamin, Read & Haney."
In 1981 and 1982, Benjamin was also chairman of the telecommunications public policy group of the American Newspaper Publishers Association.
In his role as management consultant, Benjamin was engaged to prepare a turnaround strategy for UPI after the news agency went into bankruptcy and was purchased in June 1986 by Mario Vazquez Rana, the owner of a large chain of newspapers in Mexico. In November 1986, Benjamin was appointed president of UPI but resigned five months later amid continuing turmoil and personnel changes at the troubled agency.
According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, his resignation made him "the third president to leave the news service since June, when Washington-based UPI was acquired by a group led by Vazquez-Rana and emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. Benjamin's short tenure at UPI was marked by increased investment in news coverage and management, including the hiring of several well-paid editors and marketing executives who were, like Benjamin, formerly with Washington Post Co."
However, "sources said Benjamin made an early exit because of widening differences between him and Vazquez-Rana, with the owner becoming increasing critical of UPI's continuing operating losses and Benjamin's spending plans."
In August 1992, the National Journal reported that Benjamin had become president and CEO of the startup EastNet, "a financial wire service covering the People's Republic of China and Central and Eastern Europe." This news service was terminated when Knight Ridder Financial, facing difficulties of its own, withdrew promised support.
In December 1994, Benjamin was heading the Washington office of the Strategic Alliances Group, described by the National Journal as "a communications firm that focuses on grass-roots work and has offices in Washington and two other cities," when SAG was purchased by the PR firm of Robinson Lake Sawyer Miller.
In July 2000, Benjamin launched VeroNews.com, an online newspaper intended to provide "hometown news" to residents of Vero Beach and Indian River County, Florida. However, the venture never became fully operational, and in late 2001 Benjamin announced that he had "become diverted from near-term pursuit of this dream by a major project -- a unique Internet effort to bring health news and information to millions of patients and their families, across America and around the world, faced with life-threatening and life-challenging diseases."
This project, MedicalWeek.org, described itself as "an independent news site reporting on the latest research and developments in prevention, diagnosis and treatment of life-threatening diseases and medical conditions." MedicalWeek in turn has sponsored a number of online newsletters related to specific diseases and treatments, including DiabetesWeek.org, ProstateCancerWeek.org, BreastCancerWeek.org, HepatitisWeek.org and ObesityWeek.org.
Most of these online newsletters had a subscription fee, which did not turn out to be a winning internet formula. Some of the later newsletters, which were entirely advertising supported, were more successful.
On May 3, 2005, Benjamin issued a news release accusing the Sanofi-Aventis pharmaceutical company of trying to shut down one of his newsletters, the Acomplia report, which focused specifically on the company's anti-obesity drug, Acomplia (rimonabant). "I do not think it is any coincidence that Sanofi-Aventis is trying to shut down independent coverage of Acomplia just as they are about to submit the drug to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and European regulators for marketing approval," Benjamin said.
"During the past year, when they were presenting results from their clinical trials, they were more than happy to have the Acomplia Report help build excitement about the way rimonabant seemed to help many participants lose weight and curb smoking. Sanofi-Aventis made company executives and consultants available at medical meetings to assist the Acomplia Report, and notified us of impending news. ... So why, suddenly, are they trying to curb the flow of independent news about Acomplia? Well, they are about to seek FDA approval to sell the drug, and these discussions are expected to focus on possible side effects. It would appear that Sanofi-Aventis is anxious to shut down the leading source of independent news about Acomplia."
After filing suit against Sanofi with the backing of the Electronic Frontier Foundation in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, Benjamin and Sanofi reached a settlement in which the pharmaceutical company agreed to make no further efforts to interfere with his newsletters. The Acomplia Report published regularly until Nov. 2008, when Sanofi ceased all development of Acomplia after the European Medicines Agency demanded that it be withdrawn from the market because of its link to mental disorders.
In summer 2008, Benjamin launched a new print and online newspaper, Vero Beach 32963, serving the Vero Beach (FL) barrier island. The publication, mailed to all 11,000 residences in Zip Code 32963, the third highest net worth zip code in Florida, became the most successful print newspaper launch in an era of severe contraction for the print press.
In May 2009, Benjamin again announced plans to launch VeroNews.com, which would be published only online and serve residents of Vero Beach and Indian River County, Florida. Publication began in July 2009, and by the end of the year, the online newspaper was the leading source of news and information for Indian River County.
- "Milton R. Benjamin Named new President of UPI" (UPI news release), November 7, 1986.
- Charles Storch, "Benjamin Leaves UPI After 5 Months," Chicago Tribune, April 2, 1987, p. C1.
- Eliza Newlin Carney, "Washington's Movers and Shakers; Getting Wired," National Journal, Vol. 24, No. 32, August 8, 1992, p. 1858.
- Peter H. Stone, "From the K Street Corridor," National Journal, vol. 26, no. 50, December 10, 1994, p. 2913.
- "American Society of Transplant Surgeons Hails House Passage of Reauthorization of National Organ Transplant Act" (news release), PR Newswire, April 4, 2000.
- "Sanofi-Aventis Seeks to Shut Down News Coverage by the Acomplia Report" (news release), PRWeb, May 3, 2005.