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A UPI writer defends himself

After the appearance of the Ted Olson article on ConWebWatch, I heard from Peter Roff, the writer for UPI whose commentary was mentioned in the article. It turned into the following exchange:

    Dear Sir:

    While I appreciate that you thought enough of my work to mention it on your Web site, I am puzzled by one thing.

    You take me for task for identifying myself in my commentary piece as the former political director of a Republican-leaning political organization -- an affiliation I do not and have never attempted to obscure.

    Would you have prefered that I not identify myself and, by implication my political leanings, with a tag line that states what I do know and what I once did?

    Just wondering --

    P. Roff.

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I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with your disclosure of your previous political work. The more disclosure the better, as far as I'm concerned, especially when dealing with such a volatile subject as Florida politics. My only purpose in mentioning it was to help make a larger point about the political leanings of your article's distributor, UPI.

Terry Krepel

    I received your response to my query and, frankly, it does not mesh with the facts.

    You wrote "The article might have had some journalistic credibility had Roff not also described himself as the the former political director of GOPAC" which is not an attack on my employer; it is an attack on me.

    Had I failed to identify myself with that tag, as I do on all commentary pieces whether they are about politics or not, you could not have made the statement.


    Peter Roff


Welcome to the downside of identifying yourself as a former political partisan: It allows some people to dismiss your opinion as mere partisanship.

I didn't do that. I read the piece first. Though you're billed as a political analyst for UPI, I didn't see much analysis. I saw much more in the way of left-bashing and Clinton-bashing. I was particularly amused at the impression offered that there was no reason for the public to distrust politicans until Clinton came along. That was when I decided the piece was mere partisanship.

As I said before, your article does indeed make a larger point about UPI and its current ownership, which was the reason it got my attention in the first place. Just as GOPAC's reputation precedes you, News World's reputation precedes its work in trying to revive UPI. I hope I'm wrong, but the combination of a former official for a conservative group and a news organization owned by conservatives does not exactly promise genuinely objective analysis.

Which gets to the point of what I do with ConWebWatch. Media bias is media bias, and if liberal media bias is so horrible, why is conservative media bias any better?

Terry Krepel

    Well, at least you know acknowledge that your original criticism was as I stated it, not as you stated it.

    I am well aware that some people will choose to dismiss my comments as mere partisanship and I suppose that Tim Russert, Chris Matthews, Michael Barone, Paul Begala, and I -- along with others who also have a background working in politics who are now journalists or analysts -- will have to carry that cross for some time.

    The point of the analysis, which was reviewed by several editors who do not share my world view before it moved to wire, was a) that there was little to the rumors of infidelity and that, in one case, the accusation was silly; b) that there had been, as was little mentioned in the coverage of the issue, an effort by the Gore cmapaign cited by both Tapper and Sammon to spread the rumor that Bush was unfailful to his wife; and c) that the eggregious nature of the specific Clinton lies about women made it difficult for Jeb Bush -- or any other politician in a similar circumstance -- to be believed when denying such an accusation.

    I did not try to claim that there was no reason for politicians to be distrusted before Clinton. What I did say was that Clinton's dishonesty about his infidelity now made it, as a general rule, difficult for any politician -- in this case Jeb Bush -- to be believed when confronted with the accusation because of the example Clinton set and the impression it left on the minds of the average American.

    As to the issue of bias, two points. First, the objection many conservatives I know to the so-called liberal bias is not that it exists so much as some people - particularly those in the media - try to pretend what is biased is in fact objective reporting.

    Second, I think you will find more balance on the UPI than you will on most other major news organizations. In my specific case, we make no effort to mask my history when I am writing commentary and we have another analyst here - Jim Chapin - who has a long history of political work on the left and who also does commentary pieces to balance me.


    Peter Roff


Thanks for writing back. I understand better where you're coming from. I still don't necessarily agree with your article, but hey, this is America. And I'm glad to hear UPI is sending out liberal analyses as well.

I really do hope UPI is as balanced as you say it is. The problem for me is finding someplace that carries UPI copy to do any sort of analysis. NewsMax does, but it regularly adds its own very conservative slant to outside copy, which to me plays into the perception of UPI as a tool of the Moonies (which I've written about before on my site). UPI shouldn't, and hopefully doesn't, want what is arguably their most visible client to be doing that to their copy. Virtual NY seems to carry it unadulterated, but I haven't done any extensive looking there yet. I'll have to delve into that site soon and take a closer look.

Terry Krepel

    vny and both seem to carry everything ... please do take a look. as for the rest, well ... bygones and all that.

    and please note again, the Bush piece to which you objected was a commentary and slugged as such -- they are fairly strict about that kind of stuff.

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Posted 6/3/2001

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