Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Reaction on Robertson

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Reaction on Robertson

Article excerpt

While many are taking a |wait-see' position on the televangelist's proposed purchase of UPI, some editors are |unsettled' by the situation

Evaluating the pending bid for the assets of United Press International from tv preacher/businessman Pat Robertson one former Unipresser may have summed up the general sentiment best when he said, "You can't judge a book by its cover, even if it is the Holy Bible."

Although concerned about Robertson's $6 million bid for UPI, many observers are taking a wait-and-see position before passing judgment on the caliber - and objectivity - of the wire service's report under Robertson's United States Media Corp., the Christian Broadcasting Network subsidiary established to acquire UPI.

At the auction of UPI assets May 12 in Rutland, Vt., and in subsequent comments, Robertson said he would not interfere with the editorial operations of the wire, nor would he use it to further any religious or political agenda (E&P, May 16, P.9).

Comments he made on his cable television network the next day, however, have given some observers pause.

"Way back in the 70s, we began praying for all aspects of life-religious life, governmental life, education, the media, arts and entertainment, etc. - and all of these facets are part of what God wants to touch," Robertson was quoted by the Washington Post as saying on the program. "He wants to touch it with His truth and His love, and so this is maybe one little opportunity."

In addition, a UPI recap of Robertson's life updated May 16,1988, reads: "At one point in the [1988 presidential] campaign, Robertson accused the news media of religious bigotry when he was referred to in news accounts as former television evangelist.' He preferred businessman.' "

In an interview with Katie Couric on the Today show May 20, Robert son said he was interested in owning UPI because "I believe in a really vigorous press in America and the proclamation of the truth, and I think maybe we could add something with UPI in that regard."

When asked what role he would play in the editorial operations of UPI, Robertson responded that he will "try to get good people who are responsible, careful journalists, and then leave them alone."

Further, according to a transcript of the show acquired by E&P, he said he would not "assure them, per se, that I won't get involved, because I'm a journalist myself. I've covered stories all over the world and done a pretty good job at it. I told the staff down there that I was going to insist on excellence and I was going to insist on outstanding writing and that they were going to have to be knowledgeable about their subject matter.

"I think we need fairness and balance and, if they don't get that, of course, I would say, |something's wrong.' But other than that, I like to leave people alone to do their thing."

Couric pressed Robertson to answer whether he thought UPI was slanted, a charge he has levied against other news outlets.

Robertson said that "UPI has been very sick . . . it's diminished its resources and it's just being overwhelmed by AP in this country, but, yes, some of it has been slanted and some of it has just been inept. I think the problem more in reporting is ineptitude rather than slant - the reporters just don't know what they're talking about, and this is true with the AP as well as the UPI."

One editor, Robert H. Giles of the Detroit News, who also is the paper's publisher, said he found some of Robertson's comments "unsettling."

"I'm displeased," he said of Robertson's bid. "It's very unsettling that a man who used his other media outlets to advance his point of view [may be the new owner of UPI]. He understands how to use the media to advance his message. That's a use that runs counter to the purpose of a general-interest wire service."

The News will be reviewing its contract with UPI, Giles said, but he first will wait to see if the purchase goes through. …

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