Approval for Quotes – Shameful for Journalists and Bad for the Audience

July 31, 2012

Approval for Quotes – Shameful for Journalists and Bad for the Audience

The ongoing debate about submitting quotes for approval is just the latest example of the failure of contemporary American journalism.  In the NYTimes (7.31.12) is a letter to the editor from a former government spokesperson defending the process in order to assure accuracy.  What ever was wrong with the old system where interviews were recorded and quotes taken in context from the public record?  The piece Approval for Quotes by Chris Stenrud, a former spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services in the Obama administration, is a travesty to journalists.  Plain and simple.  Instead of assuring accuracy it guarantees that nothing is ever reported accurately but is instead passed through a filter of what the organization, company, candidate wanted to spin, manufacture or promote.

This is a bad practice.  It violates the good practice of journalists; it sacrifices content and editing to those who we are supposed to cover and report as first-hand witnesses to history; it cheapens the end product and gives the audience little reason to believe they are reading an independent press.

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4 Responses to “Approval for Quotes – Shameful for Journalists and Bad for the Audience”

  1. Sharon Stevenson Says:

    Peter, the solution is for all government officials to record the interviews they do. Then if they believe they have been misquoted, they can damned well send a copy of the pertinent audio to the editor to back up their complaint. This calling and asking for permission to use a quote is degrading, sophomoric and a waste of journalist’s precious time.
    On the journo side, with the nigh-on ubiquitous iPad, the app AudioNote, records the interview while you’re taking notes. Every time you hit return it prints a time code for reference. You can then go back to any particular portion of your notes, click, and you will hear what was recorded at that point in order to check your quote. Easy, fast, and accurate.


    • We are allowing candidates and institutions to intimidate us & our instincts and ethics in favor of maintaining access and remaining in their good graces. Competition has made us fearful – of one another, of losing the “big get”, of being cast out of the pack/tribe of other dutiful reporters.
      When reporters applaud some one – for instance bloggers who cheered wildly for Steve Jobs at Apple events – this is a sign of bad times.
      But the audience at large doesn’t seem nearly as upset as those of us in the profession? Why’s that? Are we just being overly sensitive.. I think not. But I wonder why there is no uproar?

      • Sharon Syevenson Says:

        Peter, I doubt that the public in general has no clue, information, or, indeed, care about thie issue, frankly.

      • perumula Says:

        Sorry, I meant “I doubt that the public in general has any clue, information, or, indeed, care about thie issue frankly.”


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