The New York Times
David Carr writes about an inconvenient fact that gets lost in all the bluster about news organizations submitting quotes to sources for approval: Reporters often whiff when they try to quote sources accurately.
…journalism is a blunt technology. Until we arrive at real-time transcription (it’s not that far away) even the best reporters will get at least the small things wrong — unless they have time to tape and transcribe, which is a rarity in this rapid-fire age. … Sometimes we type, we lose our place, we start again, and it is what is left out, or elided, that ends up twisting meaning.
Talking about performing in the musical “The Who’s Tommy,” the actor and singer Michael Cerveris said, “I couldn’t sing it all when I got the job.” An article on Mr. Cerveris in the latest Friday Journal incorrectly quoted him as saying, “I couldn’t sing at all when I got the job.”
Marc Andreesen tells Carr “80 percent of the things attributed to me in the press are not things I actually said. … The only entities that don’t have this problem in my experience are the ones with full-time fact checkers.” I’ve heard similar lines from people who get interviewed a lot before; once I interviewed a country singer who told me he occasionally caught glimpses of himself in interviews.
There are other explanations for the birth of quote approval. For instance, Ari Fleischer wrote in August that the custom developed during President George W. Bush’s second term, when reporters, “under pressure from editors not to use unnamed sources in their stories, started asking their sources if a background quote, attributed to a senior aide, could instead be turned into an on-the-record quote, with the aide’s name in print.”
However it developed, Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan says the paper needs to get a quote-approval policy in place already. Associate Managing Editor for Standards Philip B. Corbett tells her “it was unfortunate that the coverage of this issue ‘portrays journalists as obsequious lap dogs — that is certainly not the case here.’ ”
He noted in a conversation on Monday morning that this practice is an outgrowth of the constant and necessary negotiation between reporters and sources to get information and quotations on the record.