Quote approval

Jill Abramson

Jill Abramson would like a magazine job

mediawiremorningGood morning. We’re almost there. Here are 10 media stories.

  1. Area man to appear on television: Chuck Todd will interview President Obama for his first episode of “Meet the Press” on Sunday. (Politico)
  2. HuffPost won’t talk about Jimmy Soni: HuffPost parent AOL was investigating allegations of sexual harrassment by its former managing editor, J.K. Trotter reports. (Gawker) | “Rumors have been swirling inside the company for the past couple of months about Soni’s alleged inappropriate behavior with female Huffington Post fellows.” (Capital)
  3. ONA bends to pressure on its Ferguson panel: “We did not intend to overlook great work at the local level,” Trevor Knoblich writes. “We began today looking for a local person to add to our session.” (ONA) | Earlier: “Why are no local outlets represented in ONA’s Ferguson keynote?” (Poynter) | Related: Kristen Hare is still curating her Twitter list of people reporting from Ferguson.
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Quote approval isn’t necessary when White House insists on interview minders

The Washington Post | Politico | National Journal

The White House “may be the most diligent user of the chaperoned interview,” Paul Farhi writes in The Washington Post. Though many news organizations banned the practice of quote approval in 2012, the Obama administration makes diligent use of minders during interviews, which can accomplish a similar purpose.

“Let’s put it this way,” New York Times reporter Peter Baker told Farhi about the practice. “It’s not intended to increase candor.”

That’s assuming reporters can get near administration officials in the first place. The administration has kept the president unencumbered by reporters during two meetings with super PAC donors this week, and it limited coverage of an event in Washington Tuesday, Edward Isaac Dovere and Josh Gerstein report in Politico.

“I would only ask that you judge us by our record and the record of our predecessors,” they say White House principal deputy press secretary Eric Schultz told reporters Wednesday. Read more


The New Yorker, USA Today deny J.K. Rowling quote approval

The New Yorker | The Independent | USA Today
Ian Parker’s profile of J.K. Rowling in The New Yorker says the author “sought quote approval, which was not given.” Parker writes that while preparing to interview Rowling, “I read ‘The Casual Vacancy,’ which is five hundred and twelve pages long, in the New York offices of Little, Brown, after signing a non-disclosure agreement whose first draft—later revised—had prohibited me from taking notes.” Read more


The New York Times bans quote approval

The New York Times
Public Editor Margaret Sullivan got her wish: The New York Times has a clear policy on quote approval. The paper will no longer allow sources to change quotes after an interview.

Quote approval “puts so much control over the content of journalism in the wrong place,” Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson told Sullivan. She quotes from a memo (see in full below) sent to staff: Read more


Another explanation for quote approval: Journalists mangle quotes

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.

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Michael Lewis let White House approve quotes for Vanity Fair profile

The New York Times
Michael Lewis allowed the White House to approve quotes for his profile in Vanity Fair of President Obama, Jeremy W. Peters reports. The article will go online at midnight Tuesday; Vanity Fair has a preview up right now with some admittedly killer quotes in it.

Lewis revealed the precondition of his access to the president at a public forum Monday, Peters writes.

What the White House asked to leave off the record, Mr. Lewis added, was usually of little relevance to his article anyway — like a discussion between Mr. Obama and his political strategists about their electoral strategy in Florida.

Mr. Lewis said there was one particularly moving exchange with the president that he wished he could have described in greater detail. But the White House nixed the idea, perhaps wary of having the commander in chief described as in tears.

Lewis played basketball with Obama and “was given a special lapel pin that designated him to the Secret Service as someone who was allowed to be in close proximity to the president,” Peters writes. Read more

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After ‘chains’ remark, Biden’s staff tries to edit press pool reports

Vice President Joe Biden’s “penchant for off-message moments regularly sends aides in the West Wing and at Chicago reelection headquarters into orbit,” Jonathan Martin writes in Politico, so his staff tries “to save Biden from himself.” On a recent trip to Virginia, “aides tried to edit media pool reports for any potential landmines that could be seized on by Republicans and even hovered at close range to eavesdrop on journalists’ conversations with attendees at Biden rallies.”

Their efforts to manage pool reports is a new tactic in message control:

Because the entire press corps cannot easily jam in, say, a diner or private home, it is standard practice to have a single designated reporter take notes and share the material with colleagues from other news organizations. These reports are designed entirely for the media, but are distributed by White House staffers. In the case of Obama, as with his predecessors, the reports are simply forwarded without comment by email to a news media distribution list.

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Ari Fleischer: Quote approval started with good intent

Ari Fleischer, press secretary for part of President George W. Bush’s first term, writes that he “would have been laughed out of the briefing room” if he had tried to get reporters to let him approve or clean up a quotation, a practice revealed last month by The New York Times. “As a former press secretary, I’m all for trying to control the press, but quote approval goes too far.”

The practice started late in Bush’s second term, Fleischer writes, based on a conversation he had with The New York Times’ Peter Baker.

Like Prohibition, it began with good intent.

Reporters covering Bush’s second term, 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. I e-mailed last week with several former Bush staffers and many confirmed they engaged in that practice. 

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National Journal, McClatchy ban quote approval

The New York Times | McClatchy | On the Media | San Francisco Chronicle

National Journal Editor-in-Chief Ron Fournier tells reporters they can’t submit quotes to sources for editing, a practice that more politicians are insisting on.

If a public official wants to use NJ as a platform for his/her point of view, the price of admission is a quote that is on-record, unedited and unadulterated.

McClatchy Washington Bureau Chief James Asher also bans the practice:

As advocates of the First Amendment, we cannot be intimidated into letting the government control our work. When The New York Times agreed with Bush Administration officials to delay publication of its story of illegal wiretaps of Americans until after the 2004 election, it did the nation a great disservice. Acceding to the Obama administration’s efforts to censor our work to have it more in line with their political spin is another disservice to America.

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Dan Rather: Quote approval is ‘a jaw-dropping turn in journalism’

CNN | Guardian
Dan Rather, it shouldn’t surprise anyone, is adamantly opposed to allowing campaigns to approve quotations, as some journalists do, according to a report earlier this week in The New York Times.

Rather asks: “Can you trust the reporters and news organizations who do this? Is it ever justified on the candidate’s side or on the reporter’s side? Where is this leading us?”

Background briefings have been part of Washington for years, he writes, but this is “new and different”:

This is the officials or candidates regularly insisting that reporters essentially become an operative arm of the administration or campaign they are covering.

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