The New York Times highlighted a quote approval practice with U.S. 2012 presidential campaign reporters recently.
The July 15 New York Times article reported that press offices for presidential election campaigns can get “veto power over what statements can be quoted and attributed by name,” something that is “commonplace throughout Washington and on the campaign trail.” Information cut out of quotes includes “curse words,” “off-message remark,” “the most innocuous and anodyne quotations.”
The Times reported this is “standard practice for the Obama campaign” and typical for interviews with Romney campaign advisers and family. Further, The Times explained:
“It is a double-edged sword for journalists, who are getting the on-the-record quotes they have long asked for, but losing much of the spontaneity and authenticity in their interviews.”
Bloomberg, the Washington Post, Reuters and The New York Times itself were listed as having given quote approval in interviews. The Times reported that its managing news editor, Dean Baquet said the newspaper will “encourage our reporters to push back. Unfortunately, this practice is becoming increasingly common, and maybe we have to push back harder.”
Even for that report, the Times noted that many news outlets and the Obama campaign wouldn’t comment on the record about quote approval.
Dan Rather weighed in on the New York Times’ report writing that quote approval is “a jaw-dropping turn in journalism, and it raises a lot of questions.” For example, Rather asked: “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?”
He noted that asking for anonymity or background is “in many cases, is defensible,” and a “typical journalistic practice” but quote approval is “new and different.”
“‘Quote approval’ nullifies, or at least seriously dilutes, reporters’ ability and duty to be honest brokers of information. When the quotes are sanitized, then delivered intact with full attribution, the public has no way of knowing what the concealed deal was.”
The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple added that The Times’ Baquet said “We are reviewing our policy,” he writes, “but it is premature to say what the outcome will be.” The Guardian reported that the Los Angeles Times is also “reviewing” quote approval and that Reuters said it’s “wholly unacceptable.”
And, the Associated Press doesn’t “permit quote approval,” but will do background interviews, according to a Poynter article quoting AP spokesperson Paul Colford.
McClatchy Newspapers’ James Asher sent a memo that noted it won’t allow quote approval, writing:
“To be clear, it is the bureau’s policy that we do not alter accurate quotes from any source. And to the fullest extent possible, we do not make deals that we will clear quotes as a condition of interviews.”