Tag Archives: journalism ethics

The Monday Media Rdp

By Christopher B. Daly 

I’m still missing my friend and colleague David Carr, whose Media Equation column was usually my first citation in these blogposts. (I wonder what he’d be saying about Bill O’Reilly — and how much of that could get past the NYT copy desk.)

In my mind, one of the worst things O’Reilly has ever done was to say the following (which he has not disputed) to a NYTimes reporter who called him to get his side of the controversy, which is a fundamental principle of journalism:

‘I am coming after you with everything I have,’ Mr. O’Reilly said. ‘You can take it as a threat.’

Elsewhere in the NYTimes:

–Frank Bruni had a penetrating piece Sunday on the faults of the political press corps, especially the 01BRUNI-articleLargeband of reporters who cover the presidential primaries. Having done a bit of that myself in 1987-88, 1992, and 1996, I can affirm that it’s not a pretty picture.

I agree with Bruni that the political press corps would do us all a favor if they would just stop covering Iowa and New Hampshire. That alone would elevate our national political life.

I would add this: most political reporters spend far too much time covering candidates and far too little time covering voters. Turn the lens around!

–Today’s Times brings news that the News Corp. is considering re-hiring Rebekah Brooks, the disgraced (but not convicted) former boss of Rupert Murdoch’s British empire. Raising the question (see O’Reilly above): If they like you, what does it take to get fired by the Murdoch/Ailes crew?

Further afield:

–On CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” Brian Stelter continues to pull away from his predecessor by doing more reporting, by avoiding Washington-style bickering, and by providing a demonstration of good journalism in practice. To his credit, he has continued to report the O’Reilly story, not just milk it.

The New Yorker is observing its 90th birthday, as only the brainchild of Harold Ross could. From the magazine’s troubled first year, here’s a piece titled “Why We Go to Cabarets: — an article that, according to a digressive story in the current issue by Sandy Frazier, saved the New Yorker‘s bacon by attracting the kind of young, fashionable readers that Ross was seeking. Fun fact: the 1925 Cabarets piece was written by Ellin Mackay, better known as Mrs. Irving Berlin.

Next up: I want to read the magazine’s story by A.J. Liebling about D-Day.




Filed under Journalism

Quote Approval: NYTimes bans it

By Christopher B. Daly 

It was the only decision they could have made, but credit New York Times executives with deciding to ban the pernicious practice of “quote approval.”

In an announcement made Thursday, the paper said it would no longer allow its reporters to grant their sources the power to approve their own quotes before they appear in news stories. The Times was slow in figuring this out, but a right decision is always welcome.

Here’s the takeaway:

. . .starting now, we want to draw a clear line on this. Citing Times policy, reporters should say no if a source demands, as a condition of an interview, that quotes be submitted afterward to the source or a press aide to review, approve or edit.

That should have been self-evident.

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Filed under Journalism, New York Times, Uncategorized

Quote approval: David Carr disapproves

By Christopher B. Daly

Today’s Times brings the news that David Carr has joined the chorus of journalists denouncing the journalistic practice known as “quote approval” (which consists, essentially, of allowing your interview subjects to clean up their comments before publication or — in extreme cases — to recast what they said altogether).

All I can say is, welcome aboard this bandwagon.

Carr also blogged about the issue today on the paper’s hard-to-find Media Decoder  site, inviting comments and quoting the outspoken Buzz Bissinger.

Here’s my comment: In nearly 20 years at the AP and the Washington Post, I must have quoted hundreds of people, maybe thousands. Based on that experience, I can say that almost no one ever asked for quote approval (and no one got it) and nobody ever said I mis-quoted them. I used a tape recorder, but only rarely. I took notes like mad, and I only ran with those quotes I was sure of. This is not rocket science. And it’s not that I was any kind of paragon. Those were just the rules of the game.

The standard at the AP, but the way, was very clear: Every word that appeared inside quote marks must have been said by that person, in that order, with nothing added or left out.

Call me old-school, but that’s exactly what I expect when I read another journalist’s work. If I’m not getting that, I might as well be reading fiction, or P.R.

” . . . “





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“Quote approval” fallout

The National Journal joins a (small and slowly growing) list of news organizations that are publicly disowning the practice of “quote approval” — which happens when journalists allow the people they interview to screen and approve their own quotes before those quotes appear in print or online.

Where’s everyone else?

From today’s Times:

Quote approval has become accepted in Washington and on the campaign trail, with politicians and candidates often refusing to grant interviews unless they have final say over how their quotations appear in print. The New York Times examined the issue in an article last week, drawing attention to a part of news gathering that journalists had long complained about but felt pressured into accepting.

Quote approval is wrong. Don’t read quotes that have been approved!





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“Quote approval”: A new low in journalism?

By Christopher B. Daly 

When a journalist interviews someone (anyone), the normal ground rules that govern the interaction amount to this:

I am a journalist working on a story. I want to talk to you and use the things you say in my story, based on my judgment of what is important. I will use none, some, or all of what you say, as I choose, to further the pursuit of the truth. Whatever quotations I use will be verbatim — nothing added, nothing left out. I will also use your real name (and title, if you have one).

This is the essence of the standard known as “on the record.” Journalists prefer it because we believe that, on the whole, it holds people accountable for the things they say. In certain (ideally rare) situations, however, journalists will negotiate some lower standard. Almost always, these retreats from the “on the record” standard come at the initiative of the people we are speaking to. These other arrangements are known by a bewildering array of terms, which do not always mean the same thing in different cities or beats. The problem is that these departures usually serve the source rather than the audience.

Today comes word from the Times that political reporters for all the major news organizations have adopted a new — and, I think, pernicious — practice. They allow the people they are interviewing to get a look at their own quotes before publication and censor them. That is, the big shots around Obama and Romney routinely demand and get the power to edit themselves before their words appear in print or online.

Well, you can hardly blame them for trying. Who wouldn’t want that option?

But the journalists should never have agreed to it. These spokespeople, senior officials, and top aides get paid lots of money for their ability to think on their feet and choose their words carefully.

At the very least, having agreed to this arrangement, the journalists have a professional duty to reveal the terms. What about transparency? I, for one, could live without stories in which members of the political class get to “clean up” their quotes.

Another question: in what other fields does this practice apply? Sports reporting? Business news?

(Props to Jeremy Peters of the Times for blowing the whistle on this practice.)


Filed under Journalism, journalism history, New York Times, Politics