“Quote Approval” Is The New Normal For The National Media
If you’re reading a news story and you see some candidate or official quoted, chances are the reporter had to get those quotes approved by the source before they could be published.
Trading obedience for access has become the new normal in the national media.
The push and pull over what is on the record is one of journalism’s perennial battles. But those negotiations typically took place case by case, free from the red pens of press minders. Now, with a millisecond Twitter news cycle and an unforgiving, gaffe-obsessed media culture, politicians and their advisers are routinely demanding that reporters allow them final editing power over any published quotations.
Quote approval is standard practice for the Obama campaign, used by many top strategists and almost all midlevel aides in Chicago and at the White House — almost anyone other than spokesmen who are paid to be quoted. (And sometimes it applies even to them.) It is also commonplace throughout Washington and on the campaign trail.
The Romney campaign insists that journalists interviewing any of Mitt Romney’s five sons agree to use only quotations that are approved by the press office. And Romney advisers almost always require that reporters ask them for the green light on anything from a conversation that they would like to include in an article.
From Capitol Hill to the Treasury Department, interviews granted only with quote approval have become the default position. Those officials who dare to speak out of school, but fearful of making the slightest off-message remark, shroud even the most innocuous and anodyne quotations in anonymity by insisting they be referred to as a “top Democrat” or a “Republican strategist.”
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.
Obviously, there’s still plenty of room for officials and candidates to be quoted without needing approval, if only because so many of them spend so much time talking in public where anyone with a cell phone camera can document exactly what they say. But this idea of any sort of “quote approval” is worrisome because it’s essentially bribery.
Reporters get the access they want, but only if they are willing to compromise their final product. And those reporters who don’t take that deal no doubt get the cold shoulder.
You have to wonder, beyond quote approval, what other concessions have reporters made to win access?Tags: Asshats, journalism