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Sunday, September 16, 2012

David Carr Hits Quote Approval Craze: Puppet Theater?

 UPDATE:  NYT's new public ed. Margaret Sullivan just weighed in, with a blog post, noting the Times itself needs a new policy on quote approval.  "Mr. Carr did not address this in his column. In fact, The Times has no explicit policy on this subject, though it has been actively considering the question for the past two months."

Important column coming tomorrow from David Carr at NYT,  following the revelations about Michael Lewis granting quote approval to the White House.  "Journalism in its purest form is a transaction. But inch by inch, story by story, deal by deal, we are giving away our right to ask a simple question and expect a simple answer, one that can’t be taken back. It may seem obvious, but it is still worth stating: The first draft of history should not be rewritten by the people who make it."
In an anecdotal survey of 20 reporters, it was clear that on Wall Street, in Silicon Valley and at some of the big media companies I cover, subjects of coverage are asking for, and sometime receiving, the kind of consideration that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago.
It used to be that American businesses either told reporters to go away or told them what they wanted to know. Now, a reporter trying to interview a business source is confronted by a phalanx of factotums, preconditions and sometimes a requirement that quotations be approved. What pops out of that process isn’t exactly news and isn’t exactly a news release, but contains elements of both...
As someone who has covered Hollywood, I can’t begin to catalog the number of distasteful communications customs in that industry. And reporters I spoke to said Wall Street companies have been trying to negotiate quotations for a decade, in part because one poorly chosen word could cost millions or even billions. But now it is leaking into all corners of the kingdom. 

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