Media reviewing quote approval policies

By Alex Veeneman on July 18, 2012

President Obama giving a press conference.
(Photo courtesy of the federal government)

Media outlets across the United States are reviewing policies when it comes to quote approval after a New York Times article examined methods by government officials and campaigns utilizing quote approval for stories.

The New York Times report analyzed organizations reports, and there was an increasing consensus that journalists were not fond of the policy, despite that interviews were done under this matter. “We don’t like the practice,” said Dean Baquet, The Times’ managing editor for news, speaking in the Times. “We encourage our reporters to push back. Unfortunately this practice is becoming increasingly common, and maybe we have to push back harder.”

Major Garrett of the National Journal magazine told the Times he wasn’t proud of the policy that reflects on the journalism he does. “It’s not something I’m particularly proud of because there’s a part of me that says, ‘Don’t do it, don’t agree to their terms,’” Garrett said. “There are times when this feels like I’m dealing with some of my editors. It’s like, ‘You just changed this because you could!’”

A Times spokesperson told the British newspaper The Guardian that the policy was being reviewed. Calls to the Times, Reuters, The Wall Street Journal, and to the Associated Press were not returned. In a statement, The Washington Post’s national editor Kevin Merida said on the record information was strongly pursued. “Our political staff aggressively pursues on-the-record information and quotations in reporting on the campaigns,” Merida said. “In dealing with sources, we trust our reporters to make decisions that uphold the Post’s high journalistic standards and are in the best interests of our readers.”

A spokesman for NPR said the network had not been in a quote approval scenario. A spokesperson for the L.A. Times told The Guardian that a review was being considered.

A spokesperson for the Canadian public broadcaster CBC did not mention an issue in particular on quote approval when it comes to coverage of US politics. But, according to the policy of CBC News on interviews, questions are not released. “We inform the interviewee of the subject of the interview,” the policy reads. “We do not provide in advance the questions they will be asked. That could give a false impression of spontaneity in the interviewee’s responses and unduly limit the interviewer’s ability to react to interviewee statements with supplementary questions. We advise the interviewee of how we plan to use the interview. When an interview is recorded, it may be edited before publication for length or to select the relevant passages. At our discretion, we may choose to rebroadcast an interview in whole or in part, post it online or make it accessible in website archives, or not be published at all.”

The CBC policy adds that the interview statements are respected. “Whatever the context in which we choose to use the content of the interview, we will respect the meaning of an interviewee’s statements,” the policy adds. “We try to avoid situations where prior restraint would be agreed to or imposed. If, for serious cause, we do agree to restrict the use that may be made of an interview, we take the necessary measures to comply with this commitment. It may be necessary to explain to the audience that such restrictions have been agreed to, so the public can assess the credibility of the interviewee’s statements.”

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