When I first heard of the concept of “quote approval,” it sounded like a joke.
The scary part is that it’s real enough to warrant comment from Dan Rather and the New York Times.
For those uninitiated to this tripe, there are political figures who will only grant an interview to a media outlet if their publicists are given access to the interview and editing rights.
In other words, if you don’t let us change what we said to you, we won’t talk to you.
Thankfully, major media outlets are taking a stand against this.
Dan Rather, The National Journal and McClatchy’s Washington Bureau chief all spoke out against the policy.
The problem is that, so far, they’re the minority.
In the words of James Asher at McClatchy, “As advocates of the First Amendment, we cannot be intimidated into letting the government control our work. When The New York Times agreed with Bush Administration officials to delay publication of its story of illegal wiretaps of Americans until after the 2004 election, it did the nation a great disservice. Acceding to the Obama administration’s efforts to censor our work to have it more in line with their political spin is another disservice to America.”
This is an issue that will only get resolved if every media outlet refuses to agree to quote approval.
If there are publications that continue to submit to it, politicians will simply use those as their exclusive platforms.
In the interest of staying informed, the public will have no choice but to read these sanitized, untrue accounts of political speech.
What they won’t know is that they’re essentially reading press releases promoting the candidate they’re trying to get actual information about.
Though any good journalist abhors ultimatums and blanket statements, I think it’s safe to say that any publication who submits to quote approval is not a public servant.
A publication that allows such blatant cleansing and re-writing of the facts is simply a mouthpiece for politicians, especially during an election year.
Even running their actual quotes makes us platforms for their campaigns, but the point is that we, as journalists, do it honestly and without the approval of the powers that be.
We are sometimes called “the fourth estate” of government.
The fact that this is an unofficial title works in its favor. It’s a service we provide the public by keeping the politicians honest and reporting the truth, even when it’s ugly.
If you’re willing to submit to quote approval, please do the industry, the public and the politicians all a favor and just join the PR teams.
It’s where supporters of this policy belong.
They are a danger to the newsroom.