“The President thinks REDACTED about the REDACTED, and is especially dissapointed in Mitt Romney’s REDACTED insistence on REDACTED.” – Potential defining quote of Campaign 2012, from REDACTED
On Sunday, the New York Times published an expose from the 2012 campaign trail entitled, “Latest Word on the Trail, I Take It Back.” In a story that shouldn’t surprise any cynical independent voter, Jeremy Peters described the practices of Obama and Romney campaign aides and surrogates when giving quotes to the media for use in stories:
“The quotations come back redacted, stripped of colorful metaphors, colloquial language and anything even mildly provocative.
They are sent by e-mail from the Obama headquarters in Chicago to reporters who have interviewed campaign officials under one major condition: the press office has veto power over what statements can be quoted and attributed by name.”
“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…
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… Many journalists spoke about the editing only if granted anonymity, an irony that did not escape them. No one said the editing altered the meaning of a quote. The changes were almost always small and seemingly unnecessary, they said.”
Unfortunately for the public at large, this practice of quote approval undermines the accountability of both politicians and the press, an irony that wasn’t completely lost on the New York Times and the reporting author. If politicians and campaign talking heads are allowed to posthumously edit and filter their quotes, and journalists then have to pick and choose from proofread speech, how are we as the public supposed to trust politicians and the political media that the facts are being accurately reported? Where is the political and journalistic integrity or accountability?
“The Times is right that quote approval is bad. They are right that it is ironic that journalists and staffers wouldn’t go on the record for the story. But it is terribly ironic that they can’t seem to see why. Modern media has developed in such a way as to make it hard for us to expect anyone to willingly co-operate with us. That makes our jobs harder and does the public a disservice.
But you can’t blame the people in the most danger taking steps to protect themselves from what even well-intentioned coverage can do to their lives and careers once the rest of the media and the online commentariat get a hold of the quote. People aren’t just responsible for what they say anymore, but every possible interpretation, no matter how warped, of what they said. Who needs that?”