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A Guaranteed Method of Avoiding Misquotes

October 15, 2008 Leave a comment

When a reporter quotes a public official (or anyone else for that matter), the person being quoted does not get an opportunity to see the quote before it is printed, aired or posted. That’s basic journalism.

But things weren’t always this way.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, reporters “freely acquiesced” to requests to clear quotes with their sources, according to Charles L. Ponce de Leon, author of Self-Exposure, Human Interest Journalism and the Emergence of Celebrity in America, 1890-1940.

And as de Leon relates in a passage from his book, New Jersey was a model for the practice.

“In a book entitled Adventures in Interviewing (1919) the veteran journalist Issac Marcosson endorsed this practice, recalling his first interview with Woodrow Wilson, then the governor of New Jersey, when Wilson had asked to see a copy of the article that Marcosson had produced from their long talk. “It was a wise precaution” Marcosson observed. ‘If more public men would examine and revise what they say for publication before it is printed they would save themselves and other people much trouble.'”

Just imagine what things would be like in New Jersey today if this practice was still in place.

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