The New York Times and LA Times editors are changing the rules for their journalists on quote approval. This news comes after months of discussions with policymakers and attempts to break the draconian censorship set by the camps of both presidential contenders. On Monday The New York Times finally broke the silence and openly admitted that the Obama campaign grants interviews "under one major condition: the press office has veto power over what statements can be quoted and attributed by name."
According to the same article, Romney advisors do practically the same. The Times reveals that the presumptive Republican nominee’s camp requires that "reporters ask them for the green light on anything from a conversation that they would like to include in an article." Journalists who refuse to follow these rules lose their sources.
But this practice of censorship has been so disappointing for the journalists that now they are ready to give-up close ties with policymakers in order to have more freedom to report the facts as they see them. According to the British Guardian, both The New Your Times and LA Times are rethinking their rules on quote approval. Most likely, they will stop checking quotations with the staff of both campaigns and put more trust on their reporters. The reason is obvious.
After reporters reluctantly send in their top quotes from an interview, they are often disappointed by the edited, dull-sounding versions that they soon find in their inboxes.
“The verdict from the campaign – an operation that prides itself on staying consistently on script – is often no, Barack Obama does not approve this message,” the Times writes.
Aside from the campaign spokesmen, almost all strategists and aides of the Obama campaign demand quote approval. Obama’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, is known to be “foul-mouthed,” the Times writes, but his curses are erased from quotes, so readers would not know it.
Romney’s campaign requires that all advisors, and even the candidate’s sons, are not quoted unless the staff gives approval.
This practice leaves little room for anything aside from positive statements regarding the candidates and their policies, making it an ideal campaign strategy for the presidential contenders – but a frustrating situation for reporters with a record full of unusable juicy quotes.
“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,” the Times writes.
Reuters and the Associated Press were opposed to the practice of quote approval from the very beginning, and others are questioning it.
New York University Journalism professor Jay Rosen thinks the only way to change the practice of quote approval is to report accurate stories without the help of quotes.
The solution, he told The Guardian, is“A press willing to say: Fine: we’ll report the story around you. We will build it from the outside in.”
The news comes at a time when Americans are increasingly more skeptical of newspapers. A recent Gallup poll shows that only 25 percent of respondents express confidence in newspapers. While journalists prefer to publish the sometimes-dirty truth, quote approval may force their writing to be nothing more than involuntary campaigning for their interviewees.