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Monday, November 18, 2013

Journalism and Chopped Quotations

Many posts have dealt with the mechanics of newsmaking, which involves various backdoor exchanges and negotiations between journalists and sources.  Sometimes the product is less than fully accurate.

Mike Allen reports at Politico:
HOW THE SAUSAGE GETS MADE – READ A QUOTE AS PUBLISHED, AND HOW IT WAS EMAILED TO THE REPORTER – “GOP group money down, hints at donor uncertainty,” by AP’s Thomas Beaumont in Des Moines and Steve Peoples in Boston: “The biggest Republican-leaning money machines are spending dramatically less to help the party ahead of the 2014 congressional elections, a year after big-dollar conservative groups poured millions into unsuccessful campaigns … Groups such as American Crossroads and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce no longer are willing to risk major investments on hard-line conservatives who embarrassed GOP leaders last fall and rattled the confidence of party donors. … ‘Unlike previous cycles, we won't be sending good money after substandard candidates with weak campaigns,’ said Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman for the conservative super political action committee American Crossroads.”
--HERE’S COLLEGIO’S FULL QUOTE: “There was obviously some donor fatigue after 2012 but we're getting past that now, and donors are awakening to the best Senate map and set of candidates republicans have seen in several cycles. Wherever opportunities lie in 2014, Crossroads will be there -- but unlike previous cycles we won't be sending good money after substandard candidates with weak campaigns.”
November 19 update -- Eric Wemple writes at The Washington Post:
When Collegio saw his quote, he wasn’t pleased. “I said, ‘Wow, they pulled that out of context,’” Collegio tells the Erik Wemple Blog. So he zipped his entire quote over to Allen,* who turned the before-and-after comparison into the top item in this morning’s “Playbook.”
In other words, says Collegio, “What they used as the quote came after a dash and a but, yet the quote pretended as though it was its own self-sustaining sentence.” The point that got chopped, says Collegio, is that American Crossroads is “very optimistic.”
AP spokesman Paul Colford rips back, “Our story is based on solid reporting that goes beyond his quote, which we were under no obligation to run in full.”
Decades ago, such a quote-rebutting moment would have been unthinkable. People who felt they got misquoted might have complained to the news organization — probably to no avail — and railed about the mistreatment in phone conversations with their peers. Perhaps they’d ring up one of the handful of media critics out there. Today there are so many delicious options, including a statement on the company Web site, Twitter postings, Facebook, etc. Even better than all of those, “Playbook” itself. The space that Collegio managed to grab is worth a good $35,000, and now the entirety of Influential Washington knows how American Crossroads feels about next year’s elections. That’s a win.