Monday, July 23, 2012

Sticking by your words -- and ours

A recent front-page article in The New York Times stirred up a hornet's nest among journalists. The story by Jeremy W. Peters takes a look at the surprisingly common practice of "quote approval."

I'll admit -- it took me totally by surprise. Apparently it has become quite common for journalists to send quotes back to campaign members and government officials after interviews for approval. According to Peters, "It was difficult to find a news outlet that had not agreed to quote approval, albeit reluctantly. Organizations like Bloomberg, The Washington Post, Vanity Fair, Reuters and The New York Times have all consented to interviews under such terms."

That practice is blatantly wrong. Period. And you'll notice that McClatchy -- the Herald's parent company -- wasn't mentioned. It didn't take long for James Asher, our Washington Bureau chief, to issue a memo on our standing policy:

Don't do it. We share this policy here with pride.

Sure, as Jim notes, this can put our reporters at a disadvantage. But our mission statement declares that "we will passionately uphold the First Amendment."

It's extremely rare that the Bradenton Herald will use unnamed sources, and then only with the approval of the executive editor and assigning editor. We may go off-the-record for background material, or if someone's information might endanger them. But in demanding that government be open for its citizens, we also must be transparent and "in the Sunshine" for our readers.

Here is another link to the policy posted on McClatchy's site. The Herald is adding this to our policies section online, too.

This is the Sunshine State. And that's how we do journalism.


Anonymous said...

"It's extremely rare that the Bradenton Herald will use unnamed sources..."

The BH allows something very similar to "unnamed sources" by allowing commenters to post anonymously. In the digital age there's a fine line anymore between articles written by a professional journalist, blogs, and even these anonymous postings. They've all become lumped into one. A commenter's anonymous and (purposely) inaccurate comment on a news report may, in many minds, hold as much water as the reporter's fact-based account.

Why not require commenters to log in with their real names or a Facebook account like many newspapers across the country do?

My guess: That method will discourage commenters, which will in turn discourage Internet traffic.

- Tim McCann

Joan Krauter said...

Tim -- valid observation. McClatchy has a group of editors and web developers working on the best approach to commenters for a possible systemwide change. Meanwhile, continue to flag comments you deem inappropriate as we monitor those daily if they need deleting.