Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Do Minnesota Journalists Let Politicians Rewrite Quotes?

Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Do Minnesota Journalists Let Politicians Rewrite Quotes?

Article excerpt

The New York Times had a front-page story today outing a noxious practice it and others allow: letting politicians veto and in some cases rewrite quotes from briefings.

Such "quote approval" is shockingly common in D.C., where hyper- competitive political journos are frequently accused of being stenographers to power.

Journalists already trade disclosure for (presumably candid) access when they allow sources anonymity -- "administration official," "high-ranking staffer." The public should trust that stuff less, but at least the journalist retains some control. Quote approval and quote laundering gets a named source, at the credibility-sapping price of tranferring editorial control to your subject. Reporters' defense -- the quotes don't change much -- is fairly pathetic.

Which raises the question: Do Minnesota political journalists do this?

Editors or spokesfolk for five Minnesota news organizations -- the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Minnesota Public Radio, the Associated Press, Politics in Minnesota and MinnPost -- say no.

I'm not yet sure of the Star Tribune: Political editor Pat Lopez declined to answer, referring me to her boss, managing editor Rene Sanchez, who did not return an email or call in a three-hour window this morning. I'll update if I hear back.

[Update: Sanchez says, "No, we don't do that and I can't think of a circumstance in which we would."]

Politics in Minnesota managing editor Steve Perry, whose staff blankets the state Capitol, says, "We've neither used this practice nor taken part in briefings in which it was a condition. Doesn't seem to have filtered to the state level as far as I can tell."

Pioneer Press Dennis Lien agrees, adding that no politician he's covered has made quote approval a condition for attending a briefing.

Associated Press spokesman Paul Colford -- whose organization was not listed among the weak-willed in the NYT piece -- says, "We don't permit quote approval. …

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