Our World of Rough-and-Ready Ethics: Journalists in the US Agonise about the Smallest Details, but Here We Prefer to Use the Broad Brush, Telling Ourselves That's How the Readers like It. Soon We Will Have to Change

By Cathcart, Brian | New Statesman (1996), September 10, 2007 | Go to article overview

Our World of Rough-and-Ready Ethics: Journalists in the US Agonise about the Smallest Details, but Here We Prefer to Use the Broad Brush, Telling Ourselves That's How the Readers like It. Soon We Will Have to Change


Cathcart, Brian, New Statesman (1996)


A few weeks ago the Washington Post carried a story about an American footballer called Clinton Portis, whose career has been blighted by injuries. It quoted him as saying: "I don't know how anybody feels. I don't know how anybody's thinking. I don't know what anyone else is going through. The only thing I know is what's going on in Clinton Portis's life."

Elsewhere in the same edition of the paper a sports columnist also looked at Portis's prospects, and he used the same quotation--or at least, almost the same quotation. His version had Portis saying: "I don't know how nobody feel, I don't know what nobody think, I don't know what nobody doing, the only thing I know is what's going on in Clinton Portis's life."

When readers wrote in to ask how a man could speak in grammatical, standard English in one version when in the other he did not, the paper investigated and came back with the obvious explanation: the reporter had tidied up Portis's English for the printed page, while the columnist published it verbatim.

Who was right? The Post's policy is clear: "When we put a source's words inside quotation marks, those exact words should have been uttered in precisely that form." But the reporter, Howard Bryant, had another view. "For me, having covered athletes for 15 years, I've always felt conscious and uncomfortable about the differences in class, background and race--I'm an African American--and in terms of the people who are doing the speaking and the people who are doing the writing. I really don't like to make people look stupid, especially when I understand what they're saying."

It is a dilemma. Quotation marks, if they have any point and if readers are to trust them, must surely indicate that the words they enclose were the words that were actually spoken. On the other hand, there is a risk of holding up to ridicule people with educational disadvantages that are no fault of their own.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

I repeat this story, which was reported in some detail by the Washington Post ombudsman, because it shows just how wide the Atlantic can be, culturally. Ask British journalists which is right, the Post or Bryant, and the most common response will be a snort of derision.

Over here we tidy up quotations without a second thought, and not for Bryant's delicate reasons. For years the words of John Prescott were routinely doctored so that it appeared he spoke like most other politicians; it was only after the public became familiar with his special style of speech, through television, that journalists began to reproduce his remarks as spoken. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Our World of Rough-and-Ready Ethics: Journalists in the US Agonise about the Smallest Details, but Here We Prefer to Use the Broad Brush, Telling Ourselves That's How the Readers like It. Soon We Will Have to Change
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.