Editorial: The New York Times redacting quote approval is a major step forward
Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 20:09
Last week, The New York Times became the first major American news outlet to prohibit its reporters and writers from submitting to a practice called quote approval. First revealed as a prevalent tactic in that same newspaper in July, it has enabled countless politicians, public figures and their associates to edit their own statements before publication so as to redact inapt language or soften the tone of a particularly pungent phrase. But, because quote approval has cast so much doubt on the veracity and integrity of journalism with regard to coverage of the most powerful and influential figures in the world, a backlash against it has recently begun. Though the Daily Campus does not have an official policy prohibiting it, this newspaper acknowledged on September 7 that no official interviewed by its reporters has ever requested quote approval. But, for a larger and more regularly scrutinized news source such as The New York Times, a policy preventing the use of quote approval is a welcome development and a reaffirmation of the newspaper’s commitment to journalistic integrity.
For many of us at UConn, The New York Times represents our daily interaction with news and current events on a scale that extends beyond our university. We furthermore make a series of assumptions about what we read within: that a certain amount of due diligence has been performed beforehand so as to render the writing credible, that the reporting is free of obvious biases and that when someone is quoted, he or she has actually said or written the words contained within the quotation marks. Before the institution of the Times’ quote approval policy, those assumptions were not necessarily grounded in fact.
But the principal benefit of the quote approval ban comes from the improved connection that journalism provides between readers and leaders. It is certainly reasonable that a politician would attempt to self-censor his remarks to a reporter in a time when the proliferation of recording technologies has revealed many of the most important public figures to be gaffe-prone, but they nevertheless should not be granted such an opportunity. Candidates and leaders are artificial enough as it is, as evinced by the manufactured images which they project to the public. Preserving the ability of journalists to quote the actual words of these figures serves both to keep them honest and journalism secure in its right to convey the truth to readers of news sources.