The legendary TV Anchorman reports that some journalists are actually agreeing to show their stories to political candidates before turning them in to their own editors, and that they are allowing spin-doctors to slice-and-dice their copy to make sure quotes are acceptable…to them.
The first public official who asked if he could “help me edit” my story was on the Board of Trustees of the University where I got my Journalism degree. I was shocked, considering it was his school that taught me the proper response to such a request is “No!”.
But that experience also taught me an important lesson–the kind you can’t get in a classroom.
While I said “No”; the publisher of the magazine that was supposed to print my story said “Yes”. Suddenly; my big investigative report was reduced to a tiny blurb containing none of the facts that I had worked so hard to find.
So, I got the message early, and I got it loud and clear. Push back, but recognize that if your boss doesn’t support you; your story is toast–and in some places in the world–so are you.
Consider these headlines:
So, compared to those types of threats and media repression; the fact that our Presidential candidates are trying to shape the message presented to voters as we move toward the election is understandable–but insisting on quote approval should not be acceptable here in the US–the home of a supposedly free press.
That the candidates are demanding it is bad enough, but that reporters are actually agreeing to it; is shameful.
To be fair though, there is no way reporters covering the campaign could or would make such a deal without buy-in and approval from their employers.
So–who exactly are those employers? Find out by following these links:
You can read Dan Rather’s excellent editorial, and the New York Times story that inspired it, by clicking on the links below: