A recent CNN piece by Bush-era White House press secretary Ari Fleischer –referencing a New York Times article – suggests political journalists allowing sources to check quotes prior to publications represents a de facto capitulation by the media to entrenched political elites.
The controversial symbiotic relationship between political journalists and politicians has been exacerbated of late by reporters’ instantaneous social media “sound bites” that have nervous political operatives on edge. And reporters – anxious to protect their access to political campaigns – have been acquiescing as often as not.
We’ll leave that to discussion the political sector of the media. But as business communicators, we at CommCore believe there IS a defensible rationale for an interview subject asking a reporter to review a quote before it’s published. This is particularly valid for vertical trade publications where points by Subject Matter Experts on economics, science, pharmacology, and other very technical subjects can be easily misunderstood by a journalist, even one well-versed in a subject. And it can also apply to mainstream journalists who are increasingly face a lack of resources because of budget cuts – fewer fact-checkers if any, and fewer reporters with industry-specific expertise to begin with.
· In business communications it’s OK to ask a reporter to see a quote before it’s published just to make sure it presents facts correctly. That’s not the same as asking to approve the quote. And the reporter can always say, “no.”
· If the answer is “no,” you can send an e-mail re-emphasizing the points you made during the interview as you – the interview subject – see them, and re-stating the context in which the quote was made. Just make sure you explain at the top that all you are doing is trying to make sure the facts were correctly understood.
· Minimize the chance of a reporter misconstruing your technical points or facts by preparing in advance audience-appropriate “visual” sound bites, stories and analogies that illustrate clearly and memorably the “data” point you are trying to make. Odds are that’s the quote the journalist will use.