Here’s a disturbing trend

The New York Times ran a story today about the fact that journalists from a wide range of news outlets, including the Times and the Washington Post, are letting politicians and campaign managers approve quotes before they appear in stories. I’m stunned. In fact, both as a journalist (or former one) and reader, I think I’d rather have no quotes in the story than have to live with the absurd restriction of prior approval on quotes that apparently is becoming the standard for interviews with candidates, campaign managers and elected and/or appointed officials.

I understand this is the result of gaffe-driven news coverage, and perhaps from the perspective of the politician or political official, it makes sense. But why would a journalist put up with such a policy?? The response from Dean Baquet, the managing editor for news at the Times (as quoted in the Times story) is that, ““We don’t like the practice. We encourage our reporters to push back. Unfortunately this practice is becoming increasingly common, and maybe we have to push back harder.” That strikes me as a timid response and one that doesn’t serve the public very well. We talk about the problem with quotes from press releases and other “overly massaged” types of information.

I’d be interested in your thoughts on this. Is this as bad as I think it is? Or is there an argument to be made for journalists simply accepting this new political landscape?

AN UPDATE: Poynter has been tracking this story over the past couple of days, and today posted this column that includes an interview with Politico editor-in-chief John Harris. It’s worth taking a look at …

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