More and more news organizations are reconsidering the practice of letting top political sources edit and approve their own quotes.
The New York Times reported on Monday that senior officials in the Obama and Romney campaigns — as well as people in many branches of government — have demanded and received permission to edit quotes to their liking from many major outlets. The Times, The Huffington Post, the Washington Post, Bloomberg, Reuters and Vanity Fair were among the organizations that admitted to allowing the practice to occur.
Speaking in a live video chat on Tuesday, HuffPost reporter Sam Stein summed up the conflicted feelings of many Washington writers. "It’s a very frustrating aspect for us journalists, because obviously you want to have the most candid thing possible on the record," he said. "The question is, at what point do you risk your access for the purity of the on-the-record conversation?"
As the public distaste with such a policy grew, however, some outlets were quick to say they had never allowed their journalists to agree with it. (The Associated Press was among the first to stress this.)
The Washington Post's Erik Wemple then reported that the New York Times is reconsidering whether or not to continue to allow sources to edit their quotes. After that, a slew of organizations spoke up.
Reuters said that, barring certain small circumstances, it finds the practice "wholly unacceptable." The Los Angeles Times told the Guardian that it is rethinking its participation in the process. The Washington Examiner even wrote an editorial about the kerfuffle, promising not to allow any quote approval to happen in its pages.
The Washington Post was rather more circumspect in its statements. "In dealing with sources, we trust our reporters to make decisions that uphold the Post's high journalistic standards and are in the best interests of our readers," a spokesman told the Washington City Paper.