Great moments in journalism: Both campaigns have quote approval with media outlets

posted at 12:41 pm on July 16, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

It’s one thing to insist that reporters check quotes for accuracy and proper context.  Most carry recorders of some kind to ensure that they accurately quote their sources, especially since it has become so inexpensive to do so.  But should they have to get approval from politicians to use accurate quotes from the campaigns and advisers?

The push and pull over what is on the record is one of journalism’s perennial battles. But those negotiations typically took place case by case, free from the red pens of press minders. Now, with a millisecond Twitter news cycle and an unforgiving, gaffe-obsessed media culture, politicians and their advisers are routinely demanding that reporters allow them final editing power over any published quotations.

Quote approval is standard practice for the Obama campaign, used by many top strategists and almost all midlevel aides in Chicago and at the White House — almost anyone other than spokesmen who are paid to be quoted. (And sometimes it applies even to them.) It is also commonplace throughout Washington and on the campaign trail.

The Romney campaign insists that journalists interviewing any of Mitt Romney’s five sons agree to use only quotations that are approved by the press office. And Romney advisers almost always require that reporters ask them for the green light on anything from a conversation that they would like to include in an article.

From Capitol Hill to the Treasury Department, interviews granted only with quote approval have become the default position. Those officials who dare to speak out of school, but fearful of making the slightest off-message remark, shroud even the most innocuous and anodyne quotations in anonymity by insisting they be referred to as a “top Democrat” or a “Republican strategist.”

It is a double-edged sword for journalists, who are getting the on-the-record quotes they have long asked for, but losing much of the spontaneity and authenticity in their interviews.

This is actually less of a problem with the politicians themselves.  Most quotes we get from candidates and officeholders come from public speeches and appearances.  Many campaign advisers make the rounds on television, including a couple mentioned in the NYT article, including David Axelrod, who according to this Jeremy Peters report is long-winded and inclined to edit himself to shorten answers before approving quotes.

Still, it’s bad enough that the press allows these players to edit their own quotes.  Extending that down to the bureaucrats in federal agencies is even worse.  Would Al Armendariz have approved the “crucify” quote — and would the media have buried it if he hadn’t said it on tape?  What happened to the independence of the media?  Granting approval to the governing class for quotes, as well as edit rights, pushes them further toward a mouthpiece role rather than a watchdog role, and that’s true regardless of which party is in power.  On the record should mean on the record, and the only issue should be whether a quote was accurate and in context.

The journalists themselves know this, too, which is why so few of them agreed to speak on the record — an irony Peters notes:

Many journalists spoke about the editing only if granted anonymity, an irony that did not escape them. No one said the editing altered the meaning of a quote. The changes were almost always small and seemingly unnecessary, they said.

Those who did speak on the record said the restrictions seem only to be growing. “It’s not something I’m particularly proud of because there’s a part of me that says, ‘Don’t do it, don’t agree to their terms,’ ” said Major Garrett, a correspondent for The National Journal. “There are times when this feels like I’m dealing with some of my editors. It’s like, ‘You just changed this because you could!’ ”

Well … yeah.  What did you expect?

Update: My friend Deacon Greg Kandra and I used almost the headline independently of each other, and Greg — a former newsman for CBS — adds this: “It is many things, but it ain’t journalism.”

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…there is no great moment anymore!

KOOLAID2 on July 16, 2012 at 12:46 PM

…they will ALWAYS check with JugEars!

KOOLAID2 on July 16, 2012 at 12:47 PM

27 comments or bust.

Bishop on July 16, 2012 at 12:48 PM

“I am Barack Hussein Obama, and my Imam approves this message.”

Archivarix on July 16, 2012 at 12:48 PM

…with Mitt we want to know about pranks, taxes, dogs, and make up stuff!

KOOLAID2 on July 16, 2012 at 12:48 PM

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.’

TooTall on July 16, 2012 at 12:49 PM

KOOLAID2 on July 16, 2012 at 12:47 PM

Can I quote you on that?

BacaDog on July 16, 2012 at 12:50 PM

27 comments or bust.

Bishop on July 16, 2012 at 12:48 PM

…well I’m over quota…did my share.
You going to go over ED’s union contract or not?…when’s the guy get to eat today?…he needs a government job! You’re working the hair off his head!

KOOLAID2 on July 16, 2012 at 12:52 PM

Quote approval? That’s what happens when the so-called media takes a dump all over the concepts of professionalism, integrity and non-partisanship to become propagandists. In this case, overwhelmingly partisan on behalf of the Democrat party.

cicerone on July 16, 2012 at 12:55 PM

As many a professional politician has said through the ages:

“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”

And you can quote that.

coldwarrior on July 16, 2012 at 12:56 PM

Can I quote you on that?

BacaDog on July 16, 2012 at 12:50 PM

…sure!…if JugEars screws up on a quote…they’ll ignore it…or they’ll change it for him…because “he meant this”!
Mitt could say “I like Condi Rice”…and the journalist will write: “Romney is boinking Condi!”

KOOLAID2 on July 16, 2012 at 12:58 PM

so Obama is talking about Fast and Furious all day every day, its the blasted MSM that keeps changing his quotes around… I knew it.

gatorboy on July 16, 2012 at 1:01 PM

I don’t have too much of a problem with this. Nothing wrong with laying down ground rules for an interview. If the interviewer doesn’t want to agree to the rules, fine, they can skip it. I think for campaigns this is a smart way to try and keep from being misquoted or quoted out of context. And if the media doesn’t like it they don’t have to agree to the rules before the interview.

dczombie on July 16, 2012 at 1:01 PM

This is like that Headline story from yesterday about the decline in liberal christian churches. The desire by journalists to please the people they get their quotes form are turning the work into irrelevancy. What they will be offering is no different than what the campaigns are already producing. As a consumer of information, I may as well cut out the middle man.

CaliforniaRefugee on July 16, 2012 at 1:02 PM


Bmore on July 16, 2012 at 1:05 PM

KOOLAID2 on July 16, 2012 at 12:58 PM

“Romney is banking Condi’s cash in Cayman”

kirkill on July 16, 2012 at 1:06 PM

Our so called journalists will have a new dog to chase and something to help them ignore the bad economy soon to help Obama. 4 carriers in the gulf by August. There are often two in the region while one is about to transit back to port as the other arrives but four at once plus all the extra mine sweeping gear being deployed? $#!t is going to hit the fan in August… just in time for the election, not because it should’ve been done YEARS ago even back when Bush was President still.

Yakko77 on July 16, 2012 at 1:08 PM

If we had an HONEST press, this wouldn’t be an issue…

Sorry if the LSM doesn’t like it… they have themselves to blame…

Khun Joe on July 16, 2012 at 1:10 PM

Another ereport showing how Romney is like 0bama? That is 2 in 1 day, and the day is barely half over!


DannoJyd on July 16, 2012 at 1:11 PM

Joseph Goebbels is proud.

ButterflyDragon on July 16, 2012 at 1:13 PM

OT: It Begins. Drudge is reporting that US Navy has fired on a ship in the Persian gulf.

The Rogue Tomato on July 16, 2012 at 1:22 PM

What happened to the independence of the media?

Uh, for the most part the (liberal) media sold themselves. They write what the DNC tells them to write.

I always enjoy the one week of the year when the local rag goes on about the 4th Estate and it’s “duty” to the public. How they SHINE THE SPOTLIGHT ON GOVERNMENT WRONG-DOING!

Yeah, like Solyndra, George Kaiser, Fast and Furious, Fiskar…….

GarandFan on July 16, 2012 at 1:23 PM

Slow.News.Days. Can we talk about 70’s fashion, again?

Corporal Tunnel on July 16, 2012 at 1:23 PM

I can understand this because the media gets it wrong so often that you either don’t talk to them or you approve them using what you said and the context in which you said it.

Vince on July 16, 2012 at 1:24 PM

This is news? Come ON!
” … my Muslim faith.” (BHO)
IMMEDIATELY CORRECTED … and by that there was an immesurable time between Senator Soetoro voice picked up in stride by ABC’s, George (SGS)Stephenopolos with “Your Christian faith.”

SGS = Short Guy Syndrome

No news here, move along.

Missilengr on July 16, 2012 at 1:30 PM

If we had an HONEST press, this wouldn’t be an issue…

Sorry if the LSM doesn’t like it… they have themselves to blame…

Khun Joe on July 16, 2012 at 1:10 PM

^ This.

The LSM has made a sport of gotcha quotes and out of context quoting. Their dishonest practices have resulted in forcing public figures into such a defensive posture.

No tears on this one for the LSM.

Skwor on July 16, 2012 at 1:33 PM

Great moments in journalism stenography

(Corrected obvious error in headline: article has nothing to do with “journalism”)

landlines on July 16, 2012 at 1:37 PM

Obama takes money from Off-Shoring Tax Haven Elites in Switzerland and he takes money from Bain. Well, I never.

The Democratic wizards of election-year optics believe that such populist rhetoric demonizing foreign money will help shore up their left flank and win independents tired of crony, out-of-touch government. One problem: They launched their classwar fusillade in the same week that Tinseltown tycoon George Clooney announced Obama fundraising efforts — in Geneva, Switzerland. Oops.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Clooney will entertain 150 European elites at a swanky Swiss reception, “which will be followed by a more intimate — and expensive — dinner at which the star will be the guest of honor. Tickets for the latter event will go for $20,000 for singles and $30,000 for couples.”

As Reuters reported at the time, Clooney spearheaded a similar event in Geneva, “one of the world’s most affluent cities,” in 2008. “Some 170 contributors paid $1,000 a head to hear him speak at a cocktail party held at a museum in Geneva’s Old Town.

And 75 high-rolling supporters spent $10,000 each to attend ‘an intimate seated dinner’” with the actor.

Swiss money for thee, but not for Romney, eh, Democrats?


Even more problematic for Obama: Some of his very best campaign finance bundlers and golfing buddies are architects and beneficiaries of the Swiss tax havens he purports to abhor.

Robert Wolf is president of Swiss financial giant UBS Investment Bank and chairman of UBS Americas. According to campaign finance records, this longtime friend and fat cat has personally bundled more than $500,000 for Obama, dating back to Obama’s Illinois Senate days.

Obama and Wolf were introduced by radical leftist billionaire George Soros and have remained golfing and basketball buddies ever since. Wolf sits on Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board and the presidential Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. In August 2010, Obama’s Internal Revenue Service dropped its lawsuit over UBS tax havens. The company forked over nearly $800 million to make the investigators all go away.

Wolf’s no lone Swiss-based Obama wolf. The left-leaning BuzzFeed and right-leaning Washington Free Beacon websites both noted in April that another deep-pocketed Obama bundler, Charles Adams, heads the Swiss office of powerhouse law firm Akin Gump. He’s raised at least $100,000.

It’s fondue-savory to watch the current administration, up to its eyeballs in tax cheats and scofflaws from the Treasury Department to the Health and Human Services Department to the Labor Department, railing about Romney’s purported tax evasion.

It’s even richer to watch Obama’s operatives huff and puff about Romney’s lack of transparency while using Romney’s own disclosed tax forms to disparage his wealth, investments and private-sector success.

But Wait! There’s Even More!

Between 1999-2002, the executives of Bain donated to Obama for his campaign.

No doubt at that time Barack Obama was not at all upset about jobs being outsourced as he got some big, fat checks from the executives.

The same SEC form from February 2001 that lists Mitt Romney as “sole shareholder, sole director, Chief Executive Officer and President of Bain Capital … the controlling person of Bain Capital” also lists over a dozen other managing directors of Bain Capital, Inc. — all of whom were undoubtedly more active than Romney was during this period. And President Obama took money from many of them.

Take Joshua Bekenstein. Bekenstein has been a managing director of Bain Capital since 1986. In 2008, he signed Barack Obama a $4,600 check. In 2004, he gave a $50,000 donation to the Democratic National Committee. That’s outsourcing money, plain and simple. And Obama was happy to take it.

Or how about Stephen Pagliuca? Last year, he cut a $35,800 check to Barack Obama’s Victory Fund. Then he cut another $30,800 check to the DNC. And another $30,800 check to the DCCC.

Jonathan Lavine and Mark Nunnelly have both maxed out to Obama already, as well as to the DNC. Lavin was a bundler for Obama, and raised over $100,000 for him. Michael Krupka gave Obama $4,600 in 2008.

Read more:

mountainaires on July 16, 2012 at 1:45 PM

27 comments or bust.

Bishop on July 16, 2012 at 12:48 PM

Slightly OT, then:

I just got roped into watc hing Fox News for five minutes and got to see Megan Kelly, noted idiot, trying to draw equivalences between the Indonesian Dog-Eater and Romney, claiming that “they both lie” … and the GOP lettuce-head Brad Blakeman was too friggin stupid to do anything but agree with the brain-dead ditz. I couldn’t take more than a few minutes of it – especially how Kelly was trying to portray herself as being so “impartial” in her abject stupidity and LYING – and had to walk away.

That’s why I haven’t watched Fox News in years. Every so often I see a bit of it and it’s far worse than the last time. What a piece of sh!t that channel has descended to.

It would be nice to get a semi-conservative news channel somewhere … but until then, there’s nothing but the internet for real news. All TV channels have to offer are mediocre blonde ditzes (and mediocre exotic women on Bloomberg) without any information value, at all. I can see better looking women not pretending to be “reporters” … or even better looking women doing better at pretending to be reporters on the movie channels.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on July 16, 2012 at 1:47 PM

In defense of the campaigns, if Jounolists didn’t have such a propensity for pulling quotes out of context, this sort of thing would not be neccessary.

But – alas – here we are.

CycloneCDB on July 16, 2012 at 1:51 PM

Freedom of the Press.


Steveangell on July 16, 2012 at 1:56 PM

It may not be journalism but it’s smart politics. Given how hostile members of the media and opposing campaigns pore over everything looking for something that can be twisted or blown up into a potent weapon, is it any wonder the politicians are operating defensively?

Jill1066 on July 16, 2012 at 2:21 PM

People like to complain about everything, but this is good news! I am sick of the gotcha journalism where a person’s unintended statement is made into the news for weeks on end. I want to hear news based on what the political campaign actually intended to say.

thuja on July 16, 2012 at 2:38 PM

Sounds similar to how Congressmen can edit the Congressional Record:

AeroSpear on July 16, 2012 at 2:45 PM

Sounds similar to how Congressmen can edit the Congressional Record:

AeroSpear on July 16, 2012 at 2:45 PM


This is hardly the same. You can still watch it on CSPAN. Even in court you can correct the record. Both have legal ramifications.

Here this is just the Press suppressing the truth.

Steveangell on July 16, 2012 at 3:40 PM

How the mighty have fallen – no longer journalists, merely toadies!

riplag on July 16, 2012 at 4:12 PM

Poor Winston Smith will be feverishly editing every dumb thing that ever came out of Joe Biden’s mouth. I say he gets an extra ration of Victory Gin!

Dr. ZhivBlago on July 16, 2012 at 4:23 PM

I want to hear news based on what the political campaign actually intended to say.

thuja on July 16, 2012 at 2:38 PM

The road to Perdition is paved with intentions.

coldwarrior on July 16, 2012 at 7:01 PM

Why do I suspect that these agreements will be respected for democratics and not for Republicans?

slickwillie2001 on July 16, 2012 at 7:33 PM

Ed, really? You’re complaining about journalists having an agenda? Of not being objective, of allowing themselves to be used?
Since the days when Jefferson and Hamilton were snarking back and forth in print at each other while Washington was Pres. there has always been an agenda, an effort to “tell they story as they see it.”
No one ever reported that FDR was crippled, let alone had mistresses. There was the Spanish American war. Jonathan Riis refused to acknowledge that there was such as thing as child prostitution in NYC. Journalists covered for Nixon’s filthy mouth, JFK’s indiscretions and shady “friends,” on and on. There has never been some “golden age” of journalism where it was just the facts. It was always about selling papers, or now, getting viewers.
To pretend that journalists are or ever have been, as a group, anything more than story tellers is sad and wrong.

LincolntheHun on July 16, 2012 at 10:53 PM