Some of you have said something similar to this in class:
The truth, according to writer and journalist Janet Malcolm, is “messy, incoherent, aimless, boring, absurd…the truth does not make a good story; that’s why we have art.” She also compared accuracy to a shapeless housecoat.
But what about people’s quotes? How should a journalist deal with editing messy or incoherent or downright boring quotes from his or her interviewees? Is it doing the subjects a favor or a disservice to clean up their words a bit? Or is that ethically wrong? Where is the line?
Jon Franklin, a a two-time Pulitzer winner who now teaches journalism and creative writing at the University of Oregon, says this:
“I’ve changed quotes and I’ve been accused of changing quotes, but I have never been accused of changing a quote I actually changed…People don’t say what they mean, and they expect you to quote what they mean, not what they say. That is slippery, but it’s the reality.”
Susan Feeney, a national political reporter for the Dallas Morning News, says this:
“You can’t. You can’t fix quotes. Period…If somebody speaks in a way in which quoting them is incomprehensible, you don’t use the quote. You use partial quotes. I don’t fix them. Ever.”
What do you think?
To find out more about this debate- read an article that quotes many journalists (correctly? lets hope!) here.