A recent New York Times article revealed that — on the campaign trail — many journalists agree to allow campaigns to approve quotes or see articles before publication. And this week, the Washington Post revealed that its education reporter had shared drafts with interview subjects. Some journalists are horrified, while others say it’s the price of doing business in the 21st century. Kojo explores the issues and what’s at stake for the public and news organizations.


  • Mark Jurkowitz Associate Director, Project for Excellence in Journalism; former ombudsman of The Boston Globe.
  • Jeremy Peters Political Reporter, The New York Times
  • Ian Traynor European Editor, The Guardian (based in Brussels)


  • 13:22:13

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIIt was an open secret on the campaign trail, a tradeoff between press corp. and the candidates they followed day in, day out. Reporters get quotes from top brass in the Obama and Romney camps but those soundbites come with a condition. The campaign can review, redact and even rewrite what was said before it ended up in the newspaper. When the New York Times first reported this month that campaigns were demanding veto power over their quotes it set off a heated debate across the media about the relationship between the press and the people they cover and the dangers of giving sources a section bite at the apple.

  • 13:22:51

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIBut that conversation has moved beyond the campaign trail. This week the Washington Post education reporter is in the spotlight for sharing entire drafts of his articles with sources before they went to press. Joining us to discuss this is Mark Jurkowitz. He is associated director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism and former ombudsman of the Boston Globe. Mark, always a pleasure.

  • 13:23:17

    MR. MARK JURKOWITZThanks, Kojo. Good to be here.

  • 13:23:18

    NNAMDIJoining us by phone from New York is Jeremy Peters. He's a political reporter with the New York Times. Jeremy, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:23:25

    MR. JEREMY PETERSHi, thanks for having me.

  • 13:23:26

    NNAMDIAnd joining us by phone from Croatia is Ian Traynor, European editor with The Guardian. He's been a foreign correspondent for some 25 years. Ian Traynor, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:23:37

    MR. IAN TRAYNORGood afternoon.

  • 13:23:38

    NNAMDIJeremy, I'll start with you. It started as a fascinating back story about how the sausage is made in political journalism. Earlier this month you wrote the column about a new feature of the 2012 Presidential Campaign, both campaigns insisting on final approval on quotes that would end up in news stories. How does that work?

  • 13:23:57

    PETERSWell, you know, I think one of the most interesting aspects about this is that it's not a new feature at all. It was something that had just gone unsaid for the longest time. And I felt compelled to write about it because this is the first time that I've covered a presidential campaign. And I had been confronted with this decision when I'd asked for interviews from the Obama campaign in particular and was told that I could only have the interviews with campaign strategists if I agreed to do them on background, which means that I can't identify the person who's speaking although I can use information from the interview.

  • 13:24:35

    PETERSI would have to agree to do those interviews under those conditions. But if I wanted to quote anything directly to the campaign strategists by name I would have to send those quote in to the Obama press office and have them okayed. And what that would often entail is an email sent back striking certain words from the quote, cleaning up long-winded language. And, you know, none of it altered the meaning of the sentence but it all seemed rather needless and unnecessary and nitpicky to be frank.

  • 13:25:09

    PETERSSo I asked around and I found out that this is something that the Romney campaign also employs. And I found out that reporters had, you know, been putting up with this for a while but that what was new is that it's become policy. So it's an institutionalized practice with both campaigns now. They, not for every interview but for a lot of interviews, insist on having final say over the quotes that are attributed by name to their campaign strategists.

  • 13:25:44

    NNAMDIMark, before the story, there was a sort of dirty little secret about this among the press corp, something that apparently bothered the people who covered the races, but something they felt either unable or unwilling to air in public until Jeremy wrote his piece. What has been the reaction among journalists you've been talking to?

  • 13:26:01

    JURKOWITZWell, among journalists, there's been obviously a major debate about this. And, you know, ethical debates in journalism tend to get people lining up quickly often on the side of sort of traditional ethical standards. And it's been fodder for you don't do this. I think a couple of things that, you know -- there are very complicated relationships between sources and reporters, particularly on long standing stories.

  • 13:26:26

    JURKOWITZThese are campaign reporters covering a campaign that's lasted over a year. So they're engaged on a daily or weekly basis with these people over and over, as opposed to running into a story and a source one time, where they're not only simply trying to get today's story but they're trying to foster relationships. What Jeremy described, by the way, is right. That -- in my years as a journalist there were many, many times when somebody gave an interview on background and said, if you want to use any of this later run it by me.

  • 13:26:58

    JURKOWITZI think what's a little striking is the formality of the process. That run it by me could've easily been a phone call or something like that. The formality and sort of knowing ahead of time, that feels a little different. And part of it frankly -- and Jeremy would know better than me -- sort of speaks to the power relationship between the two parties, you know, with perhaps the political side looking for kind of a psychological advantage over the journalist.

  • 13:27:27

    NNAMDIIf you'd like to join the conversation you can call us at 800-433-8850. Are you uncomfortable with the relationship between reporters and their sources as revealed by this story and others? 800-433-8850. Or you can send email to kojo@wamu.org. Send us a Tweet at kojoshow or go to our website, kojoshow.org and join the conversation there. Ian Traynor, this article prompted some interesting soul searching, as you've been hearing, among American journalists. But it also resonated in other parts of the world.

  • 13:27:58

    NNAMDIYou write a fascinating piece about how quotes are manipulated in other political cultures and you presented Germany as the case study of how dangerous this practice can be. Tell us about the German political press corp.

  • 13:28:13

    TRAYNORWell, I guess it's a case of kind of cultural differences. I mean, it's a very interesting story, the New York Times story. What was surprising to me was I wasn't surprised because in Europe certainly and certainly in Germany and in France for that matter, and in Brussels where I am based, it's a fairly common practice, one must say. Now it's just different attitudes, different cultures.

  • 13:28:36

    TRAYNORBut in the German case, in particular for decades now I know on the record interview with some major -- you know, with a leading politician, the German chancellor. And this has happened -- I have direct experience of this. Even when it's agreed upfront that it is on the record that the transcript of the interview is basically provided later by the chancellor's press office. And that is the only bits of the interview that you're allowed to use.

  • 13:29:04

    TRAYNORNow I think it goes a bit farther than what Mark was saying about perhaps a certain innocuous trend here where you're talking to officials off the record and it will be suggested to you if you want to use any of this on the record. Let me know later and we'll see what we can do, that kinda more informal attitude. In the German case it's much more systematic. It's much more -- you must not use any of this until you receive the actual transcript from the politician's office.

  • 13:29:35

    TRAYNORI had a couple of directive experiences of this in one case where I had to pull a front page story because basically I was not prepared to go through the kind of censorship -- it happened to be with the defense minister. This is about 15 years ago on a particular story that we -- The Guardian had slated for the front page. I was on deadline. The Defense Ministry trashed my angle and then started nitpicking and quibbling about almost everything I was saying, although the quotes were absolutely 100 percent accurate, at which point I just got fed up and said, okay, we're not running the story. And that's actually what happened.

  • 13:30:10

    TRAYNORSo you have this ongoing kind of tug of war between the media and the political class. The problem as a foreign -- and I'm a foreign correspondent -- the problem with a foreign reporter operating in any of these places is that you're relatively powerless to affect the system. In other words, unless the German media are up in arms about how things work in Berlin -- and by and large they're not -- I don't know that they are -- and reading the German papers over there you can see how the system operates -- there's very little that people like me or other foreign reporters can do about it.

  • 13:30:51

    NNAMDIIan Traynor, on a point of clarification, you're saying that if you read an interview with an official in (word?) an interview that was recorded, that what you are reading is not the original recorded interview. What you are reading is, in fact, a government-issued transcript of that recording that has been edited by the government.

  • 13:31:14

    TRAYNORWell, not every time. It may or it may not be, but basically the power of dictating what actually is the recorded interview live, not with the reporter who has a tape-recording of the interview. I mean, this happened to me interviewing, two years ago, after I'd left Germany, operating from Brussels, one of five journalists interviewing Chancellor Angela Merkel. For example, we all had a recording of the interview. After the interview, we went away for a cup of coffee to talk about it. We basically very quickly agreed, as reporters on what, you know, the most interesting thing was that she said.

  • 13:31:50

    TRAYNORAnd we waited for the transcript to come back and, of course, that bit had been excised and she didn't say it and we couldn't use it. I mean -- well, we could use it. You can bend the rules. The rules are indicated upfront, you know what you're doing. You've got to operate in these cultures as a political reporter. And of course, if you just bend the, rules you're going to be persona non grata, your access will be denied. And it will be very difficult to work.

  • 13:32:15

    TRAYNORSo, you know, that's a dilemma for journalists. And politicians seem quite happy with the system.

  • 13:32:24

    NNAMDII wonder why. Jeremy Peters, I'll start with you and then go to Mark. When I first read Ian's story, I was shocked. And then of course reading yours and others, how different is it that what Ian Traynor was saying from what's been occurring in campaigns here?

  • 13:32:41

    PETERSWell, it's definitely not as bad in the United States as Ian describes it in Germany. I mean, certainly if I were to go in and interview the President of the United States, I can almost guarantee that that interview would not be subject to, you know, the red pen of Jay Carney, the White House Press Secretary. I mean, there are -- the White House and top government officials do make themselves available for on-the-record unedited interviews all the time with print publications, and of course with television 'cause it's very hard to excise anything from a video tape, especially if it's live.

  • 13:33:18

    PETERSBut it's -- you know, there are striking similarities in the process that he described. I mean, you can have an interview with a campaign official and the approved quotes that you get back will not include some of the most interesting things from that conversation if you agree to conduct the interview on the condition of quote approval.

  • 13:33:41


  • 13:33:41

    JURKOWITZWell, I think the big difference obviously is the idea that you are told this is an on-the-record interview and later you are told what -- a different reality about what was on the record. So I think that's significantly different, but I take Jeremy's point. I mean, one -- to throw an umbrella over this and to I think bring it to the news consumer a little bit, the process and the power struggle between sources and reporters is interesting and important. But the primary job of the reporter is to come as close to the truth in any given story as humanly possible.

  • 13:34:18

    JURKOWITZSo therefore if some rules bring about a more truthful response -- for example, you know, if you agree to the background thing and in fact, you know, the source says something that's really, really interesting, and then when you get it back for quote approval, it's still interesting. It's not quite as interesting as it was, but that's still more close to the truth than it would've been if everybody basically said, no, we don't agree, and there was no speaking. Well, then that's a net plus for the journalism business.

  • 13:34:50

    JURKOWITZSo at the end of the day, you don't want to lose sight of what the most significant thing is. I'd say one of...

  • 13:34:55

    NNAMDIThis is a more nuance relationship than it may appear.

  • 13:34:58

    JURKOWITZAnd I -- but I would say one other thing. You know, at the Pew Research Center, for the people in the press, they've monitored public attitudes about journalists now for almost 30 years. And it increasingly gets more skeptical of journalist's independence, of the lack of bias. If every American had read Jeremy's story. I think those ratings would go even lower.

  • 13:35:19

    JURKOWITZ'Cause one of the things that probably, maybe even subtly plays in it, is there a perception -- there's already perception among the public that journalists are sort of part of the game. They're part of the elite. They're part of the game that's not working out well for them like the politicians. They're not one of us. So to the extent that people think about these sort of cozier relationships that journalists now have with their sources, I think in some level that may enhance a dangerous perception.

  • 13:35:46

    NNAMDIMark Jurkowitz. He is associate director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism and former ombudsman of the Boston Globe. He joins us in our Washington studio. Jeremy Peters joins us by phone from New York. He's a political reporter with the New York Times. And Ian Traynor joins us by phone from Croatia. He is European editor of The Guardian and he's been a foreign correspondent for 25 years. If you'd like to join the conversation, you can call us at 800-433-8850. Here is Tom in Upper Marlboro, Md. Tom, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:36:18

    TOMThank you very much for taking my call. I'm curious why if somebody off the record says something you wouldn't just be able to use that as background off the record as fodder for getting an interview with somebody who can go on the record.

  • 13:36:36


  • 13:36:38

    PETERSWell, I guess this -- it would depend on the situation. I'm not quite sure that there would ever be an example that I can think of where that would apply. But I do think it's important to note that what you -- what presidential campaigns are saying is not that you can't use the information you've learned in this conversation. What they're saying is you can't use it and attribute it to anyone by name.

  • 13:37:13

    NNAMDISome of the tensions we're talking about here are unique to political reporters, but they also apply to other beats at newspapers and news organizations. Just this week the Texas Observer, an investigative news outlet, attacked the reporting practices of a Washington Post education writer, Daniel de Vise. De Vise had written a story earlier this year exploring a controversial standardized test being administered by universities.

  • 13:37:39

    NNAMDIWell, according to the report de Vise had mailed drafts of the story -- or emailed drafts of the story to the head of communications at the University of Texas and offered to amend the story based on their feedback. What do you make of this story, Mark?

  • 13:37:54

    JURKOWITZAn interesting one and one that also sparks a nice intern scene warfare within the Washington Post itself and some notable columnists there. It touched a very interesting -- I mean, most journalists would be repelled by the idea, I think, that you would actually send a draft of a story to the subject of a story for review and "negotiation."

  • 13:38:22

    JURKOWITZAgain, in my journalism career -- the idea, again, is to get to the truth so you want your source's help in making sure that you are writing the most accurate story possible. So on many occasions I've read sections of a story to a source. On some occasions, if I haven't been quite clear about a quote, I've read quotes back to a source. On some cases, I've gone back to a source and asked for more context. And I think that's all fair game.

  • 13:38:49

    JURKOWITZI think, however, the idea of sending a draft of a story to a source and basically using unfortunate language, such as everything is negotiable, which was the language that was used there, is probably not the best way to go about it. And, again, ultimately the decisions lie with the editors. They're not seeding, you know, editing authority to these folks, but they're certainly willing to listen to them.

  • 13:39:15

    JURKOWITZAnd one of the things you have to think about in a situation like that is you're not -- when you do that, you're not simply dealing with the one person that you're dealing with on that source side. Everybody who is tangentially directly involved in the story, in theory, can look at it and decide they want to fix this and that. So I think there was some unfortunate language used there in how that was described. And frankly, I think if you look at today's Washington Post story, which discussed the editor's reaction to it, you get a sense that it's an option, but it's not going to happen very often.

  • 13:39:47

    NNAMDIYou can find links to all of this at our website, kojosho.org. Ian Traynor, I don't know the extent to which you've been following this latest controversy with Daniel de Vise, but even if you've just heard about it, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts.

  • 13:40:00

    TRAYNORYeah -- no, I don't know very much about it at all. Obviously it sounds quite interesting, and a kind of different level all together in terms of the discussion that is now being conducted in the states. I don't know very much about it. It sounds on surface to me fairly reprehensible, not something that, you know, would be, you know, a customary practice in my experience. But just more broadly on the general point of different degrees of sourcing and talking to people as a reporter, I mean, we mustn't get confused here, I think, about the different things.

  • 13:40:32

    TRAYNORI mean, fundamentally when you're talking to sources or talking to -- I would take the view that the interviewee who has agreed to talk to you, it's absolutely his or her prerogative to say on what terms they're speaking to you. Basically I -- and we are interested in gathering information, as strong and valuable information as possible, as accurate as possible, and if that means, as a lot of the time it does, that the information that you're requiring is off the record and you're getting better information that way, of course, that's completely legitimate.

  • 13:41:03

    TRAYNORI see absolutely no problem with that. The problem arises when you're told that this is an on-the-record interview, and then it is doctored subsequently and it turns out that people say things that they actually didn't say, according to the official transcript. I mean, that's a completely different kind of level of, you know, control (word?), manipulation and so on. But the broader point about, you know, who determines what you're allowed to court and what you're allowed not to when your speaking to somebody off the record is, I think, is entirely up to the person that you're talking to, and I don't have a problem with that.

  • 13:41:38

    NNAMDIJeremy Peters, apparently Marcus Brauchli, the managing editor of the Washington Post weighed in today. The poynter.org, a media website run by the Poynter Institute attained a copy of an email that Brauchli sent to reporters that clarifies the newspaper's stance. It says, "Our current policy does not prohibit a reporter from sharing a story draft with a source, but we intend to tighten it to ensure that such instances are rare without dispensation from a top editor. The practice of sharing unedited, unpublished material with sources is something we discourage." Comparable to policy at the Times?

  • 13:42:16

    PETERSWell, I can tell you it's never come up, and I've never heard of any of my colleagues on the political desk sending copies of their stories to reporters before -- to sources...

  • 13:42:27

    NNAMDITo sources.

  • 13:42:28

    PETERS...before they're printed. It's just not done. And I think that what Marcus Brauchli, the editor of the Post is saying in that email is that -- and I think it's something that we should not lose sight of, is that this is an extremely rare practice and one that makes any journalist, I think, quite queasy. It's not -- it's one thing to fact check, to -- on a very complicated legalistic story, I have read paragraphs over the phone to people.

  • 13:42:58

    PETERSI have sent in single sentences to sources saying, can you review this for -- to make sure that I'm explaining the law correctly, especially with stories that deal with the law. This can be problematic. So, that is one thing. Sending in an entire draft of a story to a source is something that I think is beyond the pale.

  • 13:43:21

    NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation on the relationships between journalists and their sources. If you've called, stay on the line. We'll try to get to your call. You can also email us at kojo@wamu.org. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 13:45:17

    NNAMDIWe're discussing the relationship between reporters and their sources with Ian Traynor, European editor of The Guardian. Jeremy Peters is a political report with the New York Times, and Mark Jurkowitz is associate director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. He's former ombudsman of the Boston Globe. And this has been in the news today. We got an email from Amber who says, "I'm noticing a lot of campaign stories quoting an aide, an unnamed advisor and other veiled sources.

  • 13:45:46

    NNAMDI"This seems like it can be a sneaky way for a campaign to put out an idea without accountability, and then refute it later if it doesn't go over well with the public. Why would a journalist be willing to be part of that game? I'm thinking specifically of the recent comment by an unnamed Romney aide about the special Anglo-Saxon relationship Romney has with the U.K. If it was a campaign official who leaked that idea, it was a smart way to say something negative without leaving prints." Mark, what do you say?

  • 13:46:18

    JURKOWITZWell, that was an interesting case and obviously there's a couple things we really don't know. Number one, what was, you know, what was the understanding between the source and the reporter who reported this? Was the source quoted accurately, and then, frankly, was the source truly and advisor? I mean, an advisor is a very broad term. Having said that, any journalist who believes that they are -- that someone is speaking for attribution and hears a sentence like that, is going to say that is newsworthy. That is interesting.

  • 13:46:47

    JURKOWITZThey are not going to play chess and say, well, what comes -- what happens later if essentially they refute it and then they have their cake and eat it too by putting out something that an appeal to certain people, and yet having the candidate refute it. It's not necessarily the journalist's job to think three steps ahead politically, and then make an editorial decision based on what the political implications are. Having said that, if we found this to be a campaign strategy that one campaign was using a lot, or both campaigns were using, then there's a way of dealing with it, and it's having somebody like Jeremy write another story that says, guess what else is going on in campaigns of 2012, and this is a practice that we should tell you guys about.

  • 13:47:28

    JURKOWITZBut for someone at the moment to hear something like that and say, well, I'm not gonna be part of some campaign's possible scheme to have their cake and eat it too, is asking a lot.

  • 13:47:38

    NNAMDIYou mentioned earlier about the possible consequences among the public of being alerted to this practice. We got another email from Mike who says, "It makes perfect sense to me that journalists who are on a semi-permanent beat such as the White House or Capitol Hill should have cozy relationships with the politicians whom they cover. It takes courage to publish critical stories on people you essentially work with on a day-to-day basis. It's much easier for a reporter, concerned about job security, to at least soft peddle their stories or at least tailor coverage so that the objects of their criticism will keep talking to them. I think the solution," and this is the important part of this email for me.

  • 13:48:19

    NNAMDI"I think the solution," writes Mike, "is to simply take the reports from these individuals with a grain of salt." Jeremy Peters, is that one of the possible adverse consequences of reporting about the goings on in political campaigns as you do?

  • 13:48:34

    PETERSWell, look, reporters every day have this conversation with themselves and with their editors. If I say this in a story will they cut off my access, and that's a judgment call that you have to make, and I think it's happened to all of us where we printed something unflattering and it jeopardizes your access. But that's usually temporary, and I've never had it be a completely toxic thing where my relationship with any given source has been terminated. I think that the, you know, this is one -- the use of anonymous quotes as Mark pointed out, is something that really undermines our credibility in the eyes of the media, and unfortunately, it's up to the media organizations who set the standards on which anonymous quotes they use and which anonymous quotes they don't use to really decide how the public continues to view us.

  • 13:49:26

    PETERSAnd if an organization is willing to print an attack on someone else anonymously, that's something by the way that the New York Times does not do, I think that just kind of further erodes the credibility that journalists have and I don't think readers always distinguish publication to publication and we all kind of get painted with the same brush. So until news organizations are willing to really stand up and put policies in writing that say, you know, we will only use anonymous quotes if there's a very good reason to, I think that we're gonna continue to see readers question our work.

  • 13:50:06

    NNAMDIIndeed, I've been noticing a lot more qualifiers these days, Mark, when there are anonymous quotes.

  • 13:50:10

    JURKOWITZYou know, that is -- the sort of backlash against the too liberal use -- and I don't mean that in a political sense -- of anonymous quotes, has been going on in the industry for now a decade or so, and with good reason, I think. I think people are way too quick to give anonymity to people who either didn't deserve it or didn't need it. And I think there have been some significant reforms. In a lot of news organizations, for example, the whole idea of allowing someone anonymously to take an ad hominem personal shot at someone has been cut back fairly dramatically.

  • 13:50:46

    JURKOWITZAnd then, and this is true in the Times and other publications, in deciding that we are going to be more scrupulous about which anonymous quotes we're going to use, the other part of that is, we then -- if we can't name the person, we need to help people understand why they're saying what they're saying. So that's why you'll get a describer like, said an aide from another campaign, or said someone who requested anonymity because they are too close to the situation.

  • 13:51:13

    JURKOWITZSo I actually think there there's been some fairly significant progress made in the last decade to cut down on a very loose use of anonymous sources. Whether or not the public understands that or even recognizes it, is another question.

  • 13:51:27

    NNAMDIIan Traynor, what's the policy at the Guardian regarding the use of anonymous quotes?

  • 13:51:32

    TRAYNORI'm not sure that we have a hard and fast policy, but I would certainly agree with Jeremy. I mean, this is a good example of the Romney campaign people planting, you know, juicy quotes in the press and causing a stir. I mean, basically, the rule of thumb there is if they want to say something like that, they've got to go on the record. And if they don't want to be named, then you shouldn't be using stuff like that. It's really quite straight forward.

  • 13:51:55

    TRAYNORBut there is different degrees. I mean, a colleague of mine, an American colleague of mine, I remember a few years ago telling me that, I think it was the L.A. Times at the time, or maybe it was the New York Times saying that they had banned the use of anonymous quotes, and I was thinking to myself, well, in terms of Washington political reporting, it would be, you know, if one becomes too purist about this kind of thing, and basically too kind of doctrinaire perhaps about it, then it's really going to restrict a lot of the reporting that you can totally legitimately do.

  • 13:52:32

    TRAYNORBut I agree with Mark. I mean, when it's manipulation, when it's somebody making an ad hominem attack on somebody, or saying something deliberately controversial to get into the papers and cause a row and cause a stir, but they don't have the courage to come out and be named saying that, then basically, you know, you shouldn't be doing that. You shouldn't be the channel for that.

  • 13:52:51

    NNAMDIIan, in the wake of the various journalism scandals taking place in Britain over the last year or two, can you talk a little bit about whether the question of relationships between subjects and journalists is being debated at your paper and among your peers?

  • 13:53:05

    TRAYNORIt's a long -- I mean, prior to the whole kind of (unintelligible) scandal and we've seen, you know, eight journalists or media executives, you know, going to be facing charges as of this week because of that. But even for a long, long time in the U.K., basically there's been -- again, it's culturally very specific. Every kind of country has different systems, and the lobby rules at Westminster, and I haven't worked at Westminster, but of course I know plenty of colleagues who do work there, and I have lots of contact with them, and the kind of (unintelligible) press operation, and the lobby rules at the Houses of Parliament are very, very culturally specifically British, and there's lots of course (unintelligible) .

  • 13:53:46

    TRAYNORAnd this is a debate that's been going on for 10, 20 years at least. At one point we, the newspaper, the Guardian, decided to defy the rules -- the lobby rules, which basically at one point meant that you could not identify the prime minister's spokesperson as saying something. When they were speaking for the Prime Minister, you had to go through all these circumlocutions, rather meaningless circumlocutions, saying things like Downing Street is believed to think that, and stuff like this.

  • 13:54:17

    TRAYNORWe actually boycotted the system, the Guardian did, for a while, and forced a changed in the rules. Now you can indeed call it the prime minister's spokesman or spokeswoman. So it's an evolving situation, but this is a -- it's an old problem. It's been there for a long time. I doubt if it's going away.

  • 13:54:36

    NNAMDIHere is...

  • 13:54:37

    JURKOWITZI can imagine...

  • 13:54:37

    NNAMDIPlease go ahead, Mark.

  • 13:54:38

    JURKOWITZ...an American copy editor just simply saying, really? Is a street capable of speech?

  • 13:54:43

    NNAMDIHere is Susan in Alexandria, Va. Susan, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:54:48

    SUSANHi, Kojo. I just wanted to make a comment that it's getting harder and harder to figure out who's a real journalist. People need to be careful, as it seems these days anybody who has a keyboard can write something and it'll get published or aired or blogged or something, and the consumer of the news needs to know whether this person ever had any actual journalistic education, whether they have ever been anywhere near a J-school.

  • 13:55:18

    SUSANYou get -- and also, the interviewee who's being asked for an interview by a quote "journalist," they need to find out who they're talking too, and I just think it's getting awfully sloppy and murky these days. I wish people would pay more attention.

  • 13:55:35

    NNAMDIWell, I'm glad you brought up the issue of anybody with a keyboard, because we got an email from Mike who says, "I acknowledge there are -- that reporters are in a tough position competing against blogs, but as a result, they have abandoned in my experience," and Mike says that he used to work as a journalist, "many of the guiding principles that made the press credible using multiple sources, and at least one primary sources, citing sources, balancing points of view. I agree that this practice of quote approval is a dangerous precedent, but from my experience, more and more reporters are getting lazy by citing only one source including bias and using hearsay from blogs, Twitter, et cetera. Ask sources.

  • 13:56:15

    NNAMDI"Just look at the Brian Ross incident, Fox CNN's reporting of the Supreme Court decision, the list goes on. In these instances, reporters, producers got the story wrong, and merely update, correct, and move on. No accountability." Mark?

  • 13:56:28

    JURKOWITZWell, that's the need for speed.

  • 13:56:30

    NNAMDII guess he's saying why can't politicians do the same thing? Update.

  • 13:56:33

    JURKOWITZThat's the need for speed. I mean, in truth, if you look at the sweep of sort of journalistic history, American journalism after the post-World War II era became -- was much more of a profession. It became much more professional. Practices were much better. Journalists were more scrupulous, and I think there was a very good sort of trajectory until the disruption of the business by technology and the subsequent sort of economic crisis in journalism, which has not only created this, we are competing with bloggers. We need to be first, we need to be fast, but in many respects has hollowed out a lot of newsrooms, and diminished reporting resources.

  • 13:57:13

    NNAMDII'm afraid we're almost out of time, expect for this posting on our website from Hugh. "I've been interviewed occasionally over the past 20 years, and have never seen my quotes come back accurately. Often the reporters seem to have written the story or made their mind up before the interview. I have started requesting review of quotes. Wouldn't you?" Well, I'm afraid we don't have time to answer that question, Hugh, because we're out of time. Ian Traynor, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:57:39


  • 13:57:40

    NNAMDIIan Traynor is European editor of The Guardian. He's been a foreign correspondent for 25 years. Jeremy Peters, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:57:45

    PETERSThank you.

  • 13:57:46

    NNAMDIJeremy is a reporter -- political report with the New York Times. Mark Jurkowitz, always a pleasure. Mark Jurkowitz is associate director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism and former ombudsman of the Washington Post. Good to see you again, Mark.

  • 13:57:58

    JURKOWITZYou too, Kojo.

  • 13:57:59

    NNAMDIThe Kojo Nnamdi Show" is produced by Brendan Sweeney, Michael Martinez, Ingalisa Schrobsdorff and Tayla Burney, with assistance from Kathy Goldgeier and Elizabeth Weinstein. The managing producer is Diane Vogel. Our engineer is Andrew Chadwick. Natalie Yuravlivker is on the phones. Podcasts of all shows, audio archives, CDs and free transcripts are available at our website, kojoshow.org. We encourage you to share questions or comments with us by emailing kojos@wamu.org. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

Related Links

Topics + Tags


comments powered by Disqus
Most Recent Shows