The next time you think a reporter misquoted you, ask yourself if you were indeed misquoted. Or did you say something dumb to the reporter that found its way into print? And now you regret it?
Jill Henry, a contributing writer at the Springfield Business Journal in Springfield, Missouri, wrote to me about how sources who claim reporters misquoted them can end up looking foolish:
“Most of my interviews are over the phone, with me recording the conversation for accuracy as I type everything I hear (98 wpm). The tape helps me fill in any holes, and serves as a back-up to protect both of us. The few times someone has claimed I misquoted them, I have been able to look through my notes and play back the tape to prove that I didn’t. The problem has been that the interviewee did not think their answer through and someone (possibly a superior) wasn’t happy with what they said in the article.
“A woman from a nonprofit recently gave me some great information during an interview. She called after the paper went to press, wanting to read the story to ‘approve’ it. I explained that, as a journalist, I can’t give up editorial control and let someone re-write my work. She was truly upset, so I read her quotes to her. That’s the best I can do. She then wanted to change what she had said originally to something she thought sounded better. Nope, I can’t do it.
“Turns out her superiors were not pleased with the information she had released. She realized she was in a pickle, and the best thing for her to do was blame the reporter rather than owning up to her own error in judgment.”
The Publicity Hound says:
Asking a reporter to read the story before it is printed is bad form. So is claiming you were misquoted when you weren’t. There are far better ways to handle this dilemma. They include:
–Prepare for interviews and know what you will say so you put your best foot forward and not in your mouth.
–Ask reporters to fact-check a story with you before it is printed.
–Ask reporters to read back your quotes so you can correct any inaccuracies.