Quoted by the media

Tuesday, April 24, 2007 at 0:05 | Posted in ethics, Journalism, Media | Leave a comment

Thomas has been briefly interviewed for an article about blogging lawyers in the German magazine Wirtschaftswoche. He does not seem to recognize the statement published by Wirtschaftswoche as his own. Unfortunately, this sort of mishaps are not uncommon.

Whenever somebody who has given a statement to a journalist feels that they were misquoted in the article or their statement was presented out of its intended context, it is a sign that there was something wrong in the communicating and mutual understanding between the journalist and the person who was interviewed. Having on many occasions been on both sides of the fence, I dare say that this is above all a matter of professional ethics and skills of the journalist. We are not supposed to interview and quote people in order to deliver our own opinion but to present the facts as objectively as possible.

While some journalists deliberately misquote people and tend to disallow solid facts to spoil a good story, I would like to think that most of us sincerely make an effort to get the facts right. Many mistakes happen because a journalist working on a story is too busy to check and double check. Many of us work with several stories at the same time with pressing deadlines to meet.

While checking a detail may feel like small potatoes for a journalist overloaded with work, getting misquoted in that detail is important for the person we interviewed. Silly mistakes can easily be prevented by routinely agreeing on some procedural basics.

Asking a journalist to present the article or the part concerning the person interviewed before printing should not be understood by the journalist as an insult. A simple exchange of e-mails does not take much time but it may be a very useful way to make sure that both parties have understood each other correctly. Appearing in media under one’s own name is not daily bread and butter for most people who are interviewed by journalists. By making sure that their statement appears correctly and in the right context results to a better article and helps increase credibility of the author and the publication.

Last time I was on the other side of the fence, i.e. being interviewed for a newspaper article, we did not have a chance to meet in person. The questions and answers were e-mailed and both of us also exchanged some information off the record. The manuscript was sent to me before it went to print. There was a minor missquote which I pointed out and got it corrected. Going through these simple steps had an improving effect on the printed article and both of us were happy.

Publications usually have a limited space for each article. Not everything may be published which was said or written between the two parties. In this recent case, nothing very essential was left out of the article, just some irrelevant sentences that did not change the contents of what I answered.

When a blogger is interviewed, there is always the chance to publish in the blog what did not fit in the paper. Publications obviously like to be the first to publish what their journalists have been working on. A blogger and a journalist should therefore make a gentlemen’s agreement that the blogger publishes the full interview only after the story has appeared in print.

That is what I did in this case. My blog post thus became something which supported the article in the paper. In that case, being quoted in the media was beneficial for both parties and a professional co-operation worked for the best of us both.

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