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mainstream mediaHow is the 47th Freest press in the world doing these days? Fair-to-middling, as usual! This is the state of affairs according to the New York Times anyway, which has kindly informed its readers that they basically can’t trust any of the quotes contained within its pages, especially if these quotes come from persons associated with either the Obama Administration or the Romney campaign.  See, allowing officials, aides, surrogates, and strategists to review and redact their quotes as a precondition of an interview has become the “default position.” Everyone is doing it, so the courageous journalists of the New York Times have to, or it won’t get interviews! And if they don’t get interviews, then they won’t get meaningless and sanitized quotes, see? USA! USA! USA!

The quotations come back redacted, stripped of colorful metaphors, colloquial language and anything even mildly provocative. They are sent by e-mail from the Obama headquarters in Chicago to reporters who have interviewed campaign officials under one major condition: the press office has veto power over what statements can be quoted and attributed by name.

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…It was difficult to find a news outlet that had not agreed to quote approval, albeit reluctantly. Organizations like Bloomberg, The Washington Post, Vanity Fair, Reuters and The New York Times have all consented to interviews under such terms…

“We don’t like the practice,” said Dean Baquet, managing editor for news at The New York Times. “We encourage our reporters to push back. Unfortunately this practice is becoming increasingly common, and maybe we have to push back harder.”

Oh you know. Just maybe. MAYBE. Not for sure. But something to think about! Wouldn’t want the paper to be a “truth vigilante” or anything, because that would be vulgar. Why attribute actual quotes when you can just used paraphrased, edited, and sanitized comments, or alternatively, seek out  “American officials,”officials,” “officials and a person briefed on the matter,” “those involved with the discussion,” or “some advisers to Romney” for quotes that can’t be verified and for which no one can ever be held accountable? Good thing the government doesn’t control our press, though; nope, it’s controlled by corporations, which is MUCH better!

[New York Times]

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