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Latest Word on the Trail? I Take It Back
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Latest Word on the Trail? I Take It Back


[Image: sub-16quote-articleLarge.jpg]




Yana Paskova for The New York Times, left; Stephen Crowley/The New York Times
Even top campaign officials
like Eric Fehrnstrom, left, a Romney adviser, and David Plouffe, a
senior White House adviser, foreground at right, insist at times on
approval of their quotations.




By

JEREMY W. PETERS


Published: July 15, 2012

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.

Most reporters, desperate to pick the brains of the president’s top
strategists, grudgingly agree. After the interviews, they review their
notes, check their tape recorders and send in the juiciest sound bites
for review.

The verdict from the campaign — an operation that prides itself on
staying consistently on script — is often no, Barack Obama does not
approve this message.

The push and pull over what is on the record is one of journalism’s
perennial battles. But those negotiations typically took place case by
case, free from the red pens of press minders. Now, with a millisecond
Twitter news cycle and an unforgiving, gaffe-obsessed media culture,
politicians and their advisers are routinely demanding that reporters
allow them final editing power over any published quotations.

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. Those officials
who dare to speak out of school, but fearful of making the slightest
off-message remark, shroud even the most innocuous and anodyne
quotations in anonymity by insisting they be referred to as a “top
Democrat” or a “Republican strategist.”

It is a double-edged sword for journalists, who are getting the
on-the-record quotes they have long asked for, but losing much of the
spontaneity and authenticity in their interviews.

Jim Messina, the Obama campaign manager, can be foul-mouthed. But
readers would not know it because he deletes the curse words before
approving his quotes. Brevity is not a strong suit of David Plouffe, a
senior White House adviser. So he tightens up his sentences before
giving them the O.K.

Stuart Stevens, the senior Romney strategist, is fond of disparaging
political opponents by quoting authors like Walt Whitman and referring
to historical figures like H. R. Haldeman, Richard Nixon’s chief of
staff. But such clever lines later rarely make it past Mr. Stevens.


Many journalists spoke about the editing only if granted anonymity, an
irony that did not escape them. No one said the editing altered the
meaning of a quote. The changes were almost always small and seemingly
unnecessary, they said.

Those who did speak on the record said the restrictions seem only to be
growing. “It’s not something I’m particularly proud of because there’s a
part of me that says, ‘Don’t do it, don’t agree to their terms,’ ” said
Major Garrett, a correspondent for The National Journal. “There are
times when this feels like I’m dealing with some of my editors. It’s
like, ‘You just changed this because you could!’ ”

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.”

The Obama campaign declined to make Mr. Plouffe or Mr. Messina available
to explain their media practices. “We are not putting anyone on the
record for this story,” said Katie Hogan, an Obama spokeswoman, without a
hint of irony. She pointed to the many unrestricted interviews with
campaign officials every day on television and when the press corps
travels with the president.

Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said the White House has
made a concerted effort to make more officials available to the news
media. “We have a lot more people talking a lot more often now,” he
said.

Both presidential campaigns are keenly aware of what can happen when
they speak too freely. Damaging sound bites can live on in the news
cycle for days. Mr. Obama’s remark last month during a televised news
conference that “the private sector is doing fine” landed almost
immediately in attack ads. And Eric Fehrnstrom’s “Etch A Sketch” comment
on CNN, about softening some of the harder positions Mr. Romney took
during the primaries, continues to haunt the Romney campaign five months
later.

Reporters who have covered the Obama presidency say the quote-approval
process fits a pattern by this White House of finding new ways to limit
its exposure in the news media.

“We realize there’s a caution and a wariness about stray comments
driving the news cycle,” said Caren Bohan of Reuters, president of the
White House Correspondents’ Association. “The argument we make is that
if a president or a candidate is out there more, I think these things
are less likely to be as glaring.”

Modern White Houses have long had “background briefings,” gatherings of
top officials who speak to reporters under the condition that they are
quoted anonymously. With time, the restrictions have become broader,
often bordering on the absurd.

In 2007, Vice President Dick Cheney outed himself in a briefing the
White House intended to be anonymous during an overseas trip. “I’ve seen
some press reporting says, ‘Cheney went in to beat up on them,’ ” the
vice president told reporters, according to the official transcript,
adding, “That’s not the way I work.”

Though reporters with him protested, the vice president’s office refused
to allow them to identify Mr. Cheney by name — even though it was clear
who was speaking.

Under President Obama, the insistence on blanket anonymity has grown to new levels.

The White House’s latest innovation is a variation of the background
briefing called the “deep-background briefing,” which it holds for
groups of reporters, sometimes several dozen at a time. Reporters may
paraphrase what senior administration officials say, but they are
forbidden to put anything in quotation marks or identify the speakers.


The White House held such a briefing after the Supreme Court’s health
care ruling last month with officials including Mr. Plouffe, Mr. Carney
and Dan Pfeiffer, the communications director. But when reporters asked
to quote part of the conversation, even anonymously, they were told no.
Even the spokesmen were off limits.
das, proud to be a member of pa2a.org since Sep 2012.
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#2
I count on the Lamestream media to ALWAYS get it right... [Image: 072.gif]




[Image: ramirez_20120914.jpg]
The War Wagon, proud to be a member of pa2a.org since Sep 2012. Anim_banana

[Image: won-rev-big-2.jpg]
Reply
#3
(09-14-2012, 07:57 PM)The War Wagon Wrote: I count on the Lamestream media to ALWAYS get it right... [Image: 072.gif]




[Image: ramirez_20120914.jpg]


That comic was awesome. Thanks.
"As I lay rubber down the street I pray for traction I can keep, but if I spin and begin to slide, please dear God, protect my sweet ride."
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