Thursday, October 18, 2007

Getting "The Gist"

According to “Getting It Wrong, Letting It Slide” published in the Miami Herald, the mightier the news organization, the likelier it will stand by ethical blunders that would otherwise shame a first-year reporter. One such example involves The New York Times Sunday Magazine when allegations of “gross distortions in what appear to be verbatim interviews.”

The Times magazine runs a regular Q&A feature which interviews reported that the questions they’re apparently answering in print weren’t the ones they were asked. Instead, things they said were sliced, reshuffled and published out of sequence and out of context.

One of the disgruntled interviewees was NBC News heavyweight Tim Russert who complained that the published version of his Mother’s Day interview was:

Misleading, callous and hurtful, and inaccurately had him extolling his father at the expense of his mother, who had recently died.

The Times responded by saying that:

The editor of the column assure themselves that the Q-and-A reflects accurately the gist of the whole conversation and contains actual quotes, both questions and answers.

Contains actual quotes sure, but what about the question inserted that were never asked? Not to mention representing the speaker as saying things they did not mean on the basis of getting “the gist” of it.

And you wonder why the public doesn’t trust you?

Are you kidding me? That was all I could think after reading such an article. How can newspapers get away with this? There is no excuse for letting a newspaper, I don’t care how big they are; get away with such a blatant lie in my eyes. It is bad enough that they are splicing quotes, taking things out of context and rearranging answers, but when you report someone as answering a question that you didn’t even ask you are stepping into a whole new territory of unethical behavior. I agree with the article in asking why you think the public doesn’t trust news sources anymore. It saddens me to reach such an article and only makes me want to read the news even less.

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