Quote approval

The Guardian has an article up about quote approval, which is when the people that a news story is about get to check over the story, and make sure they're okay with everything the journalist is saying they said.  This is unambiguously unethical -- Mother Jones calls it The Evolution of Reporters into Stenographers. From the Guardian:

It's shocking enough for The New York Times to report that it and other news organizations are now giving the White House and campaign sources from both parties quote approval – the ability to clean up, tighten up, tone down, rethink, and kill the embarrassing (and perhaps candid) bits from what they end up saying in print.

It's worse that we're learning of this only now, long after granting quote approval has clearly become standard operating procedure in what we used to call political journalism[.]

I was briefly on a school newspaper, last year.  At one point, I wrote an article about disarmament, and one of the teachers I interviewed about it asked to be allowed to look over the article before I published it.  I was uncomfortable with this, but I agreed.

When I did, he asked to change a number in one of his quotes.  I quoted Gen. Douglas MacArthur, saying that we could do, as a planet, with as few as 100 nukes, at no loss of effectiveness[1. At least, that's the number I remember.  I don't have the paper in front of me.  I suck at keeping portfolios.].  The teacher had given almost exactly the same quote, but had said 1000[2. Again, that's the number I remember.  It was definitely two small numbers compared to the current stockpile, but the teacher's was larger than MacArthur's.].  He wanted to change it, to match MacArthur's estimate.  I tried to argue about it, but ultimately I did change the number quoted.  It felt deeply wrong at the time, and still does.

Now that I'm comfortably writing on my own blog, rather than a school paper, I feel confident in saying that I would not give quote approval to someone I was interviewing for content.  If that meant I didn't get to cover the topic, that will be where I would have to settle.

It's troubling to learn that this sort of ethical failing has become standard practice in the mainstream media.