Quote approval is not in the best interests of comms pros

The subject of quote approval came firmly into the spotlight when writer Michael Lewis revealed he had to get approval on quotes he used from Barack Obama for an in-depth profile in the October issue of Vanity Fair.

The subject of quote approval came firmly into the spotlight when writer Michael Lewis revealed he had to get approval on quotes he used from Barack Obama for an in-depth profile in the October issue of Vanity Fair.

The article was initially negotiated with White House press secretary Jay Carney and was culled from six months following and interacting with the president. It's actually a good read.

But the aspect that caught the attention of journalists and communicators alike was the fact the White House had quote approval. The New York Times' David Carr and Jeremy Peters followed up by investigating how widespread this practice is.

Their findings were fascinating, as well as disturbing for those who believe in traditional journalistic values.

Quote approval is reluctantly tolerated by media in the entertainment, sports, and fashion worlds, especially for long-form profiles and features. But the assumption has been it did not infect politics, news, and business coverage. Carr's and Peters' findings suggest otherwise. They show a world where, they say, PR pros are pushing an agenda to get quote approval, especially when CEOs and other senior executives are interviewed. Less draconian, but similarly disturbing extensions of this trend are the practices of providing answers via email and insisting on questions up front.

As Carr points out, these take away the spontaneity from an interview and are obvious to readers with any sort of intuition or trained eye. They reflect an increasing boldness on the part of PR pros, the reduction in resources in newsrooms, and developments such as paying bloggers to write about a company or subject.

Suffice to say, at PRWeek, any request for quote approval will be met with the polite rejoinder that "we don't do things like that around here." In the long run, that approach will result in more realistic and credible coverage that will ultimately be better for both the media and for those being interviewed.

With global democracy and geopolitics in such a fragile state, this is certainly no time to be encouraging a Pravda-style approach to media relations. 

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