Sunday, June 28, 2015

RE: Quote, Unquote

The quote debate package highlighted for me the diverse opinions among professional journalists on what exactly "exact" means when we quote someone. Reading Mike Wise's, Deborah Howell's and David Carr's pieces on the subject made me more aware of a broad gray area between quoting subjects verbatim and "cleaning up" their words for whatever reasons. 

Although the fog within this gray area conflicts the debate, Howell and Carr, and I suppose majority of journalists, agree on the primacy of truth in quoting someone. According to Howell, "[s]imply put, quotes should be and sound authentic." "Exact" might not mean that we "include every momentary digression," Howell points. But we are "supposed to tell the truth as best we can," she adds. 

My take away from the reading: We can paraphrase all we want in order to make better sense of someone's point or to make certain points more intelligible. However, once we enclose words within quotation marks we should ensure they are the precise words. Otherwise we could be contributing to the eroding of journalism's credibility among the general public that might begin to question every other claim to the veracity of journalism's "facts."

For Howell, therefore, "It boils down to this: Be honest with readers.... but it doesn't mean reporters need to put every 'huh' or 'ya know' into a quote or to embarrass someone whose English skills are sparse." 

Cf.: 1. Mike Wise, After Utter Disaster, A kind of Hush
2. Deborah Howell, Quote, Unquote
3, Deborah Howell, A Dilemma Within Quotation Marks
4, David Carr, The Puppetry of Quotation Approval

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