The New York Times
has put an end to quote approval.
In a memo to staff on Thursday
, Executor Editor Jill Abramson said the Times
is drawing “a clear line on this.” If a source agrees to an interview under the condition that he or she, or a press aide, can approve the quotes, reporters are to say no.
“Despite our reporters’ best efforts, we fear that demands for after-the-fact ‘quote approval’ by sources and their press aides have gone too far. The practice risks giving readers a mistaken impression that we are ceding too much control over a story to our sources. In its most extreme forms, it invites meddling by press aides and others that goes far beyond the traditional negotiations between reporter and source over the terms of an interview.”
Last May, the Times
broke the story about the increasing prevalence of reporters (including its own) practicing quote-for-approval journalism, primarily on the campaign trail. This week, however, Times media columnist David Carr weighed in
on business sources taking part in this practice.
In the story, Carr quotes Reuters column Felix Salmon blaming the rise in quote-for-approval journalism on the increasing number of PR professionals.
“As the flack-to-hack ratio continues to rise, the number of requests for quote-approval will continue to rise as well,” he said.
Judging by the handful of comments to a PR Daily story on the topic
—as well as a column on what quote-for-approval journalism means for PR
—it would seem the public relations industry is against the practice.
“I'm glad to see this [criticism of quote-for-approval],” said one reader. “With interviews, it is a skill to give and facilitate a good interview—a skill that may be lost if everyone is approving quotes.”
Some in the media were split over the decision. Salmon tweeted
that the policy is a sensible one. “Basically cuts out the flacks,” he added. Meanwhile, Henry Blodget, the founder of Business Insider
, called it “silly.”
“Smart, careful sources will now speak only on background,” he said in a tweet
. “How does that help reader?”
In her memo on Thursday, Abramson acknowledged that the new policy may hinder reporters from scoring on-the-record interviews. “But in the long run, we think resetting the bar, and making clear that we will not agree to put after-the-fact quote-approval in the hands of press aides, will help in that effort,” she wrote.
Plus, the memo left the door open for exceptions to this rule.
The move may hurt the Times
as its competitors wheel and deal with sources and PR professional for interviews, but the paper’s influence could also move other media outlets away from the practice.