“Change is sure slow” I wrote last week; I was wrong, and couldn’t be more pleased about it.
I wrote that in a post based on a New York Times story about the growing practice of government and campaign officials demanding pre-publication approval of any direct quotes attributed to them in published news stories. The big news media outlets that sheepishly admitted to giving “quote approval” to the subjects of their stories reacted as though they were helpless infants: if they refused they would lose access to the sources and not have the story at all…there was nothing they could do.
Nothing, except stand up to the bullies. And prove the value of reporting a story, of shining the light of publicity on a corrupt practice.
The day after the Times story ran the Associated Press raised its hand to say it did not permit quote approval. Soon after that Dan Rather and others weighed in; today it’s McClatchy and the National Journal stepping up to reclaim some of journalism’s tarnished heritage. I feel confident this growing cascade of recognition of who journalists really work for isn’t going to dry up with the testimony of these disciples. (Well done, Jeremy Peters and the Times.)
The point was true last week and remains true today: “No news publication can cede the responsibility to write its own story as its writers and editors see fit; to give up that authority to the people who are the subjects of the story is to erase any reason for you or me to believe anything they print.” If more of them are coming around to the point of view that there is something they can do, that they can stand up to the bully, it’s just sad that they had to be embarrassed into doing the right thing.