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Missouri School of Journalism

Approval vs. accuracy: a crucial distinction

The New York Times reported recently on a new trend in the cat-and-mouse game that is politics-press relations: quote approval. Want an interview with a high-powered political operative? Only if you run their quotes by them for approval before publication.

It’s absurd, of course. It’s offensive. It’s embarrassing that apparently so many reporters accept it. What I want to point out here, though, is not outrage, but a very important distinction. It’s between “quote approval” and the “accuracy check,” which we are taught at the Missouri School of Journalism.

It is not the same as quote approval, but I fear that in the flurry of outrage about quote approval, one may be mistaken for the other. You are not seeking approval for a quote when you check its accuracy. You are checking its accuracy.