John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and other manifestations of human frailty. Comments welcome. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to email@example.com, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. Back 2009-2012 at the original site, http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/mcintyre/blog/ and now at www.baltimoresun.com/news/language-blog/.
Friday, August 21, 2009
May I quote you on that?
Rebecca Maitland, a freelancer for an edition of the Houston Chronicle, has some quotes from volunteers about the problem of abandoned animals. She sends a form story to an official incorporating those quotes and invites the official to agree to being quoted thus. It’s a fill-in-the-blanks story.
Her editor, Karen Zurawski, has to be prodded to say that sending a story to a source with prefabricated quotations is maybe “not an acceptable practice.”
My Twitter colleague @dougfisher comments only, “Unreal.”
If this is a standard of practice that mainstream newspaper journalism can accept —doing coverage on the cheap, with untrained writers lacking adequate supervision by editors — then just turn out the lights and send everybody home.