When the Media Quotes Bloggers
Kenneth Anderson asks: “Should a journalist or scholar check with a blogger before quoting a post . . . to see if that is what he or she would say in a considered way, either what he or she would say in a published article or what he or she would say to a journalist in an actual interview?”
Kenneth expresses some concerns with journalists quoting bloggers without contacting them: “[B]log postings generally tend to be much more strongly put than people – I include myself certainly – would say in an actual live or phone interview with a journalist. Presumably this is one reason why they can be an attractive source of material for journalists, besides the ease of searching them out rather than telephoning.”
I have had parts of my blog posts quoted in mainstream media articles before without having been contacted. Sometimes I think that it might be better for the reporter to at least call me and let me know what he or she plans to quote and allow me to elaborate or at least discuss the topic. But having been quoted many times by the media based on telephone interviews, I think I’d prefer my blog posts to be quoted. I’ve had a wide range of experiences being quoted based on interviews, and many a time my quote was more like a translation or approximation of what I said. Sometimes, I couldn’t even recognize the quote as having any relationship to anything I said. Reporters take great liberty with quotes. Sometimes this isn’t too bad, since the reporters might be able to edit my quote so I express my point in a more concise and punchy way. But other times, my quotes have appeared in an awkward way, with grammatical errors, as completely nonsensical, or even in a way that differs substantially from my actual position.
One of my favorite silly quotes attributed to me is: “Even though its anonymous, it’s still ominous.” Did I really say that? I can’t recall what article it appeared in, but it’s on a website that gathers quotable quotations from people. I have no idea why there’s a page for me on this website. I have no idea why it selected the particular quotes it did. The Internet sure is a mysterious place. Anyway, I certainly wouldn’t deliberately attempt to create a Johnny Cochran-like rhyme (“If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit”). Perhaps I said it, for many of my interviews with journalists last 15-30 minutes, which are then distilled down to just a phrase or snippet. The bottom line is that a quote from an interview is often not a very accurate reflection of what I actually said — and even if it is what I actually said, it often doesn’t reflect how I want my point to come across.
In contrast, every time I’ve been quoted in a blog post, at least the quote has been verbatim. Reporters don’t feel at liberty to edit the quote. And this is why it might be better to be quoted in a blog post. At the very least, these are my own words. Moreover, the fact that I might be quoted in a post helps remind me that every time I blog, I’m writing something accessible to the world. It can be easy to forget that when blogging, but I try to keep my “blogging censor” on full alert at all times (and I hope I succeed most of the time). Indeed, some of my best blogging achievements have been hitting the delete key.
There is one other benefit of being quoted in a blog post rather than a phone interview — I get a quote in a mainstream newspaper without having to do the interview. Up to 30 minutes of time saved. Something for nothing . . . and nothing’s wrong with that.