Journalism 101

I’ve just had my second major experience of giving an interview for a journalism student who, when the time came for an article to be written based on the interview, came up with a string of “quotations” (in quotation marks both because the student actually called them this, and because they don’t resemble anything I could imagine saying). This has happened to me twice and to other colleagues, and it has reached the point where I am considering refusing interviews with students from now on, or at least vetting their writing ability and understanding of the nature of quotations before giving the interview.

Is this a local issue at the place where I happen to teach? Or is the quality of writing, the understanding of quotations (i.e. that they are not paraphrases in quotation marks), and other such aspects of clear writing (which in journalism are essential) in decline nationwide? I’d appreciate any experiences and comments readers may wish to share.

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  • BSM

    You ought to create a form that gets the student to give you permission to tape the interview. Then, if he/she botches it you can write a counter and cite your tape. Or you could just refuse interviews, I suppose.

  • Ian

    I have been “quoted” in the newspaper 2 or 3 times…the words in quotation marks were never the ones I had actually used.

  • grberry

    I’ve been quoted in the press 4 times. Three times by professional reporters for the major paper in the state I then lived in, once by a campus student newspaper. The one time they asked for a copy of the prepared speech I read, they got it right. The professional reporter got it right once without a written handout and wrong (but the right meaning) once. The student newspaper got the wrong words but the right meaning once. The professional incidents were in the ’80s, the student newspaper in the early ’90s.From my experience, I’m not sure that the issue is either new or limited to students.

  • Quixie

    If I were you, the next interview I gave, I would take it as an opportunity to do a performance art piece. I’d speak in dadaist tongues throughout (let’s see them paraphrase that!):PÓ

  • Bad

    I’ve had reporters (or, rather, their editors) actually change facts because the actual facts would be “too confusing.” For instance, I once discussed a particular neurological problem with a reporter, and the article rendered this as “head pain” despite the fact that actual pain is rarely involved in neurological problems, wasn’t in this case, and neurological problems aren’t necessarily centered in the brain in any case.I’ve never, in fact, had a good experience with ANY reporter where I felt that they had actually understood, let alone accurately reported factual details or quotes.