Dan Rather: ‘Quote approval’ a media sellout

By Dan Rather, From CNN:

A New York Times front-page article Monday detailed a new phenomenon in news coverage of the presidential campaign: candidates insisting on “quote approval,” telling reporters what they can and cannot use in some stories. And, stunningly, reporters agreeing to it.

This, folks, is news. Any way you look at it, this is a jaw-dropping turn in journalism, and it raises a lot of questions. Among them: Can you trust the reporters and news organizations who do this? Is it ever justified on the candidate’s side or on the reporter’s side? Where is this leading us?

As someone who’s been covering presidential campaigns since the 1950s, I have no delusions about political reporting. Candidates bargaining access to get the kind of news coverage they want is nothing new. The thicket of attribution and disclosure deals is a deep maze reporters have been picking their way through even before my time. But this latest tactic by candidates revealed by the Times gives me, to say the least, great pause. It should give every citizen pause.

Essentially, what the Times described was the rapid rise of “quote approval” — a strategy deployed by campaigns requiring reporters to send quotations they intend to use to candidates’ press officers, to be sliced, diced, edited and drained of color or unwanted consequences, and reporters going along, fearing that if they don’t, they won’t get access.

Here’s how it works: Let’s say a reporter is granted an interview with a senior strategist of the Obama or Romney campaign. A condition for the interview would be that before the reporter could send the story to the editor, he or she would have to agree to submit for approval every quote intended to be used to the campaign press staff.

Let us mark well this Faustian bargain. It is for the benefit of the politicians, at the expense of readers, listeners and viewers. It is not in the public interest; it is designed to further the candidates’ interests.

Political operatives cannot be blamed for wanting this. We, the press, should be held accountable for letting them have it.

Continue reading the rest of the story on CNN