DO I CUT THE QUOTES ?
Quotes in a story add value, bringing in that human interest story to make it sound real.
So once you have your greatest quote ever, you put it in your article to only see that it doesn’t fit, or doesn’t make sense. What do you do? Go back and ask the person you were interviewing to cut the ‘erms’ and ‘arghs’ and ‘uhs’ and say things more directly? Or do you try and pull a sly one and just change a few words when nobody is looking?
Bringing to light some serious ethical dilemmas when reporting.
Some journalists argue that it is fine to ‘improve’ quotations as long as the meaning isn’t changed; others argue that the even changing one word changes everything and the point of using a quote to bring the human value to the story.
I believe that the act of cleaning up quotes is acceptable as long as you are not changing the meaning of what someone is saying. Getting rid of the ‘erms’ and ‘arghs’ is fine in my book because words like these or in fact made up words like these are just going to make your story look untidy. Therefore quotes can be slightly changed to make them grammatically correct, or just easier to read.
But what about quotes that come from those who have bad grammar. Should their poor use of language be widely exposed ,or is it right to leave the language as it is to show that an actual person is saying the quote putting the reader at ease making a more engaging article, relating to more people encouraging the human interest story.
This topic is one that is completely subjective and in my opinion having been in such a situation I would alter the quote a bit so it made sense, making completely sure that I do not detract from the message of the quote. However I would only alter the quote in an extreme situation where the quote does not make any sense at all.
DO I TAKE THE BISCUIT ?
They say the way into a journalists head is through their stomachs, is this true.
On the rare occasion us journalist may find ourselves faced with the offer of free food.
The first thing journalists are told not to do is accept any gifts. Not because were not partial to some grub giving up the coffee, but because you have to think about the motive in which the food is given, asking yourselves are there strings attached. For example let’s say a journalist working for the local paper is writing a story on a new restaurant that has opened up down the road. The journalist has the power to write either a good or bad review no questions asked, but then the restaurant owners come into the news office with free meals for everyone. All the other journalists eat the meal, but what do you do? I for one would say thanks but no thanks.
Why you ask?
The reason is because of the feeling of guilt and we journalists need to be rational, the aim of the job is not in receiving food but getting an accurate credible story out, in return the restaurant owner may respect you for the move.
This is because the restaurant owners knew you would be writing a story on them and they want you to write a positive piece, hence the free food as you will be forced to give a positive review out of the guilty feeling of owing them one because they gave you something and you feel like you have to give them something back.
Journalists have to write rational, fair stories and cannot let anything cloud their judgement, even if it is a free cinema ticket to watch the best film of the year.
THE DEATH KNOCK
One of the hardest thing for a journalist to do is carry out a ‘death knock’, which in the world of journalism means knocking on the doors of the family of the recently deceased asking if they would talk to you.
Most times you will probably receive the utterance of some harsh words and the door slammed in your face. But that means no story at the minute so what do you do?
Do you nag the family to get a sentence or two?
The answer is NO, as a journalist I understand the story is in the public interest but that does not mean harassing the family. Your a human before a journalist and that is where we look at our own moral compass to do the right thing.
Nevertheless, if the family are against the story and the story is in the public’s interest then it is better that the family are told that you are reporting the story for such and such reason. It is a hard one but as the BBC editorial guidelines say; we must leave private property when asked to do so. Not just for legal reasons but because it’s the right thing to do.