Read the comments in the opposition leader’s blog about Tensing Lamsang. A lot of people say he misquotes, some even claim to be a victim.
The writers are mostly anonymous, so you can’t really verify it, what Tensing Lamsang does, he and the ‘victim’ alone know.
But I have come close to misquoting, and this is my experience.
For one, I am a very fast writer, and I write every thing that someone says, and later on, I use the same words that they used. The exact sentences, which make my editor go ‘tut tut’ and paraphrase. But I have come close to ‘misquoting’. How?
There are two kinds of people I interview. The ones who know that I can put every word they say to paper, and the other, who think they are just having a general conversation. Even when I tell them I am interviewing them for so and so story.
They say things, sometimes, stupid, politically incorrect, or plain controversial. And if I was working for a tabloid, I would be having a field day.
If I write something they said straight off their heads, and they see it the next day, they are going to scream ‘misquote!!!!”. They won’t call me up and complain, though, because they know and I know that they said it, only, they didn’t think I would put it on paper. So they will call my editors, who don’t know exactly what they told me, and complain. They won’t take any righteous action; they will just crib about it to everyone. This has not happened to me yet, that’s because I usually have a good sense of what is the pointless things they say, and what to dig out of all the nonsense.
One trick is running them on exactly what I want to write, especially if they say something controversial that I do want to write. So here you say, “Uh, Lyonpo/Dasho so what you are saying is….and repeat what you want to use.”
It makes them realize you are going to put it on paper, and they are careful. Sometimes, they do mean what they say, but sometimes they choose different words.
It’s only fair. I don’t think a reporter’s job is to catch a person at an odd moment and write whatever he said, however thoughtless. People have a bad habit of saying what they don’t really mean. Then they will probably threaten you with “no more interviews.”
I wont suggest that people think twice before talking to a media person. That would make life hard for us, and people who are not trained in the ‘press talk’ will have a very strained conversation. But here is a little thing you can do. Talk all you want, but then say, “Ok, This is my answer for your paper.” And then give the quote, exactly the way you would want it on print. And make it clear that the rest of the conversation you had was just ‘chat’. No good reporter will quote you on your off moments, if you specify that you don’t want them to.
I mean, you just gossip about your girlfriend to the reporter and the next day, instead of the official story the reporter promised, you see “So and so’s extra marital affair” on the headline. I know we are not there yet, but there is always a first time.
I think no reporter will deliberately change what the person they interviewed said. If they do, the person can obviously take action.



Filed under journalism, misquotes

6 responses to “Misquote

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