Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Should Sources Be Allowed To Tidy-Up Stories?

SUPREME COURT JUSTICE ANTHONY Kennedy spoke to an elite Manhattan high school last week. When the school newspaper wanted to do a story about the visit, Kennedy (or his staff) demanded that the justice have the right to see the story before it goes to press.

Quotations were “tidied up” to better reflect the meaning the justice had intended to convey, a spokesperson for the justice told the New York Times.

Would you allow a source to see your story before you went to press (or went on air)?

The executive director of the Student Press Law Center told the Times, “Obviously, in the professional world, it would be a nonstarter if a source demanded prior approval of coverage of a speech.”

Are the rules different when the source is a Supreme Court Justice, or when the publication is a high school newspaper?

Is the demand a violation of the freedom of the press as stated in the First Amendment?


Don Hoegg said...

I've had sources ask to see articles before they go to print, most recently was Temple VP Betsy Leebron Tutelman. I typically send them a copy, but only after I've sent it to the editor.

I wouldn't change a direct quote for anyone, be it Ann Weaver Hart, Anthony Kennedy, or Pope Benedict. I might frame it differently-- MAYBE--if the source could give me a good enough reason.

As freedom of the press goes in this case, high school papers don't have the same rights as a regular publications. They're En Loco Parentes, so the school has final say on anything that goes to print.

Mike McDermott said...

As a high schooler, if Anthony Kennedy said he'd take my interview at the small request he screen the article, I would have no problem with that. The team surrounding Kennedy (press team I mean, not the supreme team) probably wanted to make sure this kid got the message and didn't mis-quote Kennedy.

Given the situation, I'd allow my source to see the article.

Geo said...

What if it was Andy Reid or Michael Nutter?

What if you were interviewing Ann Weaver Hart?

Would you allow the same courtesy? What if they said your story was completely wrong? Would you not run it because they didn't like it (even though you knew it was true)?

- George
(the teacher who smells censorship and isn't happy about it)

Wafai Dias said...

I don't think they should change any of my work just because they want to make themselves look good. You can't be objective if you're going to let people add their bias to your work. The rules should DEFINITELY be the same for the Supreme Court Justice, in fact he should be 100% supportive of the First Amendment. And so should each and every single other person that you write about.

Don Hoegg said...

As I said, George, I wouldn't change it for anyone. Hell, I might even add say in the article that they tried to make me change the quote- that context is important.

Jendayi said...

They should not alter their story for the benefit of the source. Supreme Court justices can't force a paper to alter their story.Their demands prohibit free speech, which violates the First Amendment.They should know that,since they are Supreme Court justices who are supposed to uphold the law.

Aleks Molnar said...

Can they see it? Sure. Can they change it? Hell no. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. There aren't any taksies-backsies in the professional world, so get it right the first time. "Tidied up" is just another way of saying "saving face for something stupid I said."

No. Bad Supreme Court Justice. You know better than that.

John Birk said...

Professor Miller,

Check out Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier:

-John Birk

Anonymous said...

FELICIA TOPSALE SAYS.............. I think he is either a control freak, crazy, or just playing around. I wonder why he cares so much about what students want to write about him. He should be able to read an article about him, but the same time that everyone else does unless it was agreed before hand.