Quote Check – the New Four-Letter Word in Financial Communications
Recently, there has been a stir in the ongoing debate over the ethics of a quote check policy, this time drummed up by a column from The New York Times’ David Carr. Almost immediately, the newspaper issued a memo to all reporters stating that quote approval is strictly against the outlet’s policy.
As financial public relations professionals, it is our job to ensure that clients are not misrepresented or misquoted in articles. Before every interview, we remind the spokespeople that the best policy is to simply not say anything they wouldn’t want to see in print – assume the interview is always on the record and know that you can’t take back your words. Treat a quote check not as a guarantee, but as a favor some reporters might impart when they’re feeling particularly generous.
However, in the financial public relations industry – the quote check processes serves a higher purpose. It is not designed to change the original words or context of what a spokesperson said, but to ensure that the journalist can accurately convey the nuances of the very technical topic they are writing about, wading through the jargon to present to the reader the complete picture. Having spoken with some of our friendly reporter and editor contacts, the overwhelming consensus seemed to be anti-quote review, with the caveat that they would rather be accurate than sorry, so some sort of follow-up review or additional question is always best.
Even Carr in his column makes the concession that “journalism is a blunt technology. Reporters don’t generally record most interviews and can’t always type or write as quickly as a subject is speaking.” As a former trade reporter myself, I remember my first foray into the alphabet soup of the capital markets industry – OMS, EMS, MiFID, API, SaaS, the list goes on. Conducting a quote check or fact check in a situation where a difference of one letter could take the story in a whole new direction should not only be encouraged, but mandated by the journalist’s own desire to produce the most accurate story possible.
While quote approval might be a four-letter word for some in the public relations and media industries, there needs to be a way to ensure that the same high standards that prevent journalists from sharing quotes post-interview are then applied to making sure the quote is actually as accurate as possible, and that all the facts of the final story are correct.
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