Fear and censorship on the campaign trail

It looks as if many reporters on the presidential campaign trail have lost their way. According to an article in The New York Times, they are allowing the campaigns to veto any statements they wish to quote from interviews with campaign operatives. They actually submit the quotes they want to use, then wait to hear back which quotes they can run:

They are sent by e-mail from the Obama headquarters in Chicago to reporters who have interviewed campaign officials under one major condition: the press office has veto power over what statements can be quoted and attributed by name.

Most reporters, desperate to pick the brains of the presidents top strategists, grudgingly agree. After the interviews, they review their notes, check their tape recorders and send in the juiciest sound bites for review.

It's not unusual for reporters to check quotes for accuracy. But this is different; it amounts to submitting to censorship. Editors are okay with this policy?Besides, who cares about the self-serving spin being dished out in these briefings? My advice to the reporters: Talk to someone else. Too many of your stories are about campaign strategy, anyway. But if you do give in to this practice, it should be disclosed in each story that the campaign insisted on approving the quotes.

Paul Moses, a contributing writer at Commonweal, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi’s Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York’s Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @PaulBMoses. 

Please email comments to [email protected] and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Must Reads