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Locals react to controversial press policies of nation's top politicians

President, Romney can edit quotes prior to publication
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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Local politicians and members of the media are reacting to the recent revelation of controversial press policies maintained by some of the nation?s most high-profile politicians. In a New York Times article published Sunday, reporter Jeremy W. Peters detailed the restrictive terms that many major news outlets have agreed to if they want to include comments from the likes of the administration of President Barack Obama, the Mitt Romney campaign or top Washington insiders. The article said after reporters interview campaign officials in the Obama administration they are required to submit their quotes via email for final approval. ?The quotations come back redacted, stripped of colorful metaphors, colloquial language and anything even mildly proactive....the press office has veto power over what statements can be quoted and attributed by name,? Peters wrote. He went on to say that reporters are also required to agree to only use quotes approved by the press office when interviewing any of Romney?s five sons and his advisers typically require them to ask for permission before using anything they have said during a conversation in an article. Auburn Mayor Kevin Hanley said the practice creates a strange partnership between the government and the press. ?I think there is kind of the responsibility on the person who is talking to the reporter to say exactly what they mean,? Hanley said. ?There is a reporter responsibility to make sure that whatever statement is made is given a fair context.? He added that by agreeing to the practice, members of the press are giving up some of their freedoms and potentially compromising reporting the truth to the public. ?I think the news is sort of sanitized and the news could be sort of carefully spinned instead of that spokesman?s real view at the time,? Hanley said. Auburn councilmember Dr. Bill Kirby had a similar perspective. ?How dishonest to let them do that. To write up what they said and send it to them, it really is intellectually dishonest to the American people,? Kirby said. ?Then nobody should even read what they write.? Even still, the article in the New York Times stated that several major news organizations, including Bloomberg, the Washington Post, Vanity Fair, Reuters and the New York Times all reluctantly consented to interviews under such terms. William Endicott, who retired as deputy managing editor of The Sacramento Bee in 2001, said politicians may be attempting to exert more control over their messaging with the surge of the 24-hour news cycle fueled by the Internet, but the policies are unprecedented. He said while off-the-record briefings and background have long taken place, the practice of journalists sending in quotes for editing by sources is ? egregious.? ?I just think this business of having you submit your interview before you can publish them is just an outrageous thing to have happen,? Endicott said. Ed Fletcher, unit co-chair for the Pacific Media Workers Guild and reporter for The Sacramento Bee, said the practice sets a terrible precedent. ?It?s not something we would do for local sources, so it should not be something we do for the highest level of sources,? Fletcher said. ?Most reporters aren?t aghast at reading back a quote to somebody, but we should not be sending them a quote to have it ?approved.?? Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com, or follow her on Twitter @AJ_News.