Daily Princetonian editor-in-chief Henry Rome complains that the use of email interviews “has resulted in stories filled with stilted, manicured quotes that often hide any real meaning and make it extremely difficult for reporters to ask follow-up questions or build relationships with sources.”
There is no opportunity to clarify the complicated issues we cover every day, from scientific discoveries to nuanced University policies. In fact, we often receive requests from administrators for closer relationships with reporters so that reporters can develop a certain knowledge base in specific areas.
Those kinds of relationships simply cannot be achieved through dry email correspondence.
From now on, the Princeton paper’s sources will only be allowed to comment via email “in extraordinary circumstances” that are approved by top editors.
Rome notes deep in his story that the Princetonian “will continue the practice of sending quotes back to sources upon request” but that “quotes will only be changed if there is a question of factual accuracy.” Two weeks ago, the Harvard Crimson announced that it’s no longer letting sources approve their quotes before publication.
UPDATE: I asked editor Rome about the paper’s practice of sending quotes back to sources. He emailed back:
We are firmly against “quote approval” and do not practice such a policy. When I refer to “quote review,” that is a non-binding courtesy we provide to sources in limited circumstances. If they provided factual information that they later found to be wrong (eg “I said five but I meant six”), that is the only instance in which we would consider replacing a quote. If there’s a question of whether the quote was transcribed accurately, that would be addressed then as well. This happens entirely at the discretion of the editors.
To be clear, if a source said it, a source said it. We don’t do revisionist interviewing.