Discussion Question: Have you ever looked at the quotes in a news story and wondered what the reporter was trying to imply about the source?
I seem to find myself wondering all the time, especially in sports news and celebrity features. For example, the Washington Post did a piece on professional basketball player, Caron Butler, quoting a childhood friend as saying, “We used to see the big dudes come through, with their cars shining. We didn’t have nothing.” The late Bella Stumbo, of the Los Angeles Times, was sharply criticized for quoting the late Washington, D.C., mayor Marion Barry using words like “wanna” instead of “want to” and “I be sittin'” instead of “I’ll be sitting” in her profile of the politician.
After you have read this week’s assigned readings, please address this discussion prompt. What is a reporter’s obligation to his or her sources? His or her audience? Are quotes in the vernacular appropriate or inappropriate? Are they even ethical? How are we supposed to handle poor grammar and dialects in our quotes? What are some of the rules for quoting sources? Find and include other stories in your post that used a source’s vernacular and tell us whether the quotes were handled appropriately or inappropriately and why you think so. What do you think the reporters were trying to accomplish by writing their stories this way? Would you have quoted these sources the same way or differently (explain)? What have you learned about interviewing? Have you any tips to share?
Peer Review 1:
I think this topic relates a lot to our discussion on what a “journalist” is and what sets them apart from pundits and bloggers, their obligation to present the truth. I can appreciate that Bella Stumbo chose to include the exact and direct quotes of Barry, accent and vernacular included. However, like all things there is a time, place, and reason. I believe that because Stumbo was writing a profile, she did the piece more justice by including the speech patterns. They show character and background in peripheral way. The rules for this week mentioned that grammatical mistakes should be used as they were spoken, but accents should not. There can be a fine line between those two. I’ve lived all over the world and I can tell you from experience, accents and vernacular combined can create something of a dialect. Regardless, we aren’t trying to be speech analysts, but writers. The audience and intention of the piece must always be considered. A running theme in the class has been to choose each word carefully, and if it doesn’t add to the story you don’t need it. For example, I found an article online that described Wendy Williams’ reaction to a celebrity tryst:
‘It’s only been three weeks! And she’s 26! That’s old enough to understand—like, you don’t show your feelings on your sleeve in three weeks, you know? And he’s a 30-something.’
Here the writer is not only adding inflection or feeling by using multiple exclamation marks, but why add the “- like”? I’m sure she said it, but does that really add anything to the story? I think the obligation for a journalist is not in the source or the audience exclusively, but in the intention of the piece. Does it accurately convey what it is meant to?
Peer Review 2:
What is a reporter’s obligation to his or her sources?
A reporter has to respect his source and make sure that everything he writes down is true and does not put the source in a bad situation. Listen, evaluate and then write about it.
His or her audience?
Here the reporter has to inform the audience and stick to the truth. A good reporter does a lot of research before and after to be sure his sources are credible.
Are quotes in the vernacular appropriate or inappropriate? Are they even ethical? How are we supposed to handle poor grammar and dialects in our quotes?
Personally, I think they are not that appropriate, as a journalist it is my obligation to write professional and without mistakes or slang. However, I do not think that I have right to change the words of a source a lot, just to make it understandable.
What are some of the rules for quoting sources?
The most important thing is to attribute the quote to the source. I cannot use someone else’s words as my own. For transparency reasons I think it is important to describe the source as well as possible. E.g. say who the source is and give the person a name or say what he does.
Find and include other stories in your post that used a source’s vernacular and tell us whether the quotes were handled appropriately or inappropriately and why you think so. What do you think the reporters were trying to accomplish by writing their stories this way? Would you have quoted these sources the same way or differently (explain)? What have you learned about interviewing? Have you any tips to share?
This is an article about that living off the grid is illegal in Cape Cord, Florida.
I think the reporter did a good job using quotes from the source even though it was in her vernacular. It seemed like the reporter tried to give the reader the feeling of actually being present at the time of the interview without writing in a question answer format. For thins kind of online newspaper and interview I would have used the same quotes in the same way because it was all about getting the point of view of the woman.
Interviews are delicate and it can be easy to quote someone wrong or show your opinion. I learned that I have to be careful how ti incorporate quotes.
A tip is to use a tape recorder to listen to the interview again to get everything right.