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Department of lapdogs

16 July 2012

4:05 PM

16 July 2012

4:05 PM

Via Kevin Drum, this is really rather remarkable:

‘The quotations come back redacted, stripped of colorful metaphors, colloquial language and anything even mildly provocative.

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 president’s top strategists, grudgingly agree. After the interviews, they review their notes, check their tape recorders and send in the juiciest sound bites for review.

The verdict from the campaign — an operation that prides itself on staying consistently on script — is often no, Barack Obama does not approve this message.

[…] Quote approval is standard practice for the Obama campaign, used by many top strategists and almost all midlevel aides in Chicago and at the White House — almost anyone other than spokesmen who are paid to be quoted. (And sometimes it applies even to them.) It is also commonplace throughout Washington and on the campaign trail.

The Romney campaign insists that journalists interviewing any of Mitt Romney’s five sons agree to use only quotations that are approved by the press office. And Romney advisers almost always require that reporters ask them for the green light on anything from a conversation that they would like to include in an article.

From Capitol Hill to the Treasury Department, interviews granted only with quote approval have become the default position. Those officials who dare to speak out of school, but fearful of making the slightest off-message remark, shroud even the most innocuous and anodyne quotations in anonymity by insisting they be referred to as a “top Democrat” or a “Republican strategist.”’

As Kevin says, this isn’t reporting it’s stenography. Worse than that, actually, it’s the kind of ‘copy approval’ typically considered the province of advertising supplements and other sorts of puff-copy. It’s not the way the game is supposed to be played and I have no idea why newspapers are prepared to put up with this sort of thing. But since they are it’s another reminder that no-one should really be surprised that newspapers are dying.

Does this happen at Westminster? Given how we copy so many American innovations it is surely only a matter of time before British political parties try to insist upon this brand of nonsense. But if or rather when that happens, I hope the British press corps will react more robustly than our American cousins.

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