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Another discussion on how to quote athletes

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by SF_Express, Mar 22, 2009.

  1. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    is here:


    We've talked about this numerous times here, but there are some other thoughts about the whole thing.

    Whenever this comes up, I have to laugh a little about this from AP:

    "Never alter quotations even to correct minor grammatical errors or word usage. Casual minor tongue slips may be removed by using ellipses but even that should be done with extreme caution. If there is a question about a quote, either don't use it or ask the speaker to clarify. . . . Do not use substandard spellings such as gonna or wanna in attempts to convey regional dialects or informal pronunciations, except to help a desired touch in a feature."

    I positively guarantee you that AP doesn't come close to following its own rule on this. As if every athlete ever quoted in an AP story is quoted verbatim.

    My career stops have uniformly cleaned up quotes except for features. But I understand the debate, and the added complication of more and more people being able to hear the direct quote because of multimedia is an interesting one.

    Anyway, discuss. Or don't if we're tired of the topic, but it's an interesting read.
  2. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    Re: Another dicussion on how to quote athletes

    Our broadcaster called me one day not long ago. My former paper had a quote from one of our players that was not grammatically correct. It wasn't bad, it was common usage even if wrong. Didn't even make me blink. But broadcaster was steamed - at the paper - for "making the player look bad" by using the quote that way.
    He wanted me to speak to the writer.
    Uh, no. He USED to work for me, remember? He doesn't anymore.
    Broadcaster then swore HE was going to speak to writer (he never did and when I relayed this story to the writer I was glad he did not - writer would have had him for lunch).
    Broadcaster didn't like my answer much. If we want our players to be quoted using proper grammar, it is OUR job to make sure they speak using proper grammar.

    It's that simple. Don't fuck with a quote.
  3. DavidPoole

    DavidPoole Member

    Re: Another dicussion on how to quote athletes

    Moddy, a question. If one of your reporters uses incorrect grammar in a story, does your desk fix it? Or does it use the incorrect usage to "teach your reporter a lesson" so his or her grammar will improve? If your desk fixes errors by your reporters, shouldn't your reporters pay sources the same respect?
  4. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    Re: Another dicussion on how to quote athletes

    That's a bit of a hair split there, I think. Quotes are supposed to be sacred - this is EXACTLY how he/she said it. If you want to do that courtesy to a source, fine. Leave the quote marks off and paraphrase.
  5. mediaguy

    mediaguy Well-Known Member

    Re: Another dicussion on how to quote athletes

    I have no problem correcting noun-verb agreement and syntax in a direct quote. I will change "We got a lot of big games left" to "We've got" and such. If it's someone in a prominent position, where incorrect syntax is a poor reflection of their position, then you can keep it in place, but I have no problem making minor changes to the grammar/syntax of a high school or college athlete.

    Are you purists including every "um" and "you know" and half-sentence stammer in your direct quotes? Do you think your readers are better for it?
  6. mediaguy

    mediaguy Well-Known Member

    Re: Another dicussion on how to quote athletes

    I suppose we should throw a (sic) in the second word in the title of this thread, just to keep the spirit of the topic ...
  7. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    Re: Another dicussion on how to quote athletes

    Yeah, but -- and thus begins the eternal circular argument -- what about all the "um" and "ah" and "you know" ... AP says those should be replaced with elipses, but you know they don't. And neither does anybody else.

    OK, so right now, the quote is a little bit less sacred. So how far do you go?

    Again, where I've worked, from a paper under 20,000 circulation to one (that once was) over a million, quotes have been routinely cleaned up.
  8. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    Oops. And fixed. :)
  9. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    The argument I've heard is the um, ah, you knows are not really part of the "thought." I don't agree because I've already said I think quotes are sacred. I used to use a lot of ellipses but you can only use so many of those. Some people, the entire damn quote would be one big ellipsis.
  10. mediaguy

    mediaguy Well-Known Member

    "I ... agree. It (is) ... (the) kind of thing where ... some people don't ... (care)."
  11. Some Guy

    Some Guy Active Member

    In the old days, before people began to use tape recorders, I guarantee we weren't all getting our chicken scratch down verbatim. Were quotes less sacred then?

    Are quotes less sacred on deadline? Because sometimes, on a late game, there is no time to transcribe. The best we can do is scribble down a couple quick quotes, hope we've got them verbatim, and go with that.

    Here's another one I've run into lately. The pro team I cover will often transcribe a few quotes after the game and hand them out on quote sheets. Occasionally, on deadline, I will go with what they've got instead of searching my recording for a transcription.

    Occasionally, I will go back to my tape the next day and realize it wasn't verbatim. Nothing major, but a dropped sentence here or a different word there. And these are "official" quote sheets. Are those quotes less sacred?
  12. hockeybeat

    hockeybeat Guest

    I wrote a story a couple years ago where I quoted an athlete whose first language wasn't English. He said something fairly innocuous. The desker that read my copy said that I should have cleaned up the quote because "there's no need to make the (guy) look stupid."
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