Sources Quotes

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 1990 profile of the politician for the newspaper, “Barry: He Keeps D.C. Guessing.”

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Before responding to this discussion prompt, please make sure to read Newsgathering and Interviewing , Chapter 2 of the Handbook of Independent Journalism, and Chapter 16 on interviewing, Chapter 8 on punctuating directly quoted material, and Chapter 9 on attribution in The News Manual.

Then, craft and informed response to address at least one of the following five sets of numbered questions.

1. What is a reporter’s obligation to his or her sources? His or her audience?

2. Are quotes in the vernacular appropriate or inappropriate? Are they even ethical?

3. How are journalists supposed to handle poor grammar and dialects in our quotes? Why?

4. What are some of the rules for quoting sources?

5. What have you learned about interviewing? Have you any tips to share?

Alternatively, you may complete the following:

Find and include at least one news story post that used a source’s vernacular and tell us whether the quotes were handled appropriately or inappropriately, and why you think so. Please also tell us: What do you think the reporter was trying to accomplish by writing the story this way? Would you have quoted these sources the same manner or differently (explain)?

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