Have you ever been quoted in a newspaper or magazine? It’s a fair bet that – once the elation of being quoted in the media has passed – your next thought is…”Hey! That’s not what I said!”
It’s a good feeling if someone reaches out for your expert opinion, but that feeling is tainted when they take your opinion and recreate it to suit their purpose. Perhaps this is how journalism works, but it should be make clear up front that “the words you speak may not be the words we print”.
Several years ago, a Chicago newspaper was looking for comments from a limousine service regarding what prom rules we enforce. At the time, I was the “head dispatcher” and in charge of dealing with chauffeurs and rule enforcement. During the lengthy phone interview, I thought I spoke intelligently with a fairly high degree of knowledge in the area, but when I read the article, I sounded like a complete buffoon. Instead of being proud of my contribution to society, I told no one about the article, choosing instead to let it be “discovered” (which it eventually was). I ended up being the subject of a certain degree of ridicule within the office, and I promised myself I would never allow myself to be quoted (or misquoted) again. Of course, when a business publication contacted me a couple of years ago regarding the demise of the Lincoln Town Car, I quickly forgot my boycott and gave a long and well worded interview, all the while remembering my previous experience. A couple of weeks later, my interview appeared in a major business rag. The result of my 30 minutes of expert analysis??? Three sentences: “The Town Car has been the workhorse of our industry for as long as I can remember. I can’t imagine what we will do without the Town Car. This is the sad end of an era”. Of the three, the first one is the only one that I can claim. The other two – while not untrue – are not statements I would make.
So…if this is what journalists do, how can you be sure what your reading in print is what was intended to be said? What if – during my prom interview – I was misquoted as saying we allow party goers to drink in our vehicles? The potential damage to a company the size of OML could not be undone by a small correction or retraction buried deep inside publication. A Chicago limo company could find it difficult to recover from that one.
It comes down to responsibility. Publications should be accountable for what they print, and if they do “misquote”, they should apologize…on the front page.
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