Kenyon College Newspaper Also Revokes Quote Review Option, Following Harvard Crimson Decision

The Kenyon Collegian at Ohio’s Kenyon College is no longer allowing sources to review and request changes to their quotes in stories prior to publication.  As co-editor-in-chief Liliana Martinez tells me, the paper stopped adhering to what had apparently become accepted practice for some sources after seeing the similar review rejection policies recently adopted by The New York Times and The Harvard Crimson.

“This issue,” according to Martinez, “has prompted ongoing debate at Kenyon, especially between administrators, members of Student Council, and Collegian staffers.”

The paper ran an editorial late last week to clarify its policy switch, partially in response to a student leader’s assertion that dropping quote review was “backtracking in terms of the accountability and transparency you have with interview subjects.”

A portion of the editorial: “As more of our sources expect free rein to strike words from the record and redraft, it has become increasingly difficult for our reporters to provide perceptive coverage of this campus.  Over the course of the last year alone, sources have asked to revise their quotes to make them sound more eloquent. One source asked to add additional information to the body of a quote; another asked that a quote be taken off the record retroactively. All of the above situations violated established rules of journalistic ethics.  When interviews are given on the condition that quotes be sent back and changed after the fact, we are failing in our mission as a newspaper and effectively becoming an extension of the Office of Public Affairs.”

The editorial confirms the Collegian will still offer what editors call “read backs,” or quick quote run-throughs with a source over the phone or in person.  Sources can contest a factual error or a perceived misquotation, but any other style or wording changes are out.

The editorial’s close: “Since we announced this policy change to our staff at our fall training session, we have heard from multiple members of the campus community that they are nervous about consenting to interviews without prior review of their quotes. The truth is that we would rather go without a quote– no matter how useful– than permit sources to use our pages to mislead our readers.”


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