New Old Rules for the Interview Road

Is it ok to request or require that a pre-publication review of a story before conducting a media interview?

It used to be that only amateurs asked: the answer from any credible news outlet would be ‘no.’ Newspapers, magazines and broadcast news journalists did not, as a matter of policy, allow sources to review quotes or stories for approval. (Though it has been standard for reporters to read back direct quotes or clarify technical or contradictory information.)

Then journalists started to trade away their power for access to well-placed sources, as reported today in the New York Times. The rules got fuzzy. Understandably, sources took as much leeway as reporters would allow. It was no longer the mark of an unsophisticated source to ask for quote approval.

Now, the old rules are back in place: don’t ask, because they won’t tell. To quote the Times’ memo:  “So starting now, we want to draw a clear line on this. Citing Times policy, reporters should say no if a source demands, as a condition of an interview, that quotes be submitted afterward to the source or a press aide to review, approve or edit.”

The Times’ stance gives other publications permission and backbone to firm up their own no-review policies. Always clarify the “rules of the road” before you start an interview…even if you have been interviewed in the past by that journalist.