Quotations Marked, Part II

(AP / CBS)
I criticized in this space yesterday a HuffingtonPost column by Penelope Trunk, where she suggested that people who believe they've been misquoted "need to get over" that concern. Her explanation?
The reason that everyone thinks journalists misquote them is that the person who is writing is the one who gets to tell the story. No two people tell the same story.
I commented that while I understood issues of context and relativity -- heck, I've got books by Baudrillard on my bookshelves, too -- it couldn't be argued that quotations are inherenely subjective.
There is a precision to quotes: you use the exact words from an interviewee in the order they were spoken. And you allow them to complete their thought.
Into this discussion comes Reverend Frederick K.C. Price, founder of the Crenshaw Christian Center. Earlier this year, Price was quoted on ABC's "20/20" as saying "I live in a 25-room mansion, I have my own $6-million yacht, I have my own private jet and I have my own helicopter and I have seven luxury automobiles."

He is currently filing a defamation lawsuit against ABC. On what grounds? According to today's Los Angeles Times:
In the full sermon, according to an excerpt provided by a spokesman for Price, he prefaced that by saying, "I was pointing out that there is such a thing as bad success. I said bad success is…." The sermon, which the suit says aired on Disney's Lifetime network, was about the importance of being a good Christian, and Price was quoting a hypothetical person with great material wealth who failed to follow a righteous path.
ABC News, rightfully, has apologized and run two separate retractions on its airwaves -- for having lopped off a critical portion of the sermon. But this isn't a post about the ongoing proceedings. It's merely a useful illustration that news organizations don't believe that misquotations are in the eye of the beholder. And they're not something to merely "get over."
  • Matthew Felling

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