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Give an inch, grab a yard

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Every once in a while when the line goes fuzzy/I drop the phone/my short-hand lets me down (ahem), I’ll check a quote with a flak.

Here’s what I think your man just said, is that right?

The good flak realises I am trying to be honest and has an opportunity to tweak the message just slightly, to say, look, what (s)he means is…

The bad one re-writes the quote into corporate language that is totally unusable. We fall out.

In UK journalism, showing an entire article to a company for comment ahead of publication is regarded as a no-no. We don’t need your permission.

In the US, on contentious stories, it’s actually seen as the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal being confident enough of its journalism to be upfront about what it plans to say.

I’ve tried it here occasionally and always wished I hadn’t bothered. The flak, rather than being grateful, thinks they are being offered copy approval.

We fall out. The experiment is not repeated.


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