I came across this interesting tidbit out of North Carolina this morning. Yes! Weekly, which has applied for AAN membership several times, is taking some heat for misquoting the local district attorney.
The story was about North Carolina’s new Racial Justice Act, which allows legal challenges based on statistics in death penalty cases and the D.A.’s opposition to the law. The story — and the misquote — led a group of ministers and others to call for the D.A.’s resignation.
Here’s what Yes! published: “If you’re African-American, you’re six, seven or eight times or some figure more likely to have a violent history. I didn’t go out there and put a gun in your hand and say, ‘You commit eight crimes and I’m a white man and I’ll commit one.’ That’s just instincts. That’s how it is.” (emphasis added)
Here’s the actual quote: “If you’re African-American, you’re six, seven or eight times or some figure more likely to have a violent history. I didn’t go out there and put a gun in your hand and say, ‘You commit eight crimes and I’m a white man and I’ll commit one.’ That’s just statistics. That’s how it is.” (emphasis added)
A staff writer had recorded the interview with the D.A., and as the fracas surrounding the comments grew, Yes! editor Brian Clarey decided he wanted to post the audio clip online. When the writer went back to the tape, he realized he’d misquoted the D.A.
“When you’re working on deadline, you’re just rolling,” Clarey tells the local daily. He says he will also take a closer look at internal procedures to make sure that something similar doesn’t happen again.
So that leads to the question behind this blog post: What do you do in your newsroom to prevent this sort of misquoting? I can’t imagine any of you editors have the time to listen to reporters’ interview tapes all day — but perhaps you do when the subject is particularly sensitive? I’d love to hear how you tackle this, if at all.
An interesting post-script to this story is that the group calling for the D.A.’s resignation says the misquote doesn’t change their call and that they still want him to step down.