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Quotations and Attribution. Chapter 9 Fedler, Bender, Davenport and Drager. “It’s hard for a wire editor staring into a computer in Louisville to evaluate the motives and credibility of people who whisper to reporters in Washington corridors.” (Linda Raymond, newspaper editor).

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Quotations andAttribution

Chapter 9

Fedler, Bender, Davenport and Drager


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“It’s hard for a wire editor staring into a computer in Louisville to evaluate the motives and credibility of people who whisper to reporters in Washington corridors.”

  • (Linda Raymond, newspaper editor)


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3 sources of news info Louisville to evaluate the motives and credibility of people who whisper to reporters in Washington corridors.”

  • What people say

  • What reporters observe

  • What is contained in documents

  • What people say are written as direct, indirect or partial quotes


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3 type of quotes Louisville to evaluate the motives and credibility of people who whisper to reporters in Washington corridors.”

  • Direct quotes - speaker’s exact words

    “There’s too much of a trade-school atmosphere in journalism schools,” Ambrose said.

  • Indirect quotes - paraphrase

    Ambrose said journalism students should deal with ideas, not technique.

  • Partial quotes

    Ambrose criticized the “trade-school atmosphere” in journalism schools.


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Use of Direct Quotes Louisville to evaluate the motives and credibility of people who whisper to reporters in Washington corridors.”

  • Use quotations to let the source talk directly to the reader

  • When it’s a matter of exactness, wit, rhythm, color or emotion

  • To tie opinion directly to a source

  • As evidence

  • To reveal the speaker’s character

  • Direct quotes should be used to “make a point.”


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How to write direct quotes more specific detail

  • Don’t add words to direct quotes. Avoid parentheses.

  • If you must explain a direct quote:

    • Set it up with the background.

      Instead of: “As soon as I get home,” Wilson said, “I’m going to bury him [his dog Rover] next to the doghouse.”

      Write: Wilson said he knows exactly where to bury his dog Rover. “As soon as I get home, I’m going to bury him next to the doghouse.”


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  • Beware of slang and dialect. more specific detailDon’t needlessly embarrass people you quote, even if they are arrogant or stupid

  • Be picky. Don’t overuse direct quotes.You’re not a court reporter! You’re not writing a transcript.

  • Direct quotes should not repeat information from a previous paraphrase or indirect quote. Don’t write:

    Clinton said he plans to go to Moscow next week. “I plan to go to Moscow next week,” he said.


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  • Generally, don’t use ellipses more specific detail

  • Never use ‘ … ’ at the start of a quote

  • Rarely, you may use ellipses at the end of a quote for literary effect

    “I wonder …” His voice trailed off as Sherman pondered how life would have been different in Mississippi.


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Tips for Using Quotes more specific detail

  • Mix direct and indirect quotes.

  • Use paraphrasing and partial quotes to set up direct quotes.

    She said the case is now in the jury’s hands. “We’ll have to wait and see what they do.”


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  • If you must explain a direct quote: more specific detail

    • Use a partial quote.

      Instead of: Jones said, “SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving) is out of control on this issue (to outlaw happy hour).”

      Write: Jones said the group, Students Against Drunk Driving, is “out of control” on its push to outlaw happy hour.


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Using Indirect Quotes more specific detail

  • Reporters use indirect quotes when sources fail to express themselves effectively.

  • With a well-formed paraphrase, a reporter can emphasize the source’s most significant remark or make it clear

  • The paraphrase also helps the reporter avoid saying the obvious, evident or trite


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Using Partial Quotes more specific detail

  • Partial or fragmented quotes are confusing, awkward and probably unnecessary

  • Avoid using “orphan” quotes, where one or two words in a sentence are between quote marks

  • Correctly used, a partial quote usually makes attribution clear when a certain phrase or word is controversial


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  • Reporters sometimes use partial quotes if a speaker’s words are strongly emotional or highly opinionated

  • Partial quotes sometimes imply a writer doubts the quote is true

    She said she was “annoyed” by the article.

  • Try removing the quotation marks

    She said she was annoyed by the article.


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It’s OK to say ‘said’ a lot. words are strongly emotional or highly opinionated

  • If it’s what he said, then say that’s what he said

  • Substitutes like claimed, noted, pointed out, and maintained can lead the reader to suspect a value judgment

  • Substitutes like stated, asserted, and elucidated sound stilted

  • Editors don’t like for reporters to use words like hope, feel, believe, want or think.


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  • It’s OK to say someone added to a comment, if that’s actually true.

  • Sometimes it’s OK to use explained or noted:

    The Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, she noted.

    He explained he was late because of a dentist appointment.

  • Use “according to” for documents only. ‘Said’ is fine for documents, too.


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Levels of Attribution actually true.

  • On the record attribution means everything the source says may be published and directly quoted

  • Background is not for attribution, but can be quoted, but no source is actually named – “A source close to the investigation”

  • Deep Background sources may not be identified in any way.

  • Off the Record means the source’s information may not be used in the story.


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Attribution Protects You actually true.

  • Whenever in doubt, attribute

  • Always attribute information that could be disputed (especially about crimes)

  • Always attribute opinion

  • Attribute feeling and belief

    He said he felt sorry.

    She said she believes in God.


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  • If you attribute a paraphrase, you don’t have to put attribution in the direct quote that follows

    Clinton said he believes human cloning is immoral. “So I call on Congress to ban the cloning of humans.”

  • Generally, for short direct quotes, put the attribution at the end

    “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” she said.


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  • Don’t quote two people in the same paragraph. Put them in separate paragraphs, and let the reader know you’re switching speakers.

  • Instead of:

    “This disaster could have been avoided,” Wilcox said.

    “It was entirely the governor’s fault,” Ruiz said.

  • Write:

    “This disaster could have been avoided,” Wilcox said.

    Ruiz agreed. “It was entirely the governor’s fault.”


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Abbreviated Titles in Quotes separate paragraphs, and let the reader know you’re switching speakers.

  • Spell out all formal titles when used in quotations, with one exception: Dr.

    “Governor Gilmore considers the bill a waste of money,” spokesman Mark Miner said.

    Texas Gov. George W. Bush said, “I have asked General Colin Powell to be my running mate.”

    Mayor Tim Kaine said, “Dr. Chargois has given us all an example to follow.”


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Anonymous Sources separate paragraphs, and let the reader know you’re switching speakers.

  • Get permission from editor or news director before using anonymous sources

  • Be prepared to tell the editor or news director who the anonymous source is

  • All information from anonymous sources should be verified

  • Search for the motive

  • Make sure source is in a position to have this credible information


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  • Make sure your audience understands there is a clear an present danger in revealing your anonymous source

  • Do not allow your anonymous source to engage in attacks on other individuals or groups

  • If you must, then make sure all individuals and groups are contacted

    IT IS ALWAYS BEST TO AVOID USING ANY ANONYMOUS SOURCE


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