Sunday, May 27, 2007

On Dr. Andrew Cline's "What a Quote Means"

(or "everyone is entitled to their own opinion...")

Rhetorica: Press-Politics Journal: What a Quote Means

Bingo. I found this interesting on a number of levels. Oh, okay, maybe on only one level.

I read it through the jaded eyes of considering our local daily newspaper's recent onslaught of controversial editorials.

Think about that.

If I may quote Dr. Andrew Cline of The Rhetorica Network from the above article:

"...what does a quote mean?

It means whatever the journalist intended by its use."

I'd really like to see Dr. Cline touch on what does the choice of a source mean next...? (and perhaps he has in a previous entry, I'll have to look into that.)

Naturally, I understand an editorial is not the same as a news report and in this particular local paper they publish these editorials under the heading of "Our Voice," but if it is the paper's voice shouldn't they simply give their voice? Give their straight opinion on the matter?

In giving their voice they also try to persuade and manipulate the reader to accept their qualitative sources as reason to join them in the opinion they hold. Their choice of sources can be one-sided to make the point the paper wishes to make or by choice of the quotes used from varied sources, they can direct the reader to draw the same conclusion they hold.

So taking, for instance, this "Our Voice" column, the "Our Voice" writer uses the Southern Poverty Law Center as the paper's sole quoted source. Indeed, they chose to summarize the local Minutemen Chapter member's commentary rather than quote him. At least the paper cannot be charged with taking him out of context, since they didn't quote him in the first place. We finish reading the article not knowing what local Chapter member Tom Franiac said at all, only knowing what the anonymous newspaper writer determined him to have meant by words he said that went unreported.

Now, I could have summarized Andy Cline's article by saying, "it became obvious" that Cline "criticized" all journalists as having an agenda. That would be a valid interpretation of his answer to the question, "What does a quote mean...? It means whatever a journalist intended by its use," but would that really be what Andy Cline meant? I don't think that is what Dr. Cline meant at all and if I wanted to I could ramble on a little longer and this could become an entry about moral relativism, your truth is as valid as my truth...right?

I like this Patrick Moynihan quote, "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts."

Facts are much safer than opinion, facts are much safer than quotes and the truth is the truth when evaluated from the standpoint of fact rather than opinion.

(...and you can quote me on that.)

1 comment:

acline said...

re: "criticized" all journalists as having an agenda

Yes, but not in the way usually meant by those stuck on simplistic ideas of political bias in the news media. The truth is more complex and far more interesting. And, in a very important way, it is far more harmful to journalism's purpose than the occasional instances of political bias (that break both ways). I left that last line--the one you quote--hanging there for a reason, which I hope will become clear as I continue discussing quotes.