In my news editing class this week, we discussed this video from the BBC, which includes quotes from Obama's inauguration speech.
The Poynter institute accused the BBC of twisting Obama's quotes to make it seems like he was talking about alternative energy when he was really talking about science in general and health care specfically. BBC claimed it was using the quotes in "montage" format and that they were not intended to be interpreted as one continuous piece.
My first reaction was to ask myself: Journalists splice quotes often in news stories. I know I've taken what I considered irrelevant parts out of the middle of quotes before, joining two sentences that were not in fact said together by the speaker. Usually I stick in "s/he said" between the spliced quotes to separate them, but not always.
So is this wrong?
Worse, the BBC actually reversed the order of two of the quotes. And I again ask myself, what have I done? I'm sure I've separated two sentences spoken one after another by a source and put them in different paragraphs, maybe with some of my own words and other information in between, or other quotes in between.
And then maybe I've decided to change the order of topics in the story, and suddenly the quotes are reversed, and in the wrong order.
So is *this* wrong?
I don't know.
Obviously preserving the meaning is important. We try to do this. But to discern what a speaker really meant is difficult. And I wonder if I would be upset having my words spliced and diced and shuffled around like that to make a story flow better, if I were the interviewee.
It's tough to say.
But I will say that my initial reaction upon hearing the BBC video was to notice the clear cutoffs at the end of each quote, which indicated to me that the speech was not continuous. Also, something about the tone of the video signaled to me, "collection of Obama's various thoughts on topic X" But if it wasn't this way for everyone, then maybe it was misleading.