A few weeks ago I think a journalism class at Ryerson had a term paper due about why main stream media has such a hard time engaging with social media. I say this since I think at least three different students from the University interview me on the subject. At the beginning of each interview they each told me that their piece might get published in the Ryerson Review of Journalism.
I really enjoyed my conversation with each of them – it is always great to have people ask you smart questions as it challenges you to think and rethink these issues. What I did find bizarre however was what happened next.
The other day a fact checker call me from Ryerson’s school of journalism.
She was nice and friendly and wanted to confirm that I had said certain things. Her questions were fairly vague and I was getting frustrated since I prefer not to be vague (When I’m getting quoted) and so was trying to tell her what I thought my precise language would have been (hey it’d been two or three 45 minute conversations several weeks early…). Finally, I just asked: “Can you just tell what the quote is?”
To which she responded: “No.”
I’m sure journalism students everywhere are about to jump on me… but I’ll confess I was a little surprised and, frankly, disappointed.
This isn’t some political scandal where if I contradict myself there is possibly evidence of some larger cover up. I’d been interviewed as a “subject matter expert” (we can debate the dubiousness of that title – I’m definitely open to challenge on that…) and so one would think that the goal would be to get a quote from me that explained, in the most lucid and helpful manner, the essence of my perspective or the issue I was raising. Substance and clarity would, I thought, have been the goal.
Who knows what the quote is… (I think it relates to the fact that I believe many Canadian newspaper columnists actually hold their audience in contempt – they don’t actually want to engage with them – something I think is their Achilles heels and that distinguishes a new generation of columnists who are growing up blogging) but the process suggests me that what is really interesting to the review is being able to run with a quote I may or may not have said, because someone decided its juicy. Okay. But understand that this isn’t about getting closer to some understanding of the subject matter anymore, this is about getting a juicy quote.
So, I’ll confess this is all my fault. Lesson learned. I’ll be sure to explicitly stay off the record with journalism students from Ryerson call and will carefully construct any statement I fear might be on the record. Maybe the quotes great! But maybe not. I guess we’ll find out soon…