”Paraphrasing has transformed me into a Californian surfer”

If you’ve even been interviewed by print or web media, chances are, you’ve been paraphrased. There is nothing substantially wrong with that and, in most cases, the interviewee’s own language flaws, hesitations, grammar inconsistencies or redundancies are minimised, making this spokesperson appear more clearly than even more eloquently, than during the interview.

Journalists don’t do it only to be nice, though. They do it to make their texts shorter and more focused.

The very opposite of that is when you were quoted innacurately, which is a serious situation with its own rectification rules.

But there is one situation in between. I was interviewed several times as a spokesperson for a project for a given media organisation whose news reporting tends to sport a tongue-in-cheek tone. The content of my message was not distorted in the published article, which is good news, of course. Yet, my words were paraphrased into a very relaxed, laid-back register, which I felt did not represent me. That perceived nonchalant tone was not helpful to the situation at hand, which happened to be a delicate one for the organisation I represented, too.

There is, of course, a defined field of play for controlling quotes and for requiring that they are amended when they are wrong. Most people in media relations also understand that it’s counter-productive to go too hard on making that follow-up phone call for the sake of maintaining a good relationship with the journalist. But there is always a margin to talk frankly with the media representative so as to discuss these in-between cases — at least to get a better idea of how much goodwill there is on the other side of the line (and adjust how strict to be next time around).

Sergio Guimaraes, Speaking of PR