A story in some editions Tuesday misquoted Rutgers professor David Redlawsk, who said: “Those working toward the merger have apparently not made their case to New Jerseyans over the past six weeks.”
I appreciate any public correction, kind of. Unlike the New York Times, the Inquirer (like many other news outlets) avoids telling readers exactly what was wrong with the original quote. Nor does it here give the subject of the article, or even the headline. This evasiveness seems strange, although it lines up with a general industry-wide desire not to repeat an error. I get that when libel might be a concern. But that’s rare. Clarity is good. Transparency, remember, is something journalists often demand of others. This approach seems a bit hypocritical.
Anyway, back to the Inquirer.
The story, “Democratic war of words over Rutgers-Rowan merger plan continues”, dealt with the possible realignment of two universities: Rowan and Rutgers-Camden. (Rowan is the University Formerly Known As Glassboro State College,) The story said a recent poll found that 59 percent of registered voters in the state of New Jersey were against the planned merger. That fact the stage for a quotation from Redlawsk, which ended the article. The quote and attribution were presented this way:
“Those working toward the merger have apparently not made their case to New Jerseyans,” Rutgers political science professor David Redlawsk said in a statement.
Attributing the words to “a statement” implies some sort of written source. Therefore, it’s easy to check the accuracy. Unfortunately, the quote ran out of gas and stopped at 14 words, five words short of the full sentence.
This is, essentially, what happened to the statement:
“Those working toward the merger have apparently not made their case to New Jerseyans
over the past six weeks.”
The amputation removed what Mr. Redlawsk (right) surely thought was a key qualifier. The time-frame, given the ongoing nature of the merger discussion, would seem to be important. Dropping the last five words makes the statement much more far-reaching, and turns it into a sweeping criticism with no beginning or ending.
I call this a STEROID QUOTE, one that is strengthened by the removal of a qualifying phrase.