The Art of "Quotemanship" and "Misquotemanship"

Quoting people accurately is really hard — and you can quote me on that.

Be Careful When Comparing Quotations. Context Matters. And Video Helps.


Today’s inky version of the Boston Globe devoted plenty of space to the debate between the two major candidates for governor of Massachusetts that took place in Worcester last night (Oct. 27). The coverage of the Charlie Baker/Martha Coakley tussle looked thorough and robust. And the Globe obviously deemed the debate important. The news article began on the front page.

From the news report

From the news report

[In contrast, I looked for anything about the debate in today’s print version of the Boston Herald and came up with nothing. The Herald does have an Associated Press version on its web page.]
One itsy, bitsy portion of the coverage puzzled me at first, however. The way it appears in print, a comment by Charlie Baker differs in the straight-news report of the debate and an analysis of the debate (both of which appear on Page A8).
The sections in question are at right. For context, at one point moderator Latoyia Edwards of NECN asked Baker if there would be a place for Martha Coakley in his administration should he win next Tuesday’s election.
From the news analysis

From the news analysis

Evidently the notion alarmed Coakley so much that she did not give Baker a chance to respond. She said, “No.” Baker’s comment in the wake of her interjection appears in two different ways in the two articles:

News Report: “Oh, that was great.”
Analysis: “That was really good, by the way.”

I’m left wondering: What did he really say? There’s a possibility he said both. And that, in fact, is what happened.

The exchange is in the , between the 51:48 and 52:10 minute marks of the debate as presented on NECN’s web site. When Coakley said “No,” Baker said nothing at first. Instead, he leaned over the lectern and laughed. Then he said “Oh, that was great” as the news report had it. Then Edwards asked Coakley the same question. As she was answering, Baker turned to his opponent and said directly to her, “That was really good, by the way.”
So, the quotations are BOTH correct. One can only see that from the video. The limitations of the ink coverage doesn’t really come into play in that one. In another item that came up, however, the limitations are clear. As part of a sequence of questions requiring only a “yes” or “no” answer, Edwards asked the candidates whether or not illegal immigrants should get drivers licenses. Coakley demurred and said, “I don’t know yet” and said she didn’t want to answer a question that “can’t be answered yes or no.” She elicited groans from the audience. Baker quickly said, “No.” He got five seconds of pretty loud cheering from the audience, which was in the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts.

NOTE 1: I’m still a little puzzled that the Herald included nothing at all in the printed version I bought in Winchester. Time couldn’t have been the main reason. After all, the Herald included an article about the Monday Night Football game between the Cowboys and Redskins, er, team from Washington.
NOTE 2: Neither Globe story had a Worcester dateline, which tells me the paper did not send anybody to the debate. They watched it on television. Interestingly, the news analysis pointed out that Worcester is “an area of the state whose voters often feel neglected by the Boston-centric political establishment.” Right. And it looks like you can add the Globe to that group that conveys a feeling of neglect!

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