The Art of "Quotemanship" and "Misquotemanship"

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


by Frank Herron
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Sacking of Soccer Coach in South Africa Dredges Up an Embarrassing “Misquote” Claim

A column by soccer-writer Mninawa Ntloko of South Africa’s Business Day deals with the recent firing of Vladimir Vermezovic (right), coach of the South African Premier Soccer League’s Kaizer Chiefs. The article, published on 18 April, chronicles a stormy relationship the coach had with the media and others. Ntloko recalled the time when the coach stormed out of a press conference in Johannesburg in October of 2010. The volatile Vlad appeared to be on the verge of impaling the journalists because he was upset that he had been “misquoted” by the Daily Sun. The paper had printed an article in which the coach criticized the play of one of his star players–Kaizer Motaung Jr., whose father is executive chairman of the team.
It turns out that the reporter from the paper had a tape recording of the interview, which exonerated the reporter and the Daily Sun. Later, the coach acknowledged that he had not read the article properly and was misinformed. He apologized to the Daily Sun–“and only the Daily Sun“–two days after his outburst. The apology ruffled the feathers of the soccer scribes. They were miffed that he did not apologize to the entire group. The reporters then tried to give him the silent treatment.
A few days later, he apologized more generally. Here’s what he said during that apology/explanation, as presented as, I guess, only a Serbian can–according to a 21 October 2010 posting by www.kickoff.com:

“I said what I said [at the village in Naturena]. I was emotional and coming from Serbia, sometimes from that we think with the balls not the brain. My English is not so perfect and I was in trouble.
“I would like this opportunity to apologise to everybody. During my time here I have had a good relationship with the media and we can continue in that way.”

The balls/brain distinction is classic. But now the relationship is over.


by Frank Herron
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Ask the Actress: Was It Blasphemy or a Misquote or a Purely Honest Spur-of-the-Moment Statement from the Heart??

Actress Kamna Jethmalani might have used an inappropriate term of endearment for Lord Venkateswara (a form of the Hindu god Vishnu).
Now she is playing both the “misquote” and “out of context” card in her attempts to distance herself from her statement, according to an article in the Deccan Chronicle of 13 April.
She was widely quoted as calling Venkateswara her “boyfriend” after she attended a darshan at Tirumala Hills. Her explanation:

“I was misquoted and my off-the-cuff remark was presented out of contxt. I said that God was like a friend, father and brother to me, but the media blew the friend quote out of proportion.”

The online version of
the article in the Deccan Chronicle of 13 April includes a comment from a fellow actress, Shraddha Das. She was there, evidently. She says, ‘lighten up’, or, more precisely:

“I was with Kamna during the darshan in Tirupati. She becomes a completely different person whenever she visits the temple. She was very elated there. The word ‘boyfriend’ was a slip of the tongue. She meant it as a friendly gesture.”


by Frank Herron
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A Steroid Quote: Don’t give away the ending

There’s a correction in the Philadelphia Inquirer of 4 April 2012:

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.

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