Friday, September 29, 2006

And she thinks he's an attack dog?

In today's column, Polly Toynbee quotes extensively from:

Deborah Mattinson, the chief executive of Opinion Leader Research

A shame she doesn't bother to get the job title right.


She writes about Frank Luntz's polling exercise for Newsnight thus:

He must have been excited by a spectacular item on Newsnight. The US pollster Frank Luntz explored the popularity of Labour's possible leadership contenders. He showed brief video clips of each to 30 Labour-minded voters, who turned dials up and down as they watched each contender speak. Most of the candidates' clips seemed chosen for pallid dullness - except for the crucial two: one showed Brown a bit hesitant when interviewed under pressure after the coup attempt. The other showed Reid in full-on harangue: "Any court judgment that puts the human rights of foreign prisoners ahead of the safety and security of millions of British citizens is wrong! Full stop. No qualification!" Of course Reid beat Brown by miles. (Watch it yourself on the Newsnight website).

It certainly is worth watching. At the time of writing, you could watch it here. I would thoroughly recommend it; Polly is distorting it quite badly. The session lasted three hours, and even before the video clips -- long before the video clips -- initial reactions were gathered, just using photographs of the candidates. At this stage, only one out of the panel of thirty thought that Gordon Brown could lead the Labour party to victory in the next general election (about 2m05s), and someone who knows their Shakespeare better than Polly describes Brown as "Brutus", again long before the videos are shown (about 5m20s). Polly also neglects to mention the strong, positive response to Brown giving a speech (at about 8m30s).

And, of course, the quote she attributes to Reid is not what he actually said (at about 12m05s in the video clip), which was:

Any court judgment that puts human rights of foreign prisoners ahead of the human right to safety and security of the millions of the UK citizens is a wrong decision. Full stop. No qualification.

After Wednesday's inaccurate quote, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. But I confess to still being shocked when I see a quality newspaper print something in quote marks which was not said.


Anonymous said...

This is excellent. Poison Polly herself is no doubt too busy living the high life in her gated community in Clapham to read it, perhaps agonising with 'New' Labour cognoscenti about the agonies suffered by "the little people" - I'm gambling with the speech marks here - but no matter. Peerage for thee.

GeoffHar said...

On Reid's quote and others you've disputed in La Toynbee's writings; there is really no need for "still being shocked when I see a quality newspaper print something in quote marks which was not said".

The difference(s) you cite are all about splitting hairs. News reporters do it all the time; it's necessary to make most people's quotes readable.

There's no need for all the 'ums' 'ers' and other diversions from a properly constructed sentence. The important point is to be true to the sense of the original. In this particular instance I see no need to get uppity with La Toynbee though, I admit, she does need a regular dose of Factchecking.

John Miller said...

geoffhar said "News reporters do distort what people say to make them more acceptable to the newspaper's readers"

That's what happens when you don't care about the veracity that quotation marks used to give to what people actually said.

Either a quote is a quote or it's a paraphrase and there's nothing in between.

FactcheckingPollyanna said...

GeoffHar --

I do not think that a phrase like "human right" counts as an 'um' or as an 'er', I'm afraid. Though, ironically, John Reid might agree with you.

As I say, maybe I am be an old-fashioned pedant on this one, but I'm with John Miller on this one. To my mind paraphrases are not quotes and do not get quote marks.