The issue of whether or not sources should be allowed to approve quotes before publication has arisen once again, this time in the White House.
Michael Lewis, the respected author of the best-selling "Moneyball" and other books, wrote a story on President Obama for Vanity Fair, and he conceded this week that he had agreed to allow the White House to review and approve or nix quotes before they went into the story.
In a story by Jeremy W. Peters in The New York Times, Lewis, who wasn't quoted directly, seemed to justify the practice by saying that the White House objected to very little of what he wrote. That's nice to know, I suppose, but it sidesteps the issue of whether Lewis should have agreed to the review or not. Peters seems to suggest--again, without saying so clearly--that Lewis was better off revealing his quotes, because he got a better story that way.
Peters wrote a widely circulated and discussed story about this in mid-July, in which he raised questions about the practice of quote approval. At the time, Steve Myers of Poynter asked news organizations whether they agree to such terms before interviewing sources. The AP said it did not, and that it would decline to do a story if that condition were imposed. Bloomberg, The Washington Post, Vanity Fair, Reuters, The Huffington Post, and The New York Times "have all consented to interviews under such terms," Peters reported in his July story.
Science and medical reporters differ on this question; you can see some opinions in this comment thread at the website of the National Association of Science Writers. On the upside, asking sources to review quotes--or allowing them to review stories or portions of stories, as some writers do--can improve accuracy and might make for better stories. On the downside, the practice can give sources undue influence over what is written and ultimately published.
I welcome comments from reporters and editors who are struggling with this question or have devised a policy to deal with it.