AP reporter takes a beatin’

AP reporter Mark Smith has been called a racist for quoting President Obama exactly as he spoke (dropping his g’s) in a recent speech before the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.

In light of our conversation in class this morning, I think you will find it interesting that Karen Hunter says she tells her journalism students to “clean up” people’s speech so they won’t sound ignorant.

This discussion won’t go away soon.

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11 Responses to AP reporter takes a beatin’

  1. I had read the original article that left Obama’s speech as is and I thought it was great that Smith left it untouched. If Obama wanted to sound grammatically perfect, he would. The man is a very eloquent speaker. He’s also a charismatic one and he spoke that way for a reason. He’s talented at switching between mannerisms and dialect. I think Smith did the right thing in leaving the quotes as is because he accurately captured the message Obama had tailored for a specific audience.

  2. Crystal Herber says:

    After reading this and today’s class discussion, I realized the impact it can have to fix a person’s grammar. Making corrections to people’s grammar is something I am used to doing because I was the editor of my university’s newspaper, so you could say it’s a habit of mine. I never thought it would label me as racist. I have in fact fixed some grammar mistakes and taken out some verbal pauses because I feel they are unnecessary to the story. It is not necessary to take up valuable space in the story. I also fix it, because I don’t want a potential future source to look at my story and say “you made me look like a bumbling idiot.” Also, if I were to include the verbal pauses, I’m sure that when I AC-ed the story the source would ask me to take them out. As a reaction to the article, I think removin’ the Gs from a transcribed speech does not a racist make.

  3. keliza13 says:

    If anyone noticed, the “g” in “marching” was still there; it wasn’t like Obama speaks like this all the time–he just did in this sense. The fact that Smith decided to leave that in shows how he wanted to show the speech pattern used in that case. Whether there was racist motivation or not shouldn’t be decided just based on how this particular article is read; in other articles, does Smith leave “g”s out, regardless of race? It’s also important to take a look at the context; Obama is speaking to African-Americans. Is there a reason he may have been dropping his “g”s for that reason?
    May I add, however, that when George W. Bush was president, he used “ta” instead of “to” (“ta fix the debt,” “ta go to war”). Did Smith leave those in when reporting (if he did indeed report on them)?
    I think cleaning up speech is a good idea in some circumstances and a bad one in others. I think that editors have discretion when it comes to that, and it’s important to keep that area of journalism from being too black-and-white because of the limitations it would cause.

  4. Julia Boudreau says:

    From the beginning of our journalism studies we have been told to ensure accuracy. To me the AP reporter followed this rule by writing exactly what the president said. I think that had he done the opposite and changed what the president said he would have been worse off and possibly still called a racist. Obama’s speech seemed to use those specific words for emphasis.

  5. By keeping the Gs clipped from the end of Obama’s words, the writer caught the momentum that Obama had picked up in the course of his speech. When I read the quote, it takes me to that moment and heightens my interest. I agree with AP’s decision.

  6. judyinheart says:

    My confusion may come from my ignorance of American culture, but I don’t quite understand the tension in the racism debate. I think it’s normal for people to speak some dialect and for reporters to use them accurately. It does not necessarily lead to discrimination. Why does several missing “G”s cause so much trouble?

  7. I think it’s silly calling someone a racist simply because they wrote the way he spoke. I think AP made the right call as well, I thought dropping the G’s added a lot of drama and emphasis to the quote that wouldn’t have been there if the G’s hadn’t been dropped. Also, knowing how President Obama speaks, I could hear his voice in my head when I read the quote which, I believe, is exactly what the reporter was going for and for me, it worked.

  8. Su, Haoyun says:

    I stand with AP because it successfully caught President Obama’s intention to speak g-less.

    Also, I wonder if African-Americans will realize his intention when they read the news or they’ll unconsciously give a positive response to it, or, they’ll treat it as racism. Different people may give totally different answers. But what if AP did correct the grammar? Will that be interpreted again as a racism problem or even a political slant? (Oh, politics always make things more sophisticated.)

    Generally I think it’s not a mistake to honestly record Obama’s speech, it might be a bigger problem to fix the grammar. And I don’t really like Karen Hunter’s word “cleaning it up” though sometimes journalists do need to correct interviewee’s grammar.

  9. kaitlinsteinberg says:

    As someone who has practiced theatre for years, I love it when you can actually hear a person speak while reading their words. Yes, in this case we happen to know Obama is an educated fella, who was likely affecting more of an accent (?) for his audience, but even in the debates we’ve had about quoting residents of the trailer park, I stand by any decision to write words and phrases as they are spoken. I want to get an idea of who the speaker is, and patterns of speech are a great way to achieve that.

  10. I agree with Kaitlin. I definitely would say that could hear the way Obama was saying it and that I would definitely agree that this is the way he meant to convey it. I think this story shows how people can be overly sensitive. I’m pretty sure that Bush was quoted directly on numerous occasions and it was probably just attested to him being a Texan (I’m from Texas so I can say this :D). I wonder if anyone has actually talked to Obama and asked him how he feels about being quoted directly. I feel like he gave the speech in the manner he did intentionally and that he wouldn’t take offense.

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