Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Cleaning Up Athletes' Quotes: An Obligation or Disservice?

Black Sportswriters Split on How to Handle Grammatical Trainwrecks

I only recently stumbled upon a March 20 column by the Maynard Institute's Richard Prince a fascinating discussion on whether sportswriters should quote verbatim athletes who mangle the English language, or fix their quotes without changing their intent so the players sound coherent.
Prince digests an extensive email dialogue by members of the sports task force of the National Association of Black Journalists.
Mike Freeman of started the discussion when citing a transcript of a quote from a player from Tennessee-Chattanooga at the start of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, who said: "When we seen that we got UConn, I mean, we was happy to be up there on the board."
Freeman asked whether the transcription service should've cleaned up the quote (no, the service replied) and what can sportswriters do about the profusion of black college athletes who speak like this.
Some posters said quotes should be fixed because black players are subject to a double standard. Said one: "How many times have you seen a White person quoted as saying 'gonna,' but everyone says that. When the guy's Black, you usually see 'gonna.'"
But J.A. Adande of says he sticks to verbatim, because the actual quotes are easily accessible. "If readers can see the discrepancy it's fair of them to ask what other words we've changed in quote."
There are some who not only favor changing quotes but taking it a
step further. Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel said he actually
counsels athletes on the importance of speaking properly.

"Just so you know," Kelly wrote, "I just helped out an agent friend of mine by instructing three draft prospects on what to say during their team and media interviews. Part of it was encouraging them to use the Kings English. We joked about it a lot, but they got the point."

Just so you know, Omar, however well-intentioned you might be, that's not your job. Nor should you make it yours. At least not while you're writing for the Sun-Sentinel. That's what teams have media-relations staffs for.

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