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Thursday, September 02, 2004

Does the New York Times take quotation marks seriously ?

David Sanger wrote a "news analysis" which is a whithering critique of Richard Cheney's RNC address. Not surprisingly I agree with almost everything he says. Also he writes well. However, he seems to feel the need for balance by seconding one of Cheney's distortions.

"That kind of talk is intended to contrast sharply with Mr. Kerry's line about waging a "more sensitive war on terror," and that is exactly where Mr. Cheney was attacking Mr. Kerry last night. Mr. Kerry, he said, talked "as though Al Qaeda will be impressed with our softer side.""

Now as a matter of substance, I think Cheney should not have been quoted without pointing out that the context -- preceding 4 words in the sentence "more strategic, more proactive,"and the next 12 words in the sentence "that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side." made it clear that Kerry was talking about being sensitive to our ex and potential allies and not to al Qaeda. I think Kerry is clearly right and so does Sanger who wrote "Mr. Cheney's speech last night may remind the rest of the world of the "with us or against us'' language that Mr. Bush used in the wake of Sept. 11, language that the president had begun to modulate earlier this year." (see that's a full sentence).

I thought the New York Times had a policy against distorting the meaning of quotes by removing context, at least if the context is in the same sentence as the quote. By quoting Kerry removing the words "strategic" "proactive" and "nations", Sanger abused quotation marks in a way which I thought was strictly forbidden at the New York Times.

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