Monday, June 20, 2005

Messing with the quotes

Al Qaeda or al-Qaida? It's a question addressed in this space before as AP sticks with the latter form while many outlets go with the former.

But there's a case where it should not be a question -- when you are quoting from a document.


So why do we have this in the AP story relayed by Editor and Publisher:

"U.S. scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and al-Qaida is so far frankly unconvincing," Ricketts says in the memo. "For Iraq, `regime change' does not stack up. It sounds like a grudge between Bush and Saddam."


And this in the story as printed by The State newspaper:

“U.S. scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and al Qaeda is so far frankly unconvincing,” Ricketts says in the memo. “For Iraq, ‘regime change’ does not stack up. It sounds like a grudge between Bush and Saddam.”

So what did Ricketts write?

The Duluth News Tribune used a Knight Ridder wire story that did this:

"US scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and al (Qaeda) is so far frankly unconvincing," Ricketts reported earlier in his March 2002 letter to Straw.
It's ungainly, but tends to support that maybe Ricketts wrote Qaida? (And about U.S. vs. US ...)

Then there is the other question of whether he wrote Al Qaida or al-Qaida -- or yet another version, al-Qaeda, all of which show up in Google News, which favors Qaida to Qaeda 421 to 19. (Among the 19: The Boston Globe, the Orlando Sentinel, the San Diego Union Tribune and USAToday.)

You can change style all you want in the body of the story, even in the spoken quotes. But you must leave the written quotes the way they were written.

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