Saturday, June 27, 2009

Alert: quote abuse

Quotes in stories are good, right? Sure, but we all know it can get out of hand. Here's an example.

Part of sports writing culture places high value on quoting the athletes and coaches so fans can "hear" them in stories.* But read the following quote (Red Sox manager Terry Francona talking about his hitting coach, Dave Magadan, getting ejected the other night and then suspended) and tell me how many times you get the information that when a coach leaves the dugout, it's an automatic suspension:

“You can’t leave the dugout,’’ Francona said. “That’s like an automatic. I knew it was going to happen. I was surprised he got thrown out. As soon as you leave the dugout it’s an automatic suspension. If you’re a coach and you leave the dugout, you get an automatic one-game suspension. It doesn’t matter what you say. I thought [umpire] Bob [Davidson] put Mags in a horrible position. Screaming over there, cursing at him on a pitch that he admittedly [screwed] up.’’

Did you count three times? This quote would have been much better had the writer paraphrased the fact that if a coach leaves the dugout, it's an automatic suspension, and quote Francona saying he thought the umpire put the coach in a horrible position, etc. That's clearly the strongest part of the quote, and the only part that should have been used.

*Full disclosure: When I was a sports writer, I was guilty of what I'm speaking against here.

**Photo courtesy of Sons of Sam Horn web site.