Public relations experts and their clients will frame this as an attempt to honor data quality by keeping the message tight and on point. But those who see this as a threat to data quality are correct.
Rick Santorum was talking — but not quite without interruption. In a 2005 interview with Mark Leibovich, then of the Washington Post and now of the New York Times, the Republican senator from Pennsylvania was describing how he felt at the funeral of Pope John Paul II.
As Mr. Leibovich wrote it, part of the Santorum interview went like this:
“It’s part of the awe of this job that I do,” he says. “Every day. You’re making these decisions and … ” He fights for the right words. “It’s a great — —”
“Is it humbling, senator?” Robert Traynham, his communications aide, interjects.
“Yes, it’s very humbling!”
“And it’s uniquely American, isn’t it, Senator?” prompts Traynham.
That telling snippet — superbly handled by Mr. Leibovich — was pointed out recently by Ron Fournier, the National Journal columnist and former Associated Press Washington bureau chief, who is one of many journalists pushing back against a pervasive practice: Interviews with government officials that include public relations “minders.”