The other day I read a newspaper article that quoted a friend of mine. The quote made it sound as though he didn't know where he lived. I couldn't believe my friend could have said something so stupid, so I asked him about it. No, he hadn't said anything even remotely like that. But there it was, between a pair of solid, reassuring quotation marks.
I used to see this all the time when I covered meetings alongside a reporter who was making a lot more money than I. She would sit there, playing solitaire on her laptop, and the next day file a story with quotes that bore no relationship to reality. As a reporter, it pissed me off. As a reader (and occasional reporter), it still does.
Back in the 1970s my husband's chemical company had an explosion. The press descended upon us. One article had me pointing to some white stuff on the ground and announcing it was hydrogen. Huh? Never happened. Never came close to happening.
Can we assume that the Big Guns of journalism don't do this? Can we trust the major newspapers (and, of course, the gazillion websites that are hustling to get the news to us instantly) to print accurate quotes and accurate everything else? Or should we question everything we read . . . even this?