PR Week: Should PRs ever ask journalists for copy approval?

Editorial control should (almost always) reside with the journalist - that's the consensus of PR pros contacted by PRWeek, after the issue of copy approval came to the fore following a spat involving TV presenter Clare Balding.

Journalist Ginny Dougary claimed Balding had been given editorial control over an article she wrote for Saga Magazine and had been allowed to remove and rewrite sections of the interview.

Writing in The Guardian, Dougary said: "I experienced two firsts last week. One was that I asked for my byline to be removed from an interview I had written, which was a direct consequence of the other first: the subject of my interview being given, without my prior knowledge, copy control and – in a breathtaking liberty – removing sections of my interview and replacing them with her own, self-promoting, words."

Balding responded in a series of Tweets (below), saying: "Re the Saga saga, today has been an exercise in self-restraint. The editor has issued a statement clarifying that she asked for the changes and I did not have copy approval."

David Alexander, MD at Calacus PR and former sports journalist, said that early in his PR career he was once reprimanded for not demanding copy approval.

Alexander said: "I thought it strange that my boss would expect any journalist worth their salt to be open to copy approval or review and it’s never something I’ve demanded of a journalist, especially having worked on that side of the fence myself."

Alexander said the only time when copy approval was "a reasonable request" is if the article is in the first person.

He said: "Sometimes an over-zealous sub editor can edit what a client has written (or more likely we have written on their behalf) and changed the sense of something important. Or they have written it in the first person after interviewing a client, which provides even more opportunity for misinterpretation or a lack of understanding."

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