Benny Jay: Not To Be Quoted

October 30th, 2019

I’m talking to a friend of a friend, who works for the state, about public education, when she says….

“Don’t quote me.”

I’m like — are you for real?

I point out to her that we’re in a noisy bar and it’s after midnight. We’re drinking a beer. I have no pencil, pen or paper anywhere near me. I’m not secretly taping our conversation. I can barely remember her name, much less what she’s saying.

“I couldn’t quote you, even if I wanted to — and I don’t want to!”

Then she says something like — well, you are a reporter.

You know, like reporters feel an irresistible urge to quote every Tom, Dick or Harry they meet.

Like if you’re having a beer with a surgeon. At some point he or she’ll just have an irresistible urge to take out your appendix.

She explains that years ago she had a bad experience when some reporter misquoted her.

Now it’s getting worse. Not only does she suspect I’ll quote her without her permission. But I’ll misquote her in the process.

Actually, in my dozens of years of quoting people, I’ve discovered that the biggest problem is not when you misquote them as when you accurately quote them. In short, when they say something incredibly stupid or powerfully truthful that it comes back to bite them in the ass.

Then they claim — “You misquoted me!”

Or, like Mayor Richard J. Daley’s press secretary once said: “Write what the mayor means, not what he says.”

Or something like that. I’m probably misquoting him.

Some people are so worried about being quoted that they refuse to say anything unless it’s off the record. My dear friend, Thor, even has off-the-record conversations with his wife.

Sample exchange….

Mrs. Thor: How was your day, dear?

Thor: Ah, it was okay. But that’s on background only.

In some cases, I can understand why people don’t want to be quoted. Especially teachers in Chicago, who are afraid that they’ll get summarily fired if they say something that offends the boss.

Not only that, but they worry that in the age of the cyberspace, their quotes will live forever. Thus hampering their chances to get future jobs.

In which case, I’m totally screwed just from all the stupid shit I’ve written on this blog.

It’s even worse for Milo, who will forever have the title “pussy magnet” linked to his name thanks to a post he wrote on that topic. Though it might come in handy, if he wants a second career as a gigolo.

But don’t tell Milo I said that. It’s strictly off the record.

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