So why won't journalists allow people to see their copy before publication? Here, once and for all, are the reasons. And it's a long list.
Let's start with the obvious. Journalistic independence might sound like an abstract concept to some, but it is firmly rooted in commercial reality.
If you know that every company mentioned in a publication has altered the story to suit its own purposes, why bother reading the paper at all? All you're getting is advertorial. No different from advertising.
At this point any rational business will decline to advertise in said title because no-one in their right mind is going to bother reading it. No readers equals no one to look at the adverts. There goes the title's main revenue stream. So allowing copy-vetting is commercial suicide. Simple eh?
Chain of command
Then there's the technical aspect. Think about how publications are actually produced. My stories do not appear just as I write them. They have to pass through editors whose job is to fit my words into a space in the paper that may have shrunk since they asked me to submit a certain amount of copy.
These editors don't have the time or inclination to consult me before cutting my copy to fit that space. This is an industrial process intended to get a lot of words into print in order to meet a fixed publication deadline. Nobody checks back with the writer about this. That simply wouldn't work within the tight deadlines required by mass media.
So what appears under a journalist's byline may well have been chopped and changed by others working on editing and page lay-out. Journalists expect a fresh set of eyes to spot paragraphs that need trimming or amending. The first the writer knows about these changes is when the publication appears.
Journalists are used to seeing chunks of their copy cut away in the editing process. I have no say over this, nor would I want to be involved in it. Once I hit send I'm onto my next piece of work.
What all of this means is that I cannot guarantee that any given quote or mention of a company or individual will ever appear in the final story. So there really is no point in letting you see these words in the first place.
If I do tell you that you're in the story only for this reference to be chopped by a hard-pressed editor the odds are that you will feel misled by me. Worst case, you might decide that you have grounds for complaint to the title I write for. That's a hostage to fortune I'm not willing to give. And any serious publication expects journalists to hold fast to this principle.
So no matter how many times people declare they only want to "check their quotes" I won't be sending them through. Not only am I in no position to confirm what will eventually appear in print, but I honestly believe that if I share copy with one party I'm morally obliged to share it with everyone mentioned in the piece. I'm that kind of person.
With several sources quoted in each article bouncing sentences back and forth between multiple interviewees would see the time taken balloon. Freelance journalists are paid a fixed sum for an article, so time is money. Anything that stretches out the production of a piece means they work for less. Not an attractive proposition.
This still leaves the question of what we call house style. Every national newspaper, each website, all of the vertical sector press, they all have a house style that dictates how every contributor phrases certain terms and picks a specific vocabulary.
One of the many skills of a journalist is getting up to speed on house style in no time at all and then switching to an entirely different style for another publication. Freelance journalists pride themselves on their ability to write for many publications simultaneously, slipping in and out of tabloid and broadsheet idioms without missing a beat.
House style is there to make it easy for readers to consume stories. It isn't intended to reflect the internal jargon beloved of people the title interviews. We retain the right to translate whatever verbal garbage you've created into something the wider world will understand. So absurd job descriptions and impenetrable mission statements are transformed into lucid and logical language by the magic touch of house style.
These house styles are the domain of journalists. It isn't remotely likely that a third party will get to grips with them all. How on earth could everyone I write about be qualified to re-work sentences in the correct style? It's a complete non-starter.
A very bad idea
All of the above spells out the practical reasons why I am never going to agree to allow interview subjects to review my work before it's published. But there's something else you really do need to consider. Asking a journalist to show you the copy in advance is downright insulting.
Yes, the moment someone blunders into the final seconds of a conference call with "Michael, can I ask a favour..." I know exactly what is coming and stop it dead with a sharp "No!".
If you want to see my words in advance it's clear that you don't trust me to get the story straight. After a career working in heavyweight newsrooms and contributing to highly-respected titles I think I've earned the right to say that I'm good at what I do. Very good in fact.
If you think otherwise, and let me know you reckon I might screw the story up by asking for copy approval, can I make a suggestion? Don't bother doing the interview in the first place. That way neither of us will get annoyed.
As a general rule, I cut right back on mentions of any business in my copy if they've irritated me by closing the interview with a request to check my work. I may even drop all reference to the offending body. There are always plenty of alternative interview subjects who wouldn't dream of making this fundamental error.
Remember, you're talking to a journalist because you want to win the huge commercial benefit of editorial coverage. Once you've secured the interview you need to get your messages right with proper training and practice. Do that and the end result should be nothing to worry about.