The speaker said "greenery," but the newspaper quoted him as saying "landscaping."
The presidential candidate said, "Isn't the real question, will we be better off?" but he was quoted as saying, "The real question is, will we be better off?"The speaker said "Spanish," the writer wrote "Mexican."
Linguistics professor Adrienne Lehrer of the University of Arizona, who studied whether quotations in newspapers are accurate, found they often aren't.
She found 40 percent of the quotes in national publications' reports of the 1984 presidential campaign debates were something less than verbatim when checked against the speakers' words on tape recordings. Other stories were even more inaccurate.
Lehrer's research - suggesting that getting quotes wrong is a commonplace of journalism - takes on pertinence in light of the Supreme Court's hearing Monday on whether writers can fabricate quotes and legally get away with it.
The case was brought by psychologist Jeffrey Masson, who said New Yorker magazine writer Janet Malcolm manufactured quotes attributed to him and thereby libeled him.
She denied fabricating, but lower courts have ruled the quotes - even if false - are not libelous as long as they are close to what he actually said.
Lehrer said the misquotations encountered in her research weren't deliberate, and most were trivial. They resulted from the tricks of memory, she said.
"People aren't very good at remembering verbatim," Lehrer said, adding:
"A great deal of psychological evidence suggests we can remember verbatim for a clause. Then you somehow recode it (the original clause) in another way so you remember the meaning. You wipe out the words in your short-term memory to make room for the next clause that comes in."
Lehrer examined the work of different groups of journalists. Arizona newspaper reporters and professional writers for University of Arizona publications came up with verbatim accuracy in only 10 percent of their quotations, she said.