They're two words that every journalist needs to think about. Literally. How often have you read a story where every other quote begins with "I think . . ."? It's often unnecessary. If you can remove it without changing the meaning of the quote, then do it.
Think about what you're quoting. Removing words such as "I think . . ." also helps to condense your writing.
And let's not forget the obvious: We're interviewing people to find out what they think about an issue. In fact, it's possible you've used the word 'think' somewhere in posing your question. So, it any wonder that the person responds with "I think . . ."?
I think we need to start evaluating how we begin quotes.
Here are some examples:
Original: "I think the association should be in an ideal situation when it comes time to hire a new CEO."
Revised: "The association should be in an ideal situation when it comes time to hire a new CEO."
Original: "I think it's a good learning experience for everyone. We're learning not to take chances."
Revised: "It's a good learning experience for everyone. We're learning not to take chances."
Here's an example of a quote where "I think . . ." should remain with the quote:
In this example, if you remove "I think . . ." you turn the quote into a definitive statement that is different from the person's prediction.
"I think Boston will make it to the championship game."