September 18, 2003

Whose Interview is It?

J.D. Lasica raises the above question around the issue of bloggers posting transcripts of their email interview with a journalist before the writer's story is published.

The contretemps arose when Jeff Jarvis did just that to Marc Glaser of the Online Journalism Review.

J.D. runs a labyrinth of arguments on both sides of the issue - implied agreement between journalist and subject, ownership of intellectual capital, and common courtesy, among them - and links to others who have weighed in, among them Sheila Lennon of the Providence Journal and Jonathan Dube of Go read it.

I expressed my take in this comment to J.D.'s post:

"I'm going to shed whatever new media aspersions I have and answer with my old media, grumpy newspaper self: Use the phone. You hear tone, inflection, doubt, arrogance, humor -- in short, you get more than information and response, you get a portrait of the person talking that adds context to his or her words.

"If that's what you want, of course."

Email interviews are handy for survey questions. I used them when I sought responses to the New York Times decision to hire an ombudsman [ Read: How N.Y. Times' New Ombudsman Can Succeed ], but they are no substitute for conversation, either on the phone or in person.

Posted by Tim Porter at September 18, 2003 09:51 AM

Excellent point. As a journalist, when you agree to let your subject be interviewed by email, you are ceding a significant amount of control to them. They get to study and revise their responses, and you cannot readily ask follow-up questions. What student, for example, wouldn't prefer a take-home test to an oral examination?

Posted by: Jonathan Potts on September 19, 2003 08:53 AM
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