Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Print Interview 

This is an interesting discussion of a growing trend -- interviews done by e-mail. I have to agree with the columnist who wrote this piece, Howard Kurtz, that such interviews sacrifice personality for accuracy. However, they do something else as well. They sacrifice serendipity, the chance for a journalist to spot and explore an idea that had not arisen before the interview.

There is no easy answer for the trade-off. We use e-mail interviews if there are specific questions from a reporter, and it is easier for a client to write answers to them. On the other hand, with complex topics that require explanation, we tend to avoid e-mail. Reporters need time to grasp a topic, to ask questions in different ways until an idea becomes clear and to push for examples that illustrate what a client is talking about. This can be done by e-mail but it takes longer, and there is a frequent disconnection between what a reporter is asking and what a client understands a question to be. Use e-mail interviews judiciously. If there is a chance of being misquoted, e-mail is the way to go. If there is a need to explain, conduct interviews by phone or face to face.


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