Cap J: E-mail interviews fine |

Cap J: E-mail interviews fine

Newsweek’s June 11 issue has this fascinating technology column about bloggers refusing to do old-fashioned face-to-face or phone interviews with a writer for Wired Magazine.

The Wired guy, and the Newsweek writer, understand in-person and phone interviews. But by e-mail? Oh God, it’s the end as we know it.

My, the big leaguers can be dim. The resulting controversy, at least in their heads, is akin to moving from typewriter to computer to write. I’m sure there’s a geezer or two still left who cannot possibly “think” on a computer and therefore must stick with an older, crappier machine just because.

The focus of the column seems to be on why bloggers can’t just talk in person or on the phone. The argument is that a “live” interview is more interactive and the reporter gets more information that way.

Not necessarily. I agree that in-person is best, especially in-person on the source’s turf. Time is factor, as is the nature of what you are after. Some stories lend themselves to in-person, and for others several quick calls work better.

And better yet for plenty of stories, is a conversation carried out entirely by e-mail. This is even better than recording an interview for accuracy of quotes, for instance.

The interviewer can ask followup questions by e-mail just as much as face to face or over the phone. Maybe better, actually.

Saying the phone is OK and e-mail is not, well, that’s silly on its face.

I’m still going to use only the key points in an e-mail interview for a story I write, just as I do with in-person and phone interviews. But I have that much more confidence in the quotes and points I use, since they came unambiguously from the source.

If they should scream “misquote,” well, I can simply shoot their own e-mail back to them. Case closed. Cry all you want.

What I really like, though, is the ease of posting our full interview with my story or commentary. Not that I’ve done that yet, but I can see how that would be great with certain stories.

So I found myself taking the side of the bloggers who would only do interviews by e-mail with the Wired writer.

Stephen Levy, the Newsweek columnist, ended his piece with this: “But every time we lose the priceless knowledge from those essential, real-time interviews, our stories are impoverished, to the detriment of our readers: you.”

Oh, baloney. This guy sounds like the Stone Ager who won’t let you take his picture because he’s convinced the camera will steal his soul.

Get over it. E-mail is simply one more tool in the journalist’s toolbox. And a valuable one at that.

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