Why email might make news media interviews obsolete

Steven Silvers thinks that email might make news media interviews obsolete, but he dislikes the practice of conducting interviews via email. Personally I don’t mind, but Steven has a point.

The main criticisms are twofold. First, you don’t know if you’re getting the words of the interviewee or of their legal team and various advisers. I think to counter this, a simple disclaimer can be made, and let the reader judge for themselves or temper their view of the interview (or article) accordingly. There are a number of times when a slower more thoughtful answer (even if it comes with third party input) is preferable to the extemporaneous one.

Second, the interview itself is too rigid, not allowing for the midstream changes that a conversation will take to find the story and follow up different questions. I think this is partially true, but can also be countered to some extent by the format of the interview. Instead of sending all 15 questions to elicit a single response, the interview can still be conducted as a conversation, sending a few questions to start off, and then pick something up from the responses to those for the next small set, or if there isn’t any, forward a small set of new questions. Email can work just like any conversation even though it isn’t being conducted in real time. This will obviously draw out the process, and many interviewees may therefore consent to a telephone interview or email one, but not to this style.

The bottom line for me is that the Internet is changing the way people communicate, and it’s changing journalism. This is but one example — there are of course many others. The medium is effectively pushing the evolution of the message. Like it or not, we have to deal… even if we view it with suspicion for a while.