I’m reluctant to even address the meme for fear it might spread, but to any sort of reporter, the e-mail interview, or worse, sending questions in advance and quoting from a blogged response, is a horrible, horrible thing.
They teach us in j-school to get people on the phone whenever possible, and frankly, they’re right. It’s not about some fear-of-new-media thing, it’s about spontaneity and improvisation.
When I talk to you, as a reporter, maybe I know what sort of quote I’m looking for, and maybe I don’t. Either way, I don’t always know what you’re going to say next. When we’re talking on the phone, or Skype, or even in an IM client, I can improvise, change my line of questioning, and respond to something you might find to be more interesting.
If I try this in e-mail, who knows when I’ll hear back, or if you’ll get busy, or if you’ll decide to change the subject, or if you’ll respond to my last question at all.
It’s not a conversation in e-mail, it’s a very slow tennis match where the participants send the ball across a huge court by way of pony express. Nothing against ponies, but I want you to be honest and clear in what you say, not calculated and organized.
Calculated and organized I can get from a press release.
So Dave, Steve — please don’t push this idea any further. I don’t care if you blog about our conversation, or paste an IM chat straight to a blog post, but at least give me, the reporter, a chance to have a real human conversation with you.
As a parting thought, think about how you would feel if it was your job to interview President Bush, but his handlers insisted that you e-mail questions in advance so they could decide what to answer and how to answer it. Would you do it? In jobs as a student reporter, a B2B reporter, and a traditional newspaper reporter, I’ve had folks ask me to do this, and I turn them down every time.
If we’re not talking, there’s no conversation.