When a reporter or blogger is looking for a source, its important to recognize there are significant disadvantages to participating in an email interview and not a typical phone interview.
Are e-mail interviews the lazy persons way to get information? Many media requests listed on HARO (Help a Reporter Out) stipulate interviews will be conducted via e-mail.
It seems a growing number of people skip the human element of exchanging pleasantries and instead hide behind their keyboards. For me, its simple. I prefer to talk rather than type. You?
Sure, in our busy worlds, theres a certain convenience to receiving information electronically. But e-mail interviews lack a critical communication dynamic thats present when a reporter takes the time to speak with a source.
Without dialogue, the art of give-and-take doesnt exist at a deep level.
Nudging our curiosity
We must also recognize the role that our natural curiosity plays in the interview process. Even if 10 rounds of e-mails are traded, the content will never match that of a human conversation.
The reason? E-mail deprives a reporter or blogger the opportunity to spark their own curiosity and possibly uncover new insights and content. Nudging our curiosity is essential in developing content and learning new things. Curiosity and education go hand-in-hand.
E-mail interviews detract from the fundamental news-gathering process because they:
Lack the human exchange and conversation that gives life to interviews. I have interviewed thousands of people, from homeless individuals to presidents. Each was conducted in-person or on the telephone. And each response within a conversation typically sparked a follow-up question or slight tangent that I, as a trained journalist and news reporter, could never have anticipated. This is why scripted Q&A doesnt compare with live interviews. E-mail misses our communication nuances, speech patterns, and vocal vitality. These live exchangesfueled by a natural curiosityimproved the quality of information I had been gathering that simply cannot exist in an e-mail interview.
Fail to capture the essence of the source thats being interviewed. Based on the perspectives I have shared above, we now turn to the actual writing of the story. When a reporter or blogger is finished gathering material and is ready to sit down and write, I wonder if they can truly capture the essence of a story in the same way a counterpart could who spoke with a source. Yes, any reporter can miss the mark and fail to truly get the story. But why increase the odds?
Keep people from using their communication skills. Typing responses to a series of questions limits our verbal communication and rapport building skills. We have all sent and received electronic messages that were misconstrued in some way. In phone interviews, tone of voice, rhythm, pacing, pauses, and enthusiasm help reporters grasp a story and the person behind it. Human to human. Some reporters even prefer to Skype with sources, as the visual adds an additional layer of valuable communication. Skype and in-person interviews allow the reporter or blogger to observe a sources body language, which is a significant factor in our verbal and nonverbal communication.
Do you agree or have an experience to share? Your comments are welcome.
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