Transcripts add to a story if handled fairly

Written by Adrian Holovaty on September 18, 2003

JD Lasica has posted a fine weblog entry whose title asks: Are emails private? And should bloggers scoop their interviewers?

The questions stem from a recent development that I've indirectly been a part of: OJR columnist Mark Glaser has said he's a bit frustrated that bloggers whom he has interviewed have posted interview transcripts to their blogs before Mark's final articles are published. In essence, the bloggers "scoop" the reporter himself -- which might be unethical, or at least in bad faith.

JD's article raises more than a few interesting questions: Is the reporter doing his subjects a favor by quoting them, or vice versa? And is it ever acceptable for an interview subject to post a transcript? On what terms?

This is a fascinating issue. For the record, I was one of the folks Mark interviewed for his latest article, although I didn't post the transcript until yesterday night, after his column was released. (It was another source for the same column who pre-posted.) I did it mostly for the benefit of people who wanted more information about the topic at hand. And since he only ended up using a paragraph of my response, I didn't want my other interview responses to go to waste. Plus, I believed I had the right to post my very own opinions to my Web site.

I probably wouldn't have posted it before the story, out of respect for Mark. And if he'd asked me not to Web-post my comments at all, well, I probably would have obliged, only to kick myself later. (Don't I own my own words?)

But I must say that, as a reader with a strong interest in the topic, I really enjoyed looking through the interview transcripts posted by the other folks. Without question, those transcripts add to the story. And that's not to say that Mark's column wasn't excellent; a well-crafted, smartly-edited article is a better way to present the story than a bunch of transcripts, which in and of themselves are supplementary at best. I only wish the full transcripts were linked-to from the column itself.

I look forward to the day when it's standard practice for news organizations to Web-post full interviews themselves.


Posted by kaye trammell on September 19, 2003, at 5:37 a.m.:

This is very interesting to see this discussion. I have never thought of it in those terms.

My students are doing interviews this semester with "experts" in their area. Then, they are to post the interviews on their blogs by week 11 of class. I've devised the assignment so that they can practice these non-traditional interview skills as well as reach out to people (bloggers) that they admire. I made it late enough in the semester that they should have great blogs themselves.

Seeing that posting the full text of interviews -- allowing the reader to make decisions based on the full context of a comment -- could be the future of online journalism really is an amazing thought.

Format-wise, I could see how one could use a little hyperlink jumping to an anchored tag. So, when reading the article, they would see the quote as the journalist would want it seen. Then, clicking on the link, the reader could jump to that section of the interview & see the entire context as it originally occurred.

Lots of great things for us to think about -- thanks for bringing this up!

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