Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

Opinion

February 28, 2014

Interaction is key in best interviews

GLASGOW — Note: Newspapers often demand transparency from sources, so it’s only fair that newspapers practice what they preach. Periodically, or as circumstances warrant, Glasgow Daily Times editor Daniel Pike will provide information to readers about why certain coverage decisions are made and invite your comments about and reactions to those decisions.

A good interview is the bedrock of journalism. It’s hardly the only way reporters gather information, but it’s often the most dynamic. An in-person or telephone interview can be lively, funny, emotional, angry, tense, unpredictable. It is not always fun – for the interviewee or the interviewer – but it is a vital part of a journalist’s job and of the public’s right to know.

No matter the tone of a conversation, I believe interviews most greatly benefit the audience when they are in the moment, unscripted and genuine. I also recognize that such scenarios might be undesirable for some sources, so I’m rarely bothered when a person exercises his or her right to decline an interview request. The same First Amendment that gives reporters the right to ask questions gives you the right to answer them – or not answer them – as you choose.

This week, I had to decide whether to allow a reporter to submit written questions to a local government agency in advance of an in-person interview the newspaper had requested. I said no, and the interview didn’t happen, although the agency ultimately cited another reason for declining to comment.

After we published a story that included an account of the situation, I was struck by the thought that the reasons we rejected the advance-questions stipulation might not be apparent to nonjournalists. This also seemed like a good time to publicly acknowledge that going forward, our reporters are not to participate in substantial or lengthy written questioning or email-based interviewing unless permission is granted by an editor. This is a common philosophy in the newspaper industry, and while there are certain exceptions, we will follow it consistently.

Our newsroom will, of course, reach out to sources through electronic methods such as text and email for routine information exchanges, simple questions and to handle logistics such as scheduling and planning.

For weightier conversations, we will always seek free and open interaction with our sources. We will be disinclined to accept interview conditions that limit – either in practice or perception – our ability to raise topics and ask followup questions, to engage sources in unrestricted give-and-take or to study their mannerisms, inflections and mood.

Exceptions will be rare. When advance submissions or predetermined questions are demanded by a source, we will ask ourselves whether readers will be underserved if we do not accept the terms. If we agree in advance to interview parameters, our reporting will acknowledge the conditions and explain to readers why that approach was taken.

Your thoughts on this or any other topic are welcome. Call me at 270-678-5171, email me at dpike@glasgowdailytimes.

com or reach me on

Twitter at @DPikeGDT.

— Daniel Pike, editor

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