Monday, December 12, 2011

Calgary columnist says E-mails no substitute for real interview

Calgary Herald columnist Jeremy Klaszus writes:

"In the age of smartphones and social media, the e-mail interview has become the bane of Canadian journalism.
"Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as an e-mail interview. An interview is a conversation. A reporter asks questions, listens, and asks further questions based on the answers he or she hears. It's a fluid process that requires real, human, audible voices.
"But under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the federal government regards the spoken word method (it's called 'reporting') as antiquated. Federal communications staff, once called spokespeople, shy away from speaking to journalists. They prefer, or are forced, to do everything by e-mail.
"It's a common experience for Canadian journalists. You phone a federal department with a few simple questions. A so-called spokesperson won't give answers, but asks for your e-mail address, or worse, asks you to e-mail your questions. You do so, and wait. Your e-mail is sent through who knows how many offices in Ottawa. You keep waiting. Finally, right before deadline, you get an e-mail with a few carefully crafted lines in response to your query.
"The reporter is encouraged to attribute the scripted lines to a spokes-person. This is presented as an acceptable substitute for an interview.
"Here's where journalists should simply say "no" and refuse to play ball. In fact, they should refuse to even give their e-mail addresses in the first place, demanding that everything happen by phone or in person. The e-mail procedure is a joke, de-basing journalists and readers alike. There's usually no time for followup questions; dodged questions remain dodged, weak explanations go unchallenged. Everyone loses, except for the control freak overseeing this bizarre operation. . . ."

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