Newspapers Are Banning Email Interviews. Should You?

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on April 11, 2013 – 2:00 pm

Reporters for the college newspaper The Daily Princetonian are no longer allowed to conduct interviews through email. Neither are reporters for The Stanford Daily or The Oracle, the University of South Florida’s paper.

What’s behind this seemingly urgent push for “no email interview” policies? To find out, writer Mark Lisheron wrote a thoughtful and well-researched piece for the April issue of the American Journalism Review. (Disclosure: I’m quoted in the article.)

Comment

Unsurprisingly, his investigation revealed deep passions on both sides of the debate. Supporters of the email ban argued their side thusly, as summarized by Lisheron:

“E-mail deprives the reporter of all of the sensory advantages of the other interview styles. Facial expressions, gestures, posture. The sound and the cadence of the voice. The emphasis on words or phrases. The pauses.

As fast and convenient as they are, e-mail interviews are never really conducted in real time. The timing of the response, the allowance for measured and edited replies create an artificiality readers recognize.”

The then-editor of The Daily Princetonian, Henry Rome, explained his decision to ban email interviews by writing:

“Interviews are meant to be genuine, spontaneous conversations that allow a reporter to gain a greater understanding of a source’s perspective. However, the use of the email interview — and its widespread presence in our News articles — has resulted in stories filled with stilted, manicured quotes that often hide any real meaning and make it extremely difficult for reporters to ask follow-up questions or build relationships with sources.”

On the other side of the debate are those who make the case for email interviews. One past president of the National Information Officers Association said this, as summarized by Lisheron:

“Reporters, he says, have no inherent right to a statement from him. He reserves the right to ask for questions in writing and provide answers in writing, usually through e-mail.

Departments like his are trying harder to control the message, not because they are deceptive and evil, but because relationships with the media have changed.”

And another public information officer told him that getting questions in writing is:

“…not only a way to form more complete and accurate answers, but to be better able to parry inquiries designed to elicit specific responses.”

So who’s right? Both sides have a point, and the truth is somewhere in the middle. Like anything else (say, PowerPoint slides) the problem is less with the tool itself than with the way that tool gets used. That said, far too many spokespersons rely on email. They think they’re maintaining control by only offering written statements—and sometimes they are—but too often, they’re unnecessarily undermining their relationships with the press.

You can read more about my view on this issue in my article called “Three Reasons to Interview by Phone Instead of Email.”

I hope you’ll read Mark’s excellent article in full. You can find it here. And please leave your thoughts on this topic in the comments section below.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Media and Presentation Training Workshops

Attend one of our fast-moving and content-rich workshops! You'll receive personalized feedback in a small-group setting that helps you become a more effective speaker.


Next workshop: August 26-27, 2014

VIEW FULL SCHEDULE

Join our email list to get our 21 most essential media training tips

An Amazon #1 PR Bestseller: The Media Training Bible: 101 Things You Absolutely, Positively Need To Know Before Your Next Interview. Learn more.

  • About Mr. Media Training

    The Mr. Media Training Blog offers daily tips to help readers become better media spokespersons and public speakers. It also examines how well (or poorly) public figures are communicating through the media.

    Brad Phillips is the Founder and Managing Editor of the Mr. Media Training Blog. He is the president of Phillips Media Relations, a media and presentation training firm with offices in NYC and DC.

    Brad Phillips

    Before founding Phillips Media Relations in 2004, Brad worked as a journalist with ABC's Nightline with Ted Koppel and CNN's Reliable Sources and The Capital Gang.

    Brad tweets at @MrMediaTraining.

    Christina Mozaffari is the Senior Writer for the Mr. Media Training Blog. She is the Washington, D.C. vice president for Phillips Media Relations.

    Brad Phillips

    Before joining Phillips Media Relations in 2011, Christina worked as a journalist with NBC News, where she produced stories for MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, NBC Nightly News, and The Today Show.

    Christina tweets at @PMRChristina.

  • Comments or Tips?

  • Media Requests

    To book Brad Phillips for a media interview, please e-mail Contact@MrMediaTraining.com
  • In The News

    Click here to see media coverage of Brad Phillips and the Mr. Media Training Blog.
  • Media Training

    Click here for more information about our customized media training workshops. To book a media training workshop, e-mail Info@PhillipsMediaRelations.com