Sunday, June 03, 2007

Interviewing 'improved'

I used to regularly read Jeff Jarvis' BuzzMachine, but he wore me out. His boundless enthusiasm about the new media world exhausted me, and his occasional thimbles of insight are often buried under gallons of blather. I cut back to once a week, just to keep up, and finally quit reading him altogether.

But I was drawn back by a link at PressThink to this post, in which Mr. Jarvis waxes enthusiastic about improving interviews by conducting them via e-mail. My direct response is in his comments, I post here simply to add one example that helps make my case for the superiority of live interviews.

Back in Texas, I once profiled a longtime city council member who had been defeated for re-election. The upset had shocked and hurt him, and it was quite a while before he would even consent to an interview. But he was a colorful character (at one city council meeting, he had suggested an ordinance barring people from being poor) and he eventually came around.

Sitting at his kitchen table, we were wading through his biography, including time he had spent in the military as a demolitions expert. As he told me about that, he raised one hand, which was missing several fingers.

"Not much of an expert," he said.

Such moments, I suspect, will never be duplicated in the world of e-mail interviews.

1 comment:

Chuck Rightmire said...

In a personal interview, sitting across from the victim, er, interviewee, it always seemed to me that I could get them to open up considerably. Sometimes they would say, after the story came out, "How did I ever say that to you." But they never said they were misquoted.