I have a problem with email interviews. I don’t like using the method as a journalist reporting on a story, and I don’t like being asked to give quotes through them.
J-School Buzz posted about how the Journalism School should embrace the practice of email interviews. I disagree. My friend Laura Li, a fellow J-Schooler who is way more eloquent than me, contributed her countering opinion that students need to learn to establish direct contact in order to accurately report on a subject.
When I was recently emailed a list of questions from a reporter of a student publication about a campus event that I attended, I declined to answer them (primarily because I was only in attendance for part of the event and clearly wasn’t the best interview candidate). I ended the email by offering to meet in person to answer any other questions she had. This wasn’t the first time that I had declined an email interview, but in the past reporters have arranged face-to-face interviews with me to get their material. I waited to hear back from this reporter, but figured she had gone with another source in the end.
So imagine my surprise when I found out, through a series of coincidental events, that I was in fact quoted in an article. But since I didn’t give her any useable quotes, she made up her own and tacked my name to the end of them.
At first I thought it was completely hilarious that the reporter would do something that was the complete antithesis to journalism. And then I was completely perplexed as to why she thought it would be okay or necessary to do what she did. In all honesty, I just want clarification as to her rationale for fabricating quotes in the first place. The article has since been corrected and the publication offered its apologies, but I really just want the reporter as an individual to be accountable for this situation and be transparent enough to make it known.
I want you to know that I stutter sometimes. I say “like” and “um” way too much. I have a nervous laugh that kicks in when I get the sinking realization that I’ve lost my train of thought in the middle of a sentence. And a person would only know this if they’ve talked to me directly, heard my voice and picked up on my body language. Because what I say is best understood when how I say it is taken into consideration. And that doesn’t include how well I can craft a type-written sentence.
All I ask, both as a journalist and as an interviewee, is that the reporter upholds the integrity of good journalism. And please don’t write that I said something when I didn’t. That’s not journalism, honey; that’s fiction. And to quote the J-School’s own Jacqui Banazynski, “Go over to the English department if you want to make shit up.”