Every Last Word: Sources Who Publish Transcripts of Their Interviews? It's Becoming More Common. (the Online Frontier)

By Palser, Barb | American Journalism Review, January-February 2003 | Go to article overview

Every Last Word: Sources Who Publish Transcripts of Their Interviews? It's Becoming More Common. (the Online Frontier)


Palser, Barb, American Journalism Review


After giving an interview to New York Times contributor David F. Gallagher for an article about journalist bloggers, Sheila Lennon, features & interactive producer at projo.com, did what a blogger might do: She posted the full text of the e-mail interview on her personal Weblog, The Reader, (www.lennon2.com).

"David asked fine questions, and I didn't wince when I read my answers," wrote Lennon, who also runs a media and technology blog on the Providence Journal's site. "It seemed natural for me to publish 'the rest of the story' online for readers who might be interested."

Several fellow bloggers applauded Lennon's instinct--including Gallagher himself, who had room for only one sentence of the interview in his September 23 story. "Your answers were great so I'm glad they're out there," Gallagher, whose blog can be found at www.lightningfield.com, wrote in an e-mail to Lennon.

In his blog (kenlayne.com), online journalist Ken Layne commented on Lennon's motive: "Not for any 'Gotcha!' reasons," Layne wrote, "just to get the long exchange out there and add context to her quotes in the paper.... It's just cool to have the whole article-generating process made public."

That's easy for a blogger to say, but what was natural to Lennon is still novel to many journalists. Not only had she revealed the raw material of a story; she'd empowered herself as a citizen publisher and an interviewee.

More and more, the exchanges that precede news stories are making it onto the Web. This is different from a news organization publishing an article in Q&A style, or offering a broadcast transcript online. It's a decision, usually by the reporter or the source, to share parts of conversations that didn't make the cut.

Most journalists who publish interviews they've conducted are like Lennon and Gallagher--Web-savvy and loath to let a good thought go to waste. Not all interviews are interesting or coherent or even publishable, but every reporter knows the regret of culling one quote from an amazing conversation. Why not invite the audience to read (or hear) the interview? But does a journalist who publishes her source material somehow betray the finished story?

"Not every traditional reporter will feel this way, but I don't think supplying a transcript undercuts the writer at all," Lennon says. "The reporter creates the backbone of the report, mulching all the facts into a story people will want to read. …

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