Email “is a rotten reporting tool for journalists, particularly here in Washington,” former Washington Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton writes. But more and more, sources try to move interviews to that medium:
The reason that everyone insists on e-mail is that both the inquirer and the responder has a written record of what was said, what was replied, and no one can lie about it. It’s in black and white. It’s in a document that can be printed out. It’s safe and won’t get anyone into trouble. And it doesn’t say a damn thing. It is so sanitized that it doesn’t begin to answer the carefully crafted questions it took you a half hour to write that morning. And it leaves no room for follow-up questions that you think about on the fly during any normal human conversation.
People who work on Capitol Hill are more likely to engage in human interaction with a reporter, he writes. “But even there, the art of spontaneous conversation and questioning has ebbed.” Spontaneity can get members of Congress “into too much trouble. It’s too human.”
Related: College media outlets work through evolution of email, social media interviews | USF’s The Oracle bans email interviews, following other student newspapers | How journalists decide whether to interview by phone, email or face-to-face