December 4, 2014

The Washington Post

Joe Heim’s first question to Valerie Jarrett in a Q&A describes a reporter’s nightmare: “What do you think of a reporter who interviews you for 25 minutes, then later finds out his recorder stopped working and asks you to do the interview again?”

Heim, an assignment editor for The Washington Post’s Sunday magazine, told Poynter in a phone call he did the interview a few weeks ago in the Old Executive Office Building. He used his iPhone’s Voice Memos app to record the interview, as he’s done for previous Q&As. He’s not sure why the phone stopped recording; the only thing he suspects is that some sort of alert interrupted his record of the interview.

Check it out, Jarrett uses two phones. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Check it out, Jarrett uses two phones. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

After the interview, Jarrett left with her spokesperson, Rachel Racusen, and Heim looked at his phone, which indicated he’d recorded two minutes and two seconds of the interview. “I described it as a wave of heat rushes through my body,” Heim said. He checked the phone again, thinking the recording might be rattling around in there somehow. After a minute or two, “I knew I was pretty much screwed,” he said.

When Racusen returned, Heim ‘fessed up. She offered to try to find a time they could redo the interview over the phone and landed him a slot later that evening. Heim did that interview using a cassette recorder, and he took notes as well.

Jarrett, he said, “was very gracious about the whole thing.” (She told him his honesty was “extremely refreshing” and that he could have “just tried to bluff your way through it and pretend that it didn’t happen.”) He would have understood if she didn’t give him another bite at the apple.

Heim said he doesn’t normally like taking notes during Q&As because they get in the way of establishing a rapport with subjects. But going forward, he said, “I will probably double up on the equipment.” The last time he did that was when he interviewed Bruce Springsteen. “So maybe I’ll have to treat everyone like Springsteen from now on.”

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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City…
Andrew Beaujon

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