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Interesting sidebar to A2 News story in Chicago Trib

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Jersey_Guy, Mar 18, 2008.

  1. Jersey_Guy

    Jersey_Guy Active Member

    Eric Zorn, metro columnist and blogger for the Chicago Trib, takes The News to task for declining to conduct an interview with Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman via e-mail for their academics and athletics series:


    The reader comments, though, are the interesting part. There are a few dozen and the majority support the decision, which I never would have expected. Some real good conversation and back-and-forth with Zorn, who's often a great read.
  2. dooley_womack1

    dooley_womack1 Well-Known Member

    This will come up all the time as an issue. I guess the News wanted to hear tone of voice, see facial expressions, maybe figured she be more vulnerable with a face-to-face, where dodging questions isn't so simple.

    Now, e-mail interviews can be perfectly fine, and sometimes there's no choice. But I think there are times when you hold out for authentic, live reaction that you can portray. I wouldn't do a personality profile strictly by e-mail, for example.
  3. Ben_Hecht

    Ben_Hecht Active Member

    I've heard Coleman talk, at length. A more deluded, diversity-first-and-to-hell-with-anything-else academic would be hard to find.

    Not surprised Michigan loves her. Were she associated with my alma mater, they'd never get another nickel.
  4. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Well-Known Member

    From you, I'm assuming. Not from everybody, right?

    Or maybe you're the only one sending them nickels.

    Also, I'm sure Coleman would object to your description of her. If she's like most academics, she does not believe in hell.
  5. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member

    Zorn really answered his own question -- from both sides -- primarily with Nos. 3 and 4 in his pros and cons lists.

    As a reporter in this case, with this subject matter, I think I'd also be unwilling to use emailed answers, unless I could not get anyone else of note to speak to the issue directly.

    You simply have to know, absolutely and without question, who's on the other side of that computer screen, in order to safely attach statements/quotes to that person.

    And, from a source's point of view, you can, indeed, be more careful, have the written record, and, of course, skip key questions entirely without fear of follow-up or forcing the issues.

    Perhaps if I got the emailed answers, and could, immediately upon receipt, phone -- and reach -- the president (and I'd tape this call) to confirm that said statements, are, in fact, either hers, or an authorized representation of what she wants to say, then maybe I'd go this route.

    But the university president really should be able/willing, and perhaps even compelled by her position/responsibility, to address the questions directly, anyway -- even if only with a "no comment."

    Especially if others already have or are doing so.

    This will come back to bite Coleman, and my guess is, she's already regretting not saying something.
  6. mustangj17

    mustangj17 Active Member

    You can't ask follow up questions when you are interviewing email. Follow-up questions are very important. Especially in a story like this.
  7. awriter

    awriter Active Member

    What do you mean, you can't you ask follow-up questions in an e-mail? It's pretty simple, actually. You just hit the reply button and type in your follow-ups, perhaps highlighting comments that you want the source to expand on. It's ridiculous that the school president didn't agree to a face-to-face interview, but even so, e-mailed responses would have been better than nothing.
  8. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    In addition to the excellent reasons already mentioned here (and by Zorn), I think when you are dealing with a major local newsmaker, you need to make it clear to them that they are not going to dictate the parameters of the relationship, we are. This is the policy, this is the reason for the policy, no exceptions, the fact that you're a university president doesn't give you the power to make us change it.
  9. mustangj17

    mustangj17 Active Member

    They aren't immediate. Who says she's going to answer them. She could pick and choose what she answers, and then she gets time to think about it. Then you totally lose out on the facial expressions and other reactions when you get a real good question in there.
  10. awriter

    awriter Active Member

    I understand that thinking. I probably would have agreed to an e-mail exchange on the grounds that it would have been better than nothing. Either way, there should have been an explanation why the paper wouldn't run e-mailed responses in the main story. My recollection is there was just a sentence saying that she insisted on e-mails and that the AA News declined.
  11. awriter

    awriter Active Member

    Who says she's going to answer every question in a face-to-face interview?
    Look, I'm not saying we should forego in-person interviews in favor of e-mail. Nor am I saying I agree with her decision. I'm just saying you're flat out wrong if you think you can't ask a follow-up in an e-mail interview.
  12. jackandcoke

    jackandcoke Member

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