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Is this a valid question?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by BillyT, Sep 1, 2007.

  1. BillyT

    BillyT Active Member

    This is from the bottom of a a New York Times story.

    I am really bothered that a reporter would ask an interview subject: "Have you ever had a sexually transmitted disease?" even if that's the topic of the story.

    (Of course asking Brett Myers might have been more amusing)

    By 1992, the city needed an epidemiologist, and she got the job. She later rose to assistant commissioner (while still, technically, on loan from the C.D.C., a common practice).

    To fight syphilis and understand its spread, she and her investigators are tracking down and interviewing all 260 cases, visiting bathhouses, public parks, restrooms, and private sex parties. “It’s very labor intensive,” she said.

    Through it all, she retains her blunt style. One patient told her it was God’s will that he contracted syphilis. “It may be God’s will,” she remembers replying, “but it’s a man’s penis.”

    Has Dr. Blank ever had a sexually transmitted disease?

    Dr. Blank’s eyes neither widen nor narrow. “I don’t have to answer that question,” she said. “I am accorded all the confidentialities of anybody else that we deal with.”
  2. The question is not nearly as dumb as putting the answer in the story. It's rude.

    Nothing wrong with asking questions because you never know what the answer will be, but I don't get why this answer was published ... it almost looks like the writer was trying to embarass her.
  3. mike311gd

    mike311gd Active Member

    What purpose did that serve? It's not even a good quote. I'd have ended with the previous quote. That's a golden set of words.
  4. I agree with that.
    However, I don't think it's that bad a question. Maybe you get a great quote out of it. Maybe you hear, "I did get crabs when I was a teenager, and I have dedicated my life to wiping those bastards out ever since."
    If you don't get a good quote, just leave that part out.
  5. awriter

    awriter Active Member

    It's not a bad question if phrased delicately. But given her response, that exchange adds nothing to the story.
  6. HejiraHenry

    HejiraHenry Well-Known Member

    Well, it does underscore something about the confidentiality issue, I guess. But I agree that ending the story on the previous quote would have been best.
  7. TyWebb

    TyWebb Well-Known Member

    It sounds to me like the writer wanted/planned to use the answer to that question as the story's closer, but it obviously didn't have the effect she wanted it to.
  8. Cansportschick

    Cansportschick Active Member

    The reporter was probably trying to give more to the story, but with a quote like that, I don't think they got anywhere. I would have delved further in order to get a better quote but, this is a sensitive topic, so I am not sure how far someone would get by probing further.
  9. I think the question is more than appropriate because you never know, you might get a great story / angle out of it, but I don't see why it was included in the story? Obviously it upset the interviewee and the quote is boring and a horrible end of the story.
  10. Looks like we're unanimous: ask the question but the answer in this case wasn't worth printing.
  11. BillyT

    BillyT Active Member

    I got a unanimous response on sportsjournalists.com?

    A winning weekend, I think. ;)

    I thought MikeGD had the best answer: Cut those graphs out and end on the penis quote.
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