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Posting audio files of interviews on Website with article

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by TGO157, Mar 27, 2015.

  1. TGO157

    TGO157 Active Member

    I covered a local JUCO baseball team a week or two ago. Lost big, second straight bad loss in a row for the team. So I meet with the coach. He knows it's an interview. I have my badge. I state I'm with Podunk Herald. I let him know I'm recording the interview with my phone. He knows it's on the record and he never asks to go off the record.

    I start by asking what he, as a coach, can do to get players looking to the next game. He says it's not up to him and goes off on his players. He even calls out individuals, and his door is wide open and players are walking by and definitely can hear him.

    It was a good three or four minutes, and I used nearly every word. It was the exact opposite of coach-speak.

    After leaving the interview, I thought, "I should post the audio file on our website." I'm thinking, even though I'll use most of it in the article, maybe a reader can gain extra value from hearing it. Multimedia and all that stuff.

    So the next time I cover the team, I go down to the dugout and interview the coach (after another loss). He starts by saying he "didn't appreciate" what I did, and then said he's never had an interview posted as an audio file on a website. Basically, he said it caused issues because it sounded like he was calling his players out (he was) and thinks I should've asked him first before using the interview in that way. I apologized for the "misunderstanding" or "miscommunication" (I forget which word I used) and we moved on.

    But I thought more about it: I'm interviewing him. It's on the record. I can use any of his quotes in my story. Why am I limited in how I can use the recording? Part of me (increasing to "most of me") believes he's just upset his team is struggling. Another part wonders if I should've asked since it's probably using the interview in a manner he's not at all used to.

    Was I wrong in not telling him beforehand, or is he just having a bad go of it the past few days and took out frustration on me?

    I guess the big-picture question: Do people feel it's OK to post sound bites or whole interviews on a website in an audio file and should the subject interviewed be asked beforehand? (The more I type, the more this sounds silly. This is my first time making a thread asking an "ethics" question, and also might be my last)
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2015
    Liut likes this.
  2. reformedhack

    reformedhack Active Member

    Lots of questions here.

    In my mind, it's probably more a matter of what you were trying to achieve. Is this something you would normally do with an everyday interview? Is this the biggest beat at your paper? Did the story create controversy in town?

    Some bigger questions: Why this particular interview, and why now? Was this interview a particular barnburner that would have set the community on fire? Or was it more of a case of doing it because you could?

    Now, if the coach made a big public deal about being misquoted, deceived, etc., then there's no question that you should post the audio to reinforce your story. Otherwise ... a juco baseball coach having a minor meltdown, the way all coaches eventually do? I don't see why that merits going out of your way to post it.

    Not knowing all of the details other than what you explained, I don't think I would have posted the audio unless it's something I always do with every interview. To me, a junior college baseball coach ventilating his spleen just doesn't rise to a level that warrants something above and beyond. To that end, I can certainly see why the coach might feel like you screwed him.

    A case can be made for posting audio of every interview you do -- especially as a multimedia bonus component for big stories, to let readers hear conversations for themselves -- as a check-and-balance system for your stories. That, of course, assumes you have the time and manpower to do that kind of stuff.

    More questions: Did it drive website traffic? Did readers/visitors react? In other words, was the juice worth the squeeze?
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2015
    Liut likes this.
  3. Liut

    Liut Well-Known Member

    Don't sweat it and thanks for posting.

    You didn't do anything wrong, but I suppose you might want to consider a courtesy, if you will, of letting your subject know video/audio of the interview will be posted. When I was in broadcasting and taped a phone interview in studio, I always told the person on the other end, "want to let you know you're being recorded at this time." Other than that, I cannot recall actually having to spell out an interview was under way (personal protest of underway) because it was obvious to the interviewee.
    Seems to me the coach isn't well-versed on multimedia, learned from the experience, and realized it since the coach didn't seem to make a big stink out of it.
  4. deskslave

    deskslave Active Member

    Yeah, the coach in this situation seems like a decent guy, and that's probably fortunate, because a lot of coaches in that situation would just have cut you off. You're of course well within your rights to use that audio -- he knows why it was recorded, etc. But given the context, the polite thing to do would have been to at least give him a heads-up before posting it.

    Do you have to *ask* for his permission? No, and I suspect he realizes that. But nevertheless, this is one of those where strict journalistic ethics can clash with the realities of day-to-day reporting.

    Basically, this isn't an either/or question:

    Yeah, of course he's upset that his team's losing, and yeah, he's taking that out on you, possibly unfairly. But coaches have been taking their frustrations out on the media since the typewriter era. That's part of the deal. I think in this case, if you separate out that angle, he still has a case for feeling hard done by.
    Liut likes this.
  5. LowellThomas

    LowellThomas New Member

    Had an interview with a coach once where he talked about kicking another teams arse and all. It created quite a buzz on the web site, but the coach had no problem with it, even goes out of his way to talk with me now. I think it really depends on the demeaner of the coach.
  6. Spartan Squad

    Spartan Squad Well-Known Member

    Seven or eight years ago, I covered a high school football rivalry game between two rather small schools who just loathed each other to no end. School A was a blue collar team in the truest sense of the phrase—most of their parents worked a labor for a mining operation and 99.9 percent of the kids were going to work in the same plant. School B was a small Christian school full of white collar kids who because of their over zealous athletic director was something of a joke in the newsroom. School A always made a run in the section playoffs and School B was lucky to score a touchdown that year. Long story short, School A beat the snot out of School B and after the first two touchdowns, it stopped being funny. Kids were getting hurt, School A's coaches were laughing, fans were being obnoxious and for some reason, School B's coaches were shocked they got beat so badly and I even saw one coach crying. I wrote a column denouncing the game and saying how both teams needed to cool their jets about the rivalry for a little bit. When I arrived to cover School A the following week, I was told by every coach, to a T, how much my column sucked. By the end of the game, we were laughing with each other again. Coaches don't like it when you call them out, but they get over it.

    The coach shouldn't be upset that what he said is causing problems (and probably by posting the audio, you took away his defense that you misquoted him). You don't need his permission to post the audio since it's all on the record. In the future, it might be a good idea to save posting audio for special occasions, like if the coach just goes on a controversial tirade or says something that you really need to hear it to fully understand. Of course, you could always parlay this into a regular segment for your website: "Sound bite of the week" or "sounds of the game" and have it as a supplement.
  7. Smasher_Sloan

    Smasher_Sloan Active Member

    If you interviewed me one-on-one and recorded it, I would expect you to tell me that you intended to make the tape public. I would otherwise assume you were just taping for note-taking purposes.
  8. old_tony

    old_tony Well-Known Member

    This guy wonders what all the fuss is about.

  9. SnarkShark

    SnarkShark Well-Known Member

    I've had a subject I cover regularly begin to increasingly become more vulgar and offensive in interviews every week. I think he's almost daring me to publish it. It hasn't touched on anything on-topic, so I haven't used any of it yet, but if he eventually does, I probably will.

    I can't tell if he's baiting me, or just testing to see what he can get away with. His stature within the sport I cover is very high profile.

    I'm tempted to tell him to stop and to be more professional in our talks, because it puts me in a bad position, but I'm not sure that's a great idea either.

    Not sure this is entirely on topic, but I felt I should share.
  10. SFIND

    SFIND Well-Known Member

    We've posted the audio from interviews as embedded MP3 files on the site before. I don't think you were wrong in not telling him beforehand. When the recorder (or phone) is out, it should be obvious that someone else can hear the interview. By your account he never specified anything he said was off the record by your account.

    I'm curious how many others use their phones now to record? I still use a stereo recorder for the superior audio quality. But I forgot it twice during basketball and had to use the app on my phone, and it works well enough.
  11. Spartan Squad

    Spartan Squad Well-Known Member

    I use Evernote on my phone. It's rather convenient to record an interview and email it to my computer. It also has the added benefit of not having to sort through a bunch of recordings to find the one I need. And if you need share the interview with other coworkers, they get it without any hassle.
  12. TGO157

    TGO157 Active Member

    Thank you, everyone, for responding to this. It seems like a split between "no issue with it" and "you didn't do anything wrong, but maybe next time you should let him know or ask." Interesting.

    To answer some questions: I did it mostly because of the content, but we're also making a digital push with a new owner and that was the first day I caught the bug of, "You know what would be a good multimedia add, and not difficult or time-consuming?" I want to do it more often. This fallout (not really a fallout, but a slight one) sort of scared me from doing it the past week.

    It also generated some buzz. The file got around 350 clicks, which is on par with our sports staff's weekly podcast (after looking at it on Podbean, 226, so maybe not).

    I've heard people say both -- that it was worth posting for the added benefit of hearing "tone" and also that I should've asked. It's an interesting topic, though!
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