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"Unethical" to record a phone interview?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by jaredk, May 7, 2007.

  1. jaredk

    jaredk Member

    On a thread about cell phone recording devices, two posters said it was unethical to tape-record a telephone interview.

    I don't understand why. It's an interview, and the subject knows his/her words are being recorded, whether by pen, by stenography, by tape recorder. In those 12 states where both parties must know a recording is being made, it's fairly simple to ask if it's OK. And my experience has been that subjects are always happier when quoted accurately.

    So what's unethical about recording a subject's words as precisely as possible?
  2. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    I don't think it is unethical in the least to record a phone interview if you identify yourself as a reporter and make certain the person knows he/she is being interviewed.

    However, it is a courtesy to ask the subject if it is OK to record the interview. And in some cases it is required by state law.
  3. expendable

    expendable Well-Known Member

    Nothing. I've had people come back and say they didn't say what I recorded them saying. After telling them that I recorded said interview, they back off.
  4. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Also, jared, it's smart to always ask permission.

    Say you call a guy on his cell phone and he goes on some kind of rant. You record it. It's a hot topic picked up everywhere. Your paper's website posts the audio clip and it gets a million hits.

    Then the guy really regrets having said what he did and at the time he spoke to you, he just happened to be in a state where both parties have to consent to the conversation being recorded.

    You could be royally screwed.
  5. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    As someone who has tape recorded a zillion phone interviews... The laws actually vary from state to state in terms of its legality (forget about ethical considerations)... Some states require only one-party consent, so you don't legally even have to tell the subject you are recording the conversation. Some states require that both parties consent, so from a legal standpoint you have to tell the person.

    From an ethical standpoint, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it--but you should tell the subject. I always ask the person before recording the interview: "Do you mind if I record this conversation? I want to make sure I don't miss anything and that I quote you accurately." I can only remember two people who ever had a problem with me recording a phone interview, and I just took notes instead (I take notes too, even while I am recording). I don't see anything unethical about recording the interview, though, when you have been up front about the fact that you are doing it.
  6. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    It's not wrong to tell them when recording a conversation, but it's not wrong not to tell them either... That's as long as you never broadcast it obviously...

    There are two reasons I record interviews with my cell, accuracy and so I can have a real conversation with people where I don't have to worry about taking notes...
  7. swenk

    swenk Member

    I refer clients to this site (although I'm not sure how current the laws are):

  8. shockey

    shockey Active Member

    you must tell someone if you're taping a phone conversation but not if it's understood it's for an interview. cripes, folks, why would that be wrong? ??? :eek: 8)

    take it from (a disabled) one who tapes all his interviews. geez, is there anyone who doesn't tape conference calls? what's the difference?
  9. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    Shockey, it might seem to be understood because it's an interview, but in those states that require it, you must explicitly tell the other party that you'd like to tape it and get their permission, or you're breaking the law, plain and simple.

    Conference calls ARE different -- although it's possible that's not even true by the letter of the law in those states -- because everybody knows what they're there for.
  10. shockey

    shockey Active Member

    same thing goes for a 1-on-1 interview. all that's required is the person understanding he's on the record. tape or no tape. take me on this. i have lawyers, too. taping interviews is not illegal in any way. and i've never had any subject prefer no tape. it protects everyone.

    the laws are there to protect against wire-tapping, not reporter's interviews.
  11. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    I don't think it unethical at all. I think it unethical if you dont let the other party know you are doing it.
  12. MonitorLizard

    MonitorLizard Member

    If you're being interviewed, you should assume the other person is recording it. I don't see how someone could object to being recorded and not to the interviewer taking notes.
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