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Do We Need Open Interviews?

redcurtainI realize that I may have harped a bit on Vox.com recently, but that’s because it’s new and doing work worth noticing. This week, via a tweet from Jay Rosen, I noticed that they had a toggle feature on an article. You can read the story and then toggle over to see where the pull quotes came from.

It’s a cool feature and one that I think many journo professors and media navel gazers think is necessary. We used to edit because we were limited to column inches. You can fit everything and anything on your website — so why not go for full disclosure? I get it. Open interviews are good for transparency, add value and all of that.

But is everything really fit to print? Reading the full interview behind a news story is a little like the director’s commentary they used to include (do they still make DVDs?) on movies. Some will care enough to read it all, others will skim or probably not even notice its there.

First, what about the “lightly edited” full interview? What does that mean? As a writer myself, all I can think about is what was deleted.  What’s the point of cutting a few words and blunders here and there and calling it a “fully reprinted interview?” Not all sources are going to like going on video or being taped. I know they always have, but it was with the full knowledge that the journalist would use their lines to spin a whole new tale. It’s a lot of pressure to perform, on both sides.

Which brings me to my second thought, which is that sometimes interviews are really boring. It’s hard to get chemistry going. The guy mumbles. Or she repeats the same thing over and over, scared to say the wrong thing. This happens in normal, everyday reporting. With some stories, it’s up to the journalist to make the story readable, worth sharing, memorable. Anyone can hold an interview and print it in full. It’s putting it all into context that’s hard.

For a site like vox.com, I think it works. They want to be a go-to resource for all news. Including the interview makes sense, it further fills the database they’re trying to create. Otherwise? I think it’s a good idea to throw around in j-school classes, where we talk about all the possibilities and space we have to create good journalism. But in the real world, their inclusion only brings more  questions (and hassle) than they’re worth.

Am I just being self conscious? Let me know what you think about open interviews in the comments or @10,000Words.

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