In Praise of Chats
A journalist's core competency is, in theory, her ability to write articles. But I've been interested lately in the value that can be added by other parts of the writing process. Publishing interview transcripts, for instance. And conducting Q&As with readers.
The online discussions are actually one of my favorite features at The Post. They're sprawling and unfocused and unedited and, quite frequently, many times more useful than the article, or blog, they're based on.
For instance: The Food section had a cover feature today on canning and making jams. Good article! But this afternoon, they hosted a chat where a chef with a jam and canning business answered reader questions about the process. It was nice to read about the chef this morning. But it was far better to get a quick course in canning and making jams. For instance, a reader wrote in to say his fruit took forever to boil and the resulting jam was unspreadably thick. In reply, the chef said something I didn't know:
Very rarely will you ever need water when making jam. Fruits have so much natural water, you should be good to go.
Useful! Similarly, Steve Pearlstein wrote a very nice column this morning on the myth of small-business job creation and the weird and not-entirely-honest role the sector plays in health-care reform. Good piece. I was actually going link to it later today. But it wasn't actually as useful as his live chat, which featured him reprising his argument, adding some parts that didn't fit in the original piece and defending it against legitimate counterarguments.
None of this is to deride the utility of actual articles. They are, for one thing, where the discussion starts. And the process of researching and writing articles is how writers learn about their topics -- without the articles, there would be no interviews, no useful discussions. But too often they're also where the writer ends her involvement with that topic. And that strikes me as a needless waste. The role of a blogger is a bit different here, but there's no doubt that the majority of the impact my longer articles have generated has come in all the blog posts they subsequently informed.
In any case, this was all really a way to link to those Q&As, and maybe direct you to the full Q&A schedule. It's good stuff.
Posted by: ameliashowalter | July 8, 2009 4:30 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: oldnasty | July 9, 2009 1:56 AM | Report abuse
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