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Wasted interviews

This New York Times article on Paul Volcker's view of the financial regulation bill is clearly and proudly set around a wide-ranging, on-the-record interview with Volcker himself. But that interview, aside from a few isolated quotes, is nowhere to be found.

This is a baffling waste of good information. Reporters are endlessly interviewing newsmakers and then using, at most, a handful of lines out of thousands of words. The paper, of course, may not have room for thousands of words of interview transcripts, but the Web certainly does. Nor does it make sense for the interviewee to give on-the-record interviews that are condensed into a handful of quotes: It's safer to have your full comments, and the questions that led to them, out in the open, rather than just the lines the author thought interesting enough to include in the article. And for the institution itself, it's a no-brainer: You get a lot more inward links if you provide enough transcript that every niche media site can find something to point their readers toward. But no paper that I know of makes a habit of including transcripts of on-the-record interviews with major players.

By Ezra Klein  |  July 12, 2010; 11:27 AM ET
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Great idea!!! Why not lead by example? If you start doing it with success and other writers at the Post follow, it should spread to other organizations.

Posting the entire interview would be fabulous for people like me who want to know the whole story and would also make it more difficult for both supporters and detractors to take quotes out of context.

I would love for you to begin to take us inside rational policy discussions about the enormous local, state, national and global issues that rarely get past Twitter length sound nibbles.

Posted by: EarlyBird1 | July 12, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Hi EarlyBird1, you will be happy to know that Ezra does post his interviews most of the time. You can find them in the archives. There were a bunch of very good ones in the course of a few weeks leading up to the passage of the health care legislation.

Posted by: neilinottawa | July 12, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Air Force Magazine does a pretty good job posting transcripts from the Defense Writers Group -

Posted by: ohiotodc815 | July 12, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

I work in the PR/media field and frequently act as an intermediary between reporter and source, making sure everyone has the appropriate background information before a formal interview to ensure nobody's time ends up being wasted.

I like having information fully transparent, and anyone who feels the same way can probably get on board with the notion that important interviews ought to be fully transcribed somewhere online and public. In fact, I frequently urge clients -- corporate executives, law firm partners, etc. -- to establish their own blogs so they can do just that. Reporters, understandably, have deadlines and many other pressures to grapple with, but transcribing and posting an important interview between one of my clients and a Times reporter, for instance, would probably be a decent use of *my* time, and if it can benefit other writers or bloggers, then all the better.

I'm not so sure, though, that most journalists would like it if the subjects of their interviews began to do that. Any thoughts?

Posted by: andrew_graham | July 12, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

There's method to the madness of the major newspapers: Not printing the transcript on their website allows the reporter/interviewer or editor to shape the reporting to their ideology.

They can take a fragment of the interviewer (sometimes a frag that is contrary in meaning/tone to the entirety of the interview) to make the story say what the reporter thinks it SHOULD say. It is the equivalent to the 30 sec clip of video snatched out of a 30 minute speech. You can ever break sentences into pieces, and with the ever helpful elipsis (...) drop words that are crucial to what the interviewee was trying to convey.

All this while claiming 'journalistic integrity'. They care more about what they want the public to think of their 'coverage' than what the full story is.

Why do they do this in the internet age. They want to pretend that the internet age is bad for journalism, when in fact the problem is journalists and editors with a fear of or need for 'control'.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | July 12, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Seriously... that is a great idea. It would be like documentcloud, but with interview transcripts. Almost a type of collaboration, and we all know that's the "new thing" in journalism now.

Posted by: mlschafer | July 12, 2010 10:55 PM | Report abuse

@mlschafer We'd welcome interview transcripts in DocumentCloud.

Posted by: amandabee | July 19, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

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