Interview: Talking to a machine

The debate about the spoken vs e-mail interview grinds on, with Steven Levy and Jeff Jarvis taking their stands. Jeff may be right. Fairness and transparency argue for an e-mail exchange. But if I wanted to stay at a desk and deal with people by keyboard, it would have made more sense to be an editor. They generally get paid more. The fun of journalism for me is going places and meeting people. I like touring clanging and thundering steel mills with engineers screaming into my ear. I recently spent 12 hours talking to doctors in Iowa about genetics and blindness. I asked dumb questions I’d be far too proud (or scared) to put into an e-mail. The luxury of being a reporter is that experts, generous with their time and knowledge, teach us.

E-mail interviews? Oh, if I have to for an absolutely central figure in a story, I guess I’ll go along. But really, if I’m going to be communicating with people through a machine, I’d just as soon bag formal reporting altogether and edit—or blog.

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