Open interviews: Why not?

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

This Mathew Ingram piece teases out an interesting aspect of journalism’s representational agenda. It concerns the refusal of some journalists to conduct “open interviews” that involve the observation and potential participation of the public.

Is this protectionism or does journalism have a legitimate claim here? It’s the tension itself that’s compelling, because it gets at the heart of what it is to do journalism, at least the way it’s been done for the past century or so. The practice of journalism has an almost sacred relationship to the world of fact, one that’s reflected in the field’s professional code and the law. The open interview appears to undermine this relationship.

At the same time, there are legitimate concerns about interview subjects “playing to the crowd” – or even salting the crowd with supporters. Open interviews also may turn into debates that are about emotion and individual points of view, rather than the surfacing of relevant fact for what may be an important story.

The digital era tugs at journalism’s relationship to the world of fact in many ways, resulting in debates such as this. There’s more to come.

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