More Email Interview Bans for Student Publications

Posted by Bianca Olvera Lopez

In a recent article, Poynter shared that more schools are following the email interview ban trend. Some school publications, including Princeton University’s The Daily Princetonian, claim to see improvements since they banned email interviews. Does this mean the end is near for the email interview?

Almost a year ago, J School Buzz, an independent blog about the Missouri School of Journalism, published Why Mizzou’s Journalism School Needs To Embrace Email Interviews. The blog post stated: “Email interviews are more convenient for sources and journalists.”

Email interviews are more convenient for both the source and the journalist, but do they offer what a face-to-face or phone interview offers? Journalists should always work ethically and excellently. Can this be done no matter how you interview? Journalists should seek the truth and report it. Can we find the truth through email interviews?

I’ve done face-to-face interviews, phone interviews, and Skype interviews, but I haven’t tried email interviews or Twitter interviews. Most of my professors at Drake University agree with the reasoning behind the bans, and they encourage students to pursue face-to-face interviews, Skype interviews or phone interviews.

So what do you think? Will the email interview bans continue, or will we find new ways to work with the sources via email? Let us know what you think.

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4 responses to “More Email Interview Bans for Student Publications

  1. This is a great question to bring up! Email interviewing is a real gray area for journalists. They definitely don’t give you the same interview you would get face-to-face or even on the phone. I prefer face-to-face even to over the phone because you are able to see the source’s body language and facial expressions. When you’re actually there in person with someone it can make them feel more at ease and they might end up giving you better information than you would have got over the phone or in an email.

  2. It’s interesting that you say that because the J School Buzz post said almost the complete opposite. They argued that interviewing face-to-face actually makes the person more nervous. But I definitely agree with you Stephanie. I think face-to-face interviews will always offer you more than email interviews. I love seeing my source’s facial expressions, and they always provide me with more information than I was expecting to receive and I don’t think they would be able to do that via email.

  3. I tend to avoid conducting email interviews. They require the interviewee to spend time typing out their responses. For some this may give them comfort knowing they have thought out their response rather than just saying something off the top of their head. It might also mean the individual is less communicative because they do not want to sit around answering email. In addition, interviews via email impede a writer’s opportunity to immediately ask follow-up questions. Another email can be sent but it lacks the same level of urgency. Emails do not facilitate the conversational format ideal for interviews that are created by other means of communication. I consider it sending an email impersonal.

    However, email interviews can be helpful when conducted with people in foreign countries with limited access to other means of communication. I once wrote a story about a student a studying abroad in New Zealand. An earthquake had recently hit Christchurch where he was studying making email the most practical and convenient means of contacting him. After that I realized that sometimes adaptability is required to get the pertinent information for an article.

  4. I stand in agreement with the ban for email interviews. I feel that when working on a story email should be used for only one of three things
    1.) To get in contact with your source to set up an interview (face to face or phone).
    2.) To follow up.
    3.) To thank them for their time.
    As a journalism student at drake I have always been told that email interviews provide “canned” answers. You can never be sure if your source is on the other end of your email or if it’s their secretary which, can then raise accountability issues.

    Also having that face to face or voice to voice interaction can set the tone for a casual conversation rather than a formal Q&A session. As a journalist my personal preference is to be able to interview my source with as few barriers as possible and I feel being separated by the world wide web is as big as an impersonal barrier can get.

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