Open Phone Calls?



I hadn’t heard about “open” phone calls and I wish I hadn’t.

I found the idea for this post here.

I had never even heard of anything like that before. It’s pretty scary.

Being open is one thing, but having the entire conversation recorded and posted online is another.

That type of precedent, I think, has been unheard of.

From Chad Whitacre:

“One emerging theme (hereherehere) is that journalism depends for its value on “the scoop.” Could we have agreed on an embargo of the raw interview video until the piece was published? Perhaps.

How would publishing a raw interview threaten a journalist’s scoop? I think it’s important here to see the distinction between “open” and “recognized.” A raw hour-long YouTube video is going to get no traffic compared to a published article. The interaction is open, but it has no chance of reaching the public consciousness in that form, so the scoop isn’t directly threatened by an open interview. If anything, pre-publishing the raw interview builds anticipation among true fans, who are then more likely to spread the word when the story is published.”

I have to be careful here and I’m going to tread water as best I can.

For the phone call itself to get traffic or not, the “open” interview is still not something that I’m comfortable with. I don’t think I ever would be. That’s dangerous ground.

As a journalist, I’m thankful that “off the record” means just that. I don’t mean to say that I talk off the record all of the time, but, when I do, I want it to be private.

Weeks after I first saw this, I still can’t get my head around it. For those outside of this field, it may seem not that important, but if I told my editors about this post I already know what they would say. And I don’t think it would be pretty.

Maybe I’m coming into this post with a chip on my shoulder, but I just can’t see this being a good idea.

I asked a friend and former colleague Matthew Clyburn to weigh in on the issue.

Whitacre makes a compelling point. Journalism is – and should be – the most transparent industry there is. There are a few disconcerting elements to this situation.

Whitacre’s insistence to practice dramatic transparency is a TechCrunch piece in itself. The journalist missed an opportunity to tell a completely different type of story – I would argue a more compelling one – by declining the opportunity. Imagine this angle: the writer tells the story of a young, innovative company through the lens of a journalist complying with extraordinarily progressive transparency demands. That’s a captivating narrative that I’ll never be able to read because of this journalist’s misplaced sense of pomp.

Obviously, there are some situations that require the journalist to protection identities and certain pieces of information. However, with an online tech magazine, the only concern on the journalist’s part is losing the story. In an effort to protect ‘the scoop,’ the journalist opted not to report the story. The end result was the same, so the journalist should have simply accepted the terms. The outcome raises many questions. What is it about the journalist’s process that makes him want to withhold an interview from public scrutiny? Why would privacy be a concern on the part of the journalist when it’s not a concern for the subject? The truth is this: the highest quality journalism lives outside of the zero-sum game described by Whitacre. Therefore, the journalist should be more concerned about the quality of his craft than the confidentiality of his content.”

I don’t see how being so open would help anything. Do you?




2 Responses to Open Phone Calls?

  1. Karen says:

    I read this post twice, and I’m not sure I understand your objection to the idea of the subject of an interview wishing to record the interview and post the interview on line, unless you feel their is some infringement on the rights to the journalist’s work product.

    Why do you feel that it is “dangerous”?

    I think an obvious benefit is that the interviewee is not subject to the journalist’s interpretation or editing of comments made during the interview.

    • Hey,

      Thanks for reading/commenting.

      I think this undermines most of what a journalist does. There would be no off the record conversations anymore. That rapport with a source would vanish, as well. Reporters need to talk off the record, at times, to get information and background. With the open call method, that would be nonexistent and sources, I feel, would shy away. It’s a pretty scary thought. Where would it end?
      The precedence this could set would drastically set the profession back. I wouldn’t be able to do my job effectively if every call was recorded. Just my opinion, but I think other journalists would agree.

      There would be no more scoops, as well. Everyone would be able to pick and chip away at whatever is available. I think it would be plain awful.

      And each journalist writes in a different way. Good journalists write objectively, but there are ALWAYS complaints about how things are phrased and worded. With recorded interview, it opens the door for people to cut and paste recordings to have people say what they want.


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