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The Perils of Doing Interviews With A-Bloggers

The Perils of Doing Interviews With A-Bloggers

There’s a dustup going on on the technosphere side of things; Jason Calacanis, previously of Weblogs and Netscape, was recently asked by a journalist at Wired to do an interview. Like Dave Winer, one of the pioneers of RSS technology, and one of the earliest evangelists for blogging, Jason Calacanis refused to do the interview unless it was through email only.

Wired’s journalist, in turn, refused these conditions, and the interview has been scrapped..

While we can debate over how self-important some bloggers feel, or, how journalists “routinely” mangle interviews and put quotes out of context, there’s one thing this piece makes clear, and that is doing an interview with a blogger — and one with a significant audience — isn’t without its perils.

To wit, Jason Calacanis blithely puts it: “Besides I have 10,000 people come to my blog every day — i don’t need wired to talk to the tech industry.”

And I think that makes all the difference.

Wherein getting interviews with the powerful, the elite, and the well-known has never been an easy task, the difference with *bloggers* is that have a direct line to their audience. The vast majority of bloggers command miniscule audiences. But there are a rarified few who, like Mr. Calacanis, have subscribers in the thousands, if not tens, or hundreds of thousands.

Couple that with accelerating and amplifying mechanisms which exist in the Blogosphere and nowhere else, and its easy to see from a journalists point of view that you’re not just interviewing a person, but a person with a mouthpiece.

I am sympathetic to getting misquoted. Really, I am. In fact, when I was conducting interviews at BloggerTalks with Thord Hedengren, I would insist on email interviews so that I wouldn’t misquote the interviewees as well. However, its clear that when it comes to interviewing A-list bloggers, or, at the very least, bloggers who have significant audiences and who are well connected, it behooves one to step lightly.

Particularly if you’re not well connected yourself, or come from a publication that has no juice.

What I mean, put more simply, is that while Bloggers have a legitimate concern about being misquoted in an interview, they also are the owners of a means of publication themselves. And its not always insignificant. And *they* can just as easily turn around and use their blog as a pulpit, as they might already be doing. And if they feel strongly enough about an issue, they might take their beefs exceptions online.

I would almost liken it to trying to interview shock jocks on radio, in that if you’re not careful, you yourself might be the target of their (and their audience’s) ire.

Lastly, Mike Arrington brings up a good point.

“Radical Transparency” is a popular meme these days, encouraging the journalistic process to be as “transparent” as possible, inviting fans and readers to see and participate in an effort to be better (and improve readership). But where does “radical transparency” begin and discretion end?

Is there ever stuff that is “off-blog”, or “off-the record?” Jason Calacanis doesn’t think so. But I think its a personal decision, and once its made, ironically, its something that everyone needs to be made aware of.

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That is, if you decide that “nothing’s off blog”, then I think there’s a bit of an obligation to tell friends, colleagues, and indeed any individuals who wish to communicate with you, that you have that policy.

That’s assuming that you care about their own sensibilities about the privacy of interpersonal communications.

And that’s where Wired’s own “humorous” rejoinder comes into play. Its meant to be funny, but its also sharply worded, and its clear they weren’t happy that Mr. Calacanis wanted to make it a bigger issue than the purpose of the interview itself (The TechCrunch 20 Conference), as he decided to make public stuff that may not have explicitly been meant for public consumption — at least on behalf of the journalist, anyway.

Take home message: If you’re a blogger and want to do interviews with other larger bloggers who command significant audiences, you might want to consider the following:

1. Be sensitive to how they’d like to be interviewed.

2. Know what their policy is with respect to what is “off-the record” and what is on the record

3. Be keenly aware that they command a sizable audience, which can be used for good, or, in your case, potentially for ill.

View Comments (6)
  • I don’t see this having anything to do with A-List bloggers. It just happened to be Calacanis that had this issue. He has every right to say he will only give email interviews. And those people attacking for it are morons, especially the moron at Wired who blogged about it. I thought Wired sucked before, but now Wired Sucks and is running by immature grade-schoolers.

  • That was me above – just wanted to clarify myself with the first initial of my last name to avoid confusion with Tony Hung.

  • Tony K — I agree that Calacanis has every right to conduct interviews the way he’d like. On the other hand, he also believes that every communication with him is open for republication (in toto) and nothing ought to be kept “off-blog”. I don’t think that Mr. Vogelstein knew this, and neither did his editors at Wired.

    When a blogger as a substantial audience and decided to make public things that the interviewer had no intention of making public — then yes, this *is* an issue of scale, because lots of people are actually listening.

    If you or I had decided to republish the contents and substance of a conversation with that same journalist, do you think we’d get a similar response from the blogosphere? Do you think it would still be the top news item for Techmeme 12 hours later? 24h later?

    I think we both know the answers to that.

    Tony “not K” Hung. ;)

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