The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Thursday, February 17, 2005

Why journos refuse to tape interviews

A chilling piece in the New York Observer by Ron Rosenbaum, Tape It, Baby, Tape It! Scrawled Interviews Are a Risky Romance, on the controversy (there is one) whether journos should tape-record interviews or take notes of them.

He goes through the reasons given by journos interviewed for a book, The New New Journalism by Robert S. Boynton. One Laurence Wechsler takes the biscuit:
The challenge is to record as fairly as possible what people mean to say, what people even remember having said—which is almost invariably is not what they said! What they said is invariably not what they meant to say.

So he gives himself license to make it up on their behalf.

Whatever the motive, lack of taped interview records was a key factor in the David Kelly saga - none of the BBC journos, as I recall, taped any of the interviews they had with Kelly, and some of the notes (in particular, Andrew Gilligan's) produced in evidence at the Hutton Inquiry looked unconvincing, to put it mildly.

(One should namecheck Masson v New Yorker as an illustration of the legal difficulties that playing fast and loose with the ipsissima verba of interviewees may cause, even where the journo benefits from New York Times v Sullivan.)

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