Q&A Quid Pro Quo
But now, subjects are often sent by e-mail a list of questions to which they can reply exactly as they wish and generally live to see their words appear unaltered. For the journalist, this makes for pretty easy work: you come up with 5 or 10 or 20 questions, send them by e-mail, wait for the results, maybe follow up a bit, and click the “publish” button. (A journalist can even subcontract this work to readers, asking them to submit the questions.) For the subject, it’s a lot more work — you’re essentially writing the journalist’s article for her — but on the other hand, you have control over what you say (or, in truth, you now have control over what readers will read that you said). It’s Q&A quid pro quo.
So here’s the big question: how does the reader make out? I would argue that readers are the big winners. They get more content that, for better or worse, actually reflects what the subject is thinking. Is this trend good for journalism? I think so, if it’s not overused. Some topics are well-suited for the Q&A format, and if a journalist can devote fewer resources to those topics and more to the kind of articles that take more time, digging, traveling, interviewing, analyzing, and writing, then maybe it’s win-win.
I got to thinking about this because we’ve been answering a lot of these Q&A’s ourselves lately, including a harrowing but ultimately fun live one for the Washington Post website. I wouldn’t force even my own relatives to look at all of these, but I’ll post a few recent ones here. (Note that the same journalist, Larry Getlen, drew assignments from both Nerve.com and Bankrate.com, which strikes me as a legitimate mark of one man’s varied interests.)