In an attempt to prevent misquoting, an increasing number of sources, are demanding that journalists conduct their interviews via email. Jason Calacanis, co-founder of Weblogs, Inc., explains why he only gives quote electronically.
Jason's posting a full version of this interview on his own site.
Artist: Once Blue
BOB GARFIELD: This is On the Media. I’m Bob Garfield. BROOKE GLADSTONE: And I’m Brooke Gladstone. This week, after Jimmy Carter was quoted as saying that President Bush was the worst president in history, the former president said on the Today Show that his comments were, quote, “careless or misinterpreted.” The journalist for the Arkansas Democrat Gazette countered back by posting a recording to prove that the quotation was not taken out of context.
But journalists aren’t the only ones making sure they have a copy of the full interview. An increasing number of interviewees are demanding to have a full transcript to post on their websites, should there be a dispute after an article’s publication.
Jason Calacanis, co-founder of Weblogs Inc., is one such interviewee. He recently wrote, “journalists have been burning subjects for so long with paraphrased quotes, half-quotes and misquotes, that I think a lot of folks, especially the ones who don’t need the press, are taking an email only interview policy.” Jason, welcome to the show. JASON CALACANIS: Thanks for having me. I’m a big fan.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So do you subscribe to an email-only policy yourself? JASON CALACANIS: I try to do it by email or instant message, for both the reasons that you stated. It comes out more accurate. I feel like I don’t get misquoted, but also because it’s more convenient for me when I’m on the road and traveling, and it’s more convenient because I can republish the interview in its entirety to my core constituents at my blog and get some content out of it. BROOKE GLADSTONE: Have you been burned by reporters yourself? JASON CALACANIS: I’ve been burned pretty regularly. I think anybody who’s quoted on a regular basis has either been misquoted, half-quoted, generally burned, and I think it has to do in a lot of ways with how journalism has turned into entertainment.
A lot of journalists are looking for that “gotcha” moment and, you know, having me live on the phone gives them that ability to try to catch me up in something. And I’m not interested in being caught up. I would rather have a really well thought out answer. I think journalists are reaping what they’ve sown, frankly.
And if you talk to subjects they feel like a lot of times, journalists are trying to create drama maybe where there isn’t drama, because they’re trying to get ratings, and you know that more than anybody based on the topic of this show. BROOKE GLADSTONE: Obviously, that is a widely held and justified complaint made about the media, but I’m not only the host of this program, I also edit it. We’ve agreed that you will post the long version of this interview on your site. What our listeners will hear is a short version that was essentially edited down to what I consider to be its most important, most cogent moments.
JASON CALACANIS: But I would challenge you to -- why wouldn’t you publish the full versions for those people who wanted to go in depth? If somebody listened to this and said, you know, I’d really like to hear what those guys said for the full 20, 30, whatever minutes we wind up talking, why wouldn’t you expose your source material? Why wouldn’t you expose the email threads? That’s my question to you. BROOKE GLADSTONE: I think it’s a really good question, and part of it has to do with process. You know, sometimes we’ll ask a question half a dozen times before the person we’re interviewing actually gives us the answer. [OVERTALK] JASON CALACANIS: The answer that you’re looking for? BROOKE GLADSTONE: The answer, the real answer to the question.
JASON CALACANIS: You are making the determination that you need the second, third, fourth question. Why can’t the audience be intelligent enough to hear all four times you’ve asked? BROOKE GLADSTONE: Well, I suppose the audience could listen to all four times we ask, but as a former journalist, surely you know that a lot of our job involves asking questions that people don’t want to answer but can be convinced to answer, over time, and it is our job to act as the reader or listener or viewer surrogate, to get the answers that presumably we have to assume that they want. That’s why we’re in the jobs we’re in. JASON CALACANIS: And absolutely, in that circumstance I agree with you. Asking five times and putting the person on the spot, absolutely, kudos to you. I would like to hear the first four times and hear the person try to skirt the answer.
Then when journalists say to me, oh, it’s process, whatever, that to me sounds like maybe they want to cover their tracks a little bit. Maybe they’re afraid of what would happen if the raw transcript came out. BROOKE GLADSTONE: Fair enough. We talk a lot on this show about how the sausage is made, and we have done pieces, actually, about our own editing process. What we’ll be doing now will be an exercise in exactly that. But you’re right, sometimes we find that showing the process is actually a distraction. JASON CALACANIS: In your interpretation, it’s a distraction. I think that maybe you’re underestimating the audience. And I think journalists are a little pretentious in that matter. And perhaps, you know, public radio ones are the most [BROOKE LAUGHS] where they think that their editing ability trumps my ability as a listener to interpret this or understand what you’re doing. I’m not an idiot. Give me the raw material. BROOKE GLADSTONE: I want to go back for a moment and defend public radio, in general. It certainly isn’t the only journalistic medium that uses editors. Every responsible and even irresponsible media organization uses editors because the point is to cull through and provide information – JASON CALACANIS: Yeah – BROOKE GLADSTONE: - in easily digested ways. Now, probably someday all of this stuff will be available in its full and complete form – JASON CALACANIS: Yeah, I’m not objecting – BROOKE GLADSTONE: - because people like you – JASON CALACANIS: - to you editing it. BROOKE GLADSTONE: - will post them.
JASON CALACANIS: I’m not objecting to you editing it. I am a fan of the show and I love the way you edit it, in fact, and I wouldn’t want a 17-hour version of a topic.
But in some cases, I’d like the source material, and that’s really what my point is. If we all start providing the source material, then you could take an interview from another radio network where they didn’t use a piece of it and maybe you’d say, you know what, Calacanis said something that contradicts what he said in this interview, I’m going to play that for him.
And we could have this whole creative comments archive of information and greater understanding. And I think journalists need to understand that they’re not in control of the process any more. BROOKE GLADSTONE: Now, this discussion we’ve had has gone on for about 15 minutes. We will edit this down to about 5 minutes, tops. I can’t remember a single time where anybody we’ve interviewed has ever complained, but I would be really interested in reading a brief letter, in full, [LAUGHS] in a week, if you don’t like what we did with it. JASON CALACANIS: You know what? I trust you, so that’s the only reason I would have even come here. I would do the interview with or without you guys giving me the MP3 file to publish, ‘cause at the end of the day, you earn the trust that people have in you, and I think you guys do a great job of earning the trust. BROOKE GLADSTONE: Jason, thank you very much. JASON CALACANIS: My pleasure. BROOKE GLADSTONE: Jason Calacanis is co-founder of Weblogs, Inc., an entrepreneur in residence at the venture capital firm, Sequoia Capital.
You can find a link at onthemedia.org to Jason’s blog, where he’ll post unedited versions of our email and audio interview. [MUSIC UP AND UNDER]