Letter from the editor: An end to email interviews

Opinion by Billy Gallagher
Oct. 26, 2012, 2:41 p.m.

Effective immediately, The Stanford Daily will no longer conduct news interviews via email.

Our colleagues at The Harvard Crimson recently announced an end to allowing quote approval from Harvard’s administration. Quote approval (allowing sources to edit quotes and strike some from the record after the interview) is a fairly straightforward violation of journalism ethics and is not employed by The Daily. However, email interviews are too similar to quote approval for comfort.

For at least the past few years, Daily writers have been strongly encouraged to do interviews in person or over the phone, with email as a last resort. Unfortunately, this has led to far too many email interviews, requested by both writers and the sources.

In many cases, this is done simply for convenience. However, some sources also demand email-only interviews so that they can control the message more tightly. In all cases, this leads to reverse quote-approval: because interviewees can write out exactly what they want and review it before hitting ‘send,’ they can review any and all quotes before they even reach the reporters.

By allowing email interviews, we are failing our readers in our duty to give them quality journalism and not serve merely as a conduit for community PR.

Obviously, this requires a major commitment from our staff to increase training for all reporters to ensure that they are recording interviews, safeguarding against any issues with misquoting. We understand that many of our sources, especially professors and administrators, are extremely busy; we are requiring reporters to give sources sufficient notice to respond to interview requests and be accommodating with their class schedules for sources.

In rare circumstances where a source is out of the country and is unable to do an interview via Skype or other technology, the managing editor of news or editor in chief will approve email interviews on a case-by-case basis.

We will continue to use email for simple inquiries, such as data requests and statements. In the past, we have attributed all email responses as “wrote in an email to The Daily.” From now on, we will treat anything in an email as its true nature, a press release, attributing it as “wrote in a statement.”

We have already discussed this policy and received very positive reactions with campus leaders in Residential Education and Residential & Dining Enterprises, two of the departments we interview the most.
To our trusted sources, we hope this is the start of a more personal relationship as we both work to serve the community. To our readers, we hope you see the difference in our reporting and in the quality of access we have, as we constantly work to produce better content for you.


Billy Gallagher

President and editor in chief, Vol. CCXLII

Billy Gallagher is a senior staff writer at The Stanford Daily. He has previously worked at The Daily as editor in chief, a managing editor of news, news desk editor, sports desk editor and staff development editor. He is a junior from Villanova, PA majoring in Economics. He is also a writer for TechCrunch.

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