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Email Interviews Have Their Place:
6 Times For Writers To Use Email

Copyright: Melissa Barton – All rights reserved


 

Many veteran journalists warn new freelancers and staff writers not to use email to interview sources. Email interviews can be stilted, awkward, confusing (if the subject isn't comfortable with writing), or even too polished. It's also harder to have a natural conversation through email, which can restrict the direction of an interview.

But there are times when an email interview is acceptable, or even a better option than a traditional phone or face-to-face interview.

1. Avoid time zone conflicts. For one article, I had to interview a Peace Corps member serving in Albania, while I was in Colorado. Trying to coordinate a phone conversation given the timeframe would have been difficult. Fortunately, my source was articulate in writing and could access email a few times a week. The interview and follow-up went well.

2. Confirm complex information. When interviewing scientists, lawyers, or other experts about complex topics, it can be helpful to conduct part of the interview by email. Seeing the explanation in writing can help you avoid errors. Email is also a good tool for confirming your understanding of a telephone or in person interview.

3. Get background. If you know your verbal interview will have a strict time limit, you can email the source a list of questions to answer first. This can be a good way to get background that will ensure the interview flows smoothly and you doesn't waste time covering basic questions.

4. Answer quick follow-up questions. Some sources are difficult to reach by phone after an interview. Email works well for quick follow-up questions and clarifications.

5. Interview writers. While many people are more articulate and "quotable" in person, some people--like bloggers and other writers--may interview better over email or an instant messaging program. Be careful using these interviews--these people can sometimes be too polished in writing.

6. Interview a hearing- and/or speech-impaired source. I once received an assignment (later changed) to interview a hearing- and speech-impaired priest who lived in another state--in cases like this, email is often the only practical way to get the interview done.

Telephone and face-to-face interviews offer gesture, tone, and flexibility email doesn't--but keep email in mind as an occasional tool in your interviewing kit.

 

About the author: Melissa Barton is a freelance writer and editor, specializing in science and travel writing. She's written about science and health for magazines like Geotimes, Transitions Abroad, Student Health 101, and other publications. Visit her online at Rosetta Stones Freelancing

 
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Melissa_Barton
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         Last updated: March 30, 2007