Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

Always get tape

Jerry Stratton, September 25, 2014

Over on Bloomberg View, Megan McArdle has some very good advice on handling interviews by way of Ed Driscoll, which boils down to don’t and if you do, get tape. She focuses on The Daily Show, which is well-known for its clown-nose-on, clown-nose-off style of ransom-note interviews. But it applies everywhere.

I once had an interview with a reporter from the San Diego Union-Tribune about my writing about self-defense issues on the Internet. This was back in the nineties, when just having a web presence was noteworthy. My last—and, it turns out, only—interview was from the eighties, when just owning a computer and making it do things was newsworthy.1

The Union-Tribune interview came shortly after I purchased my first video camera. I was kind of stoked on the video camera purchase—the cheapest digital video camera I could find in 1998—and was using it all the time. I thought it would be cool to record the interview for myself.

When the nice old lady from the Tribune walked into my apartment and saw the camera, it was like showing a cross to a vampire. I swear to god, in my memory she arched and hissed.

I originally wouldn’t have cared one way or the other about recording it, but the way she acted and the logic she used for not wanting to be recorded made me more and more adamant that the interview was going to be recorded or it wasn’t going to be done.

She just kept going on and on about how I could trust her notes, how she was a professional and would never misquote me. “I’ve got a notepad,” she said, “and I take careful notes.” She assured me that I didn’t have to worry about being misquoted.

Well, I never even said I was worried about being misquoted, but now that you mention it… the more intensely she tried to convince me to not record the interview, the more I thought I needed to. I finally told her that I simply would not do the interview unless I taped it. She agreed, and I turned the video camera on.

At the end of the interview, she claimed she thought I’d said the opposite, and that when I turned the video camera on, I had really turned it off. And that I could solve the whole thing by giving her the tape. I refused again, and that was the end of it; there was no newspaper article, at least, not with me. She was so afraid of me having tape that she, after performing the interview, never used it. She was more afraid of the camera than she was of the handgun, which she continually asked me to display unsafely for her photographer.2

“You can trust me, you don’t need proof.” That’s the cry from the media every time a new survey shows we don’t trust them. They have training, they’re professionals, it’s their job… it is their job, but it doesn’t matter without tape. If they really were doing their job, they wouldn’t care if someone wants to verify it by getting their own tape.

  1. Well, I was possibly the first teen in town to have one and sell programs, albeit only to magazines. It was a small town.

  2. Eventually we compromised on laying it on my desk in front of the computer I used for blogging, although it might not have been called blogging yet at the time.

  1. <- Devils to the left and right
  2. Confirmation journalism ->