Tuesday, March 08, 2005

I don’t even miss the naked women (too much)

Posted by Craig Westover | 12:20 PM |  

Doug Williams is stealing the thunder of the slow-moving mainstream media by pioneering the concept of the blog interview, having expanded from interviewing local bloggers (Mitch Berg, King Banaian) to landing an interview with Attorney General candidate Jeff Johnson.

The “Bogus Gold Interview” may not have the eye candy of the “Playboy Interview,” but Doug’s work is revealing new territory for bloggers and sooner or late somebody is going to let slip the “lust in his heart,” and the blog interview will have come of age.

Doug is doing a great job with his questions. His line of questions with Johnson about the tobacco lawsuits yielded some great insight into Johnson’s approach to the AG’s office. I liked his questioning Johnson about what books he’s read -- that was a question I always asked of people I interviewed for jobs back in my corporate days. I would have liked to see him follow-up “and what did you learn from that book.” A tip -- that question yields some revealing answers.

With a foot in both the blog and MSM worlds, I have a couple of observations for blogger/interviewers.

First, don’t be afraid to insert yourself into your interviews. You’re not just the ears of your readers; you are their eyes. Taking Doug’s interview of Johnson as an example, I got an excellent idea about how Johnson feels about issues and some insight into his character. But I’ve never met the man, Doug has, and I would have liked his observations and perceptions.

What did the man’s office look like? Anything that intimated his answers in the interview, or anything that contradicted them? What was his manner? Was he cordial or abrupt? Nervous or self-assured? The point is, an interviewer is more than a scribe; he’s a proxy observer for the reader. Fill that role.

Second, think about being a blogger. Somebody like Johnson is going be interviewed hundreds of times between now and the election and using the old 80/20 rule, 20 percent of the questions will be asked 80 percent of the time. Think about what questions you as a blogger can ask that the mainstream media can’t or won’t, but that are important.

I thought Doug’s questions about the tobacco settlement vis a vis a contrast with Hatch were on the right track. Not a lot of mainstream media guys would go there that quickly.

Another key point for blogger/interviewers is timeframe thinking. Mainstream media interviews are done for tomorrow’s paper or tonight’s news. Blogs are forever. Doug made a point today that his interview can be resurrected closer to the election when there’s more interest. He’s right -- which implies that a blog interview would best serve providing information with a shelf life rather than (necessarily) immediacy.

That brings me to my main point. In my community columnist days I wrote a column emphasizing that understanding a political candidate’s personal philosophy and philosophy of government is more important that knowing precisely where he or she stands on specific issues. I think that’s an area for blogger/interviewers to explore.

Understanding political philosophy isn’t something MSM reporters overly concern themselves with. It’s important. It has shelf life. And it is something that should a candidate be less than truthful about, can come back to haunt.

Again, kudos to Doug for blazing the trail and to pols like Jeff Johnson (by way of aide Larry Colson) for recognizing blogs as a viable and valuable medium.