I would not like to send you questions

“Would you like to send me some questions?” Actually no, I would rather not send you questions before I interview you.

I get that some people want to understand a journalists “angle” before they begin, but I also understand how human minds work. There are two things which can go terribly wrong when I send you written questions in advance, namely:

  1. You will infer bias because written communication has no tone of voice or body language, which make up the majority of how we communicate, and thus you will unconsciously insert in that huge gap whatever your past experience suggests is my likely agenda, or, even worse,
  2. important information will never be revealed because you carefully and narrowly answered the questions I presented, likely because being interviewed makes you nervous.

These are two sides of the same coin. If I send questions ahead, I am aware that it’s likely I will learn nothing which isn’t laid out in those questions; I must therefore make them as broad as I possibly can to combat the narrow responses which naturally follow. That can feel overwhelming, and lead folks who are already uncomfortable talking to a reporter to feel defensive and search for clues as to my hidden agenda.

The truth is that my angle, my agenda, is the find out what I need to know to write an accurate story that helps readers understand what’s going on. Journalists are not subject-matter experts, and regularly must bring ourselves up to speed on a completely unfamiliar topic. That isn’t going to happen when we send questions in advance, because we don’t necessarily know enough to know what to ask.

Even asking, “Is there anything you were hoping I would ask that would help me understand this better?” doesn’t help; in well over 90% of interviews I’m told no, there’s nothing more.

What would I rather do? Have a conversation, a form of communication which is much older, and thus suits our species better. My interviews are often spirit-led, and I consciously choose to enter a state of worship when I am conducting one. This is to help me to be fully present and listen with all of myself, to what is said without words. Tone of voice, pauses, volume also communicate. Even those who don’t feel they have strong verbal skills are excellent interview subjects, but I often don’t know what I will ask until I absorb that non-verbal information.

If push comes to shove and my subject won’t budge, I’d rather send one question at a time. Any more presumes I know enough to get into depth, and the result is the kind of superficial treatment of a subject that makes people mistrustful of reporters. It’s an ugly cycle.

Asking for questions in advance is an attempt to control the information that’s revealed. Instead, I suggest that if one does not wish to reveal some tidbit, one simply does not. This is country is not run by some jurisdocracy, a government of attorneys, by attorneys, and for attorneys. Don’t hide behind an attorney’s tricks. The best way not to comment is by uttering the words, “no comment.”

Be kind

There are many reasons to be angry:

  • those people who aren’t taking this pandemic seriously enough
  • those people who are taking this pandemic too seriously
  • those people you live with whose habits are becoming more irritating every day
  • those people online who are too stupid to live
  • those people who are making terrible decisions about how to manage this crisis
  • those people who are blocking brilliant leadership
  • those people who kept having babies
  • those people who tried eating bats
  • those people who are politicizing everything
  • those people who aren’t willing to just die already
  • those selfish people
  • those greedy people
  • those scared people
  • those people

It matters not what other people believe.  It matters not what you believe.  Be kind today.  There will always be another chance not to be kind, but today, be kind.

Planting prayer for Poseidon

Gentle Ennosigaios,
now we ask you to move the earth.
Not with all the vast power
which rages under roiling brows
of Labrandeus,
nor the tenacious focus
of dashing Prosclystius,
nor any of the many ways
which Pelagaeus could bring to bear.

Subtle Ennosigaios,
now we ask you to move the earth.
With the steadfast resolve
by which Isthmios endures,
with the silence to which Eirḗnē
is eternally inured,
with the fate of all your people,
as Genethlios procures.

Slow-moving Ennosigaios,
now we ask you to move the earth.
Ease the burden of each seed
so that life fulfills its need.
Thus Phytalmius will nourish
and the land again shall flourish.
Ennosigaios, move each pebble
so these crops can prove their mettle.

Praised be Poseidon,
bringer of small shakes and great quakes.

This is included in my book Depth of Praise, which you really ought to own.  Read it, enjoy it, link to it, but do not reproduce it without my written permission.  Thanks for understanding.