I recently read Wired magazine’s “Sore Subject” (October 20, 2012), a report and editorial response addressing every journalist’s worst fear: doubt. At issue is an article by Noah Shachtman. The piece, “Russia’s Top Cyber Sleuth Foils US Spies, Helps Kremlin Pals,” profiles Eugene Kaspersky, creator of the Kaspersky internet security software.
Here is what can happen to interview subjects once they’ve read through your published account. Cries of foul, misquotes and inaccuracies emerge and get thrown about. That is precisely the situation in Kaspersky versus Shachtman. Most interesting in this case? How the magazine weighed in. Wired deftly presented points of argument from first, the “Russian security-software magnate” Kaspersky, followed by highlights of Shachtman’s blogged response.
The lesson: record that interview. Sure, you might think it’s a good habit to send the draft copy of your article to your subjects for preview (uh, why?) but first, understand people’s tendency to suffer sober second thoughts. It’s a natural inclination for interview subjects to reconsider what they said. More often than not, they’ll ponder long and hard, especially after people start reacting to their words.
Given that natural instinct, a recording clears up that fog, where sober second thoughts wander ironically in confusion. Faced with the very serious accusation of misquoting, a journalist gets to say: “You said it. I wrote it, I recorded it. Here it is.”
If—in addition to your pages of short-hand scribbles—a recording exists, then managing editors need only request a listen of what was said. As it turns out, Wired stands by its writer, going so far as to state: “Wired believes that Shachtman’s story is fair and accurate.”
Did Shachtman, a seasoned journalist, record his interview with Kaspersky? Did he quote the man from recordings? I don’t know. But if a digital version of that contested interview does exist, then a publication can easily settle the dispute standing by what was said and not by what was meant.
Penned by Saada STYLO © 2012