….when you can just stitch together the best bits of what they told other people? Johann Hari – much admired Independent writer – has been passing off quotes given to other publications as genuine quotes from interviews he’s conducted for the paper. He’s written an explanation for this “interview etiquette” saying it’s perfectly legitimate because interviewees often write more coherently than they speak. Erm, yes, Mr Hari, that tends to be the case. So if that’s what you believe, why are you bothering to go to the trouble of meeting them and speaking to them in the first place? Why not just create your “intellectual portrait” out of their best quotes. Only don’t call it an “interview.”
The whole point of an interview, surely, is to add something new to what we already know about a person. It’s also about the relationship that develops between the interviewee and the journalist – which can be illuminating about both. If an interviewee is being annoyingly incoherent, then it’s fine to say so, isn’t it? Perhaps there’s an interesting reason the journalist can tell us about. Is the interviewee hungover, unhappy, distracted, in a bad mood. That’s the kind of stuff I want from an interview. I can get the best quotes from Wikipedia.