The latest reporter to decline his offer said she didn’t want the story “out there” before it ran in her paper. I have a different theory: she doesn’t want to lose her control over the way Hugh’s comments are portrayed to the public. I have discussed this issue in detail previously, in this post.
I added in a postscript:
Hugh could establish for us which theory is right by agreeing not to run the interview live, but insisting on taping and broadcasting the whole thing.
Linda Seebach, columnist for the Rocky Mountain News, has written me to explain why she would never take Hugh up on his offer. She has authorized me to post her e-mail — which is, I think, consistent with my postscript:
In the specific circumstances Hugh describes, I’d have to refuse his offer too. Transparency is not a problem. Anyone who interviews me is welcome to tape the interview. (In Colorado, he doesn’t even need to tell me he’s doing that.) People who come in for editorial board meetings do sometimes tape them, though we normally don’t unless we plan to publish a transcript.
Reporters are encouraged to tape interviews; some do, some don’t.
If someone invites me to be an on-the-air guest, that’s fine too; I think the first time I ever did that was in 1993, and I show up now and again on one of the public-affairs programs on local television. The editorial page editor does a fair amount of talk radio; the editor/publisher is interviewed all the time. We have no objection to being recorded.
But “live,” that is contemporaneously, is a sticking point if I am the one doing the reporting. We have competition, and if I am working on something the Denver Post does not know about, I sure don’t want them to find out because they can hear what questions I’m asking my sources before I publish.
And embargoes (e.g., “we’ll give you an interview today on the grounds that you won’t publish before our official press conference”) would be problematic because a big reporting project can take weeks or months. When the earliest interviews are done the publication date isn’t even known yet.
Well, I think that’s quite reasonable — and I think the key point is Seebach’s statement: “Transparency is not a problem. Anyone who interviews me is welcome to tape the interview.” It sounds as though, as long as Hugh were to promise not to broadcast the interview before the story ran, there should be no problem with his taping an interview and later playing it on his show.
One more point: Hugh’s demand comes in the context of journalists seeking to interview him about John Roberts. It’s hard to imagine that any journalist would refuse to be taped out of a concern that another journalist will find out they are doing background research on a Supreme Court nominee.
Any other journalists want to weigh in on this issue?