Washington Post economic and domestic policy blogger Ezra Klein has called for newspapers to make full interview transcripts available online, where there are not the traditional space restrictions of a print edition.
Klein cites last week’s New York Times article on Paul Volcker, which is “clearly and proudly set around a wide-ranging, on-the-record interview with Volcker himself”:
But that interview, aside from a few isolated quotes, is nowhere to be found. This is a baffling waste of good information. Reporters are endlessly interviewing newsmakers and then using, at most, a handful of lines out of thousands of words. The paper, of course, may not have room for thousands of words of interview transcripts, but the web certainly does.
Klein’s comments echo those of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who criticised the media on Friday for not making use of the huge amount of space available online to make primary source material more readily available.
The main issue for Klein, like Assange, seems to be one of transparency, especially for the interviewee:
It’s safer to have your full comments, and the questions that led to them, out in the open, rather than just the lines the author thought interesting enough to include in the article.
“And for the institution itself,” writes Klein, “it’s a no-brainer. You get a lot more inward links if you provide enough transcript that every niche media site can find something to point their readers toward.”
But news organisations considering such a move would have to weigh any potential increase in traffic – and any respect garnered by increased openness – with what is surely, for most, an unwelcome level of transparency. To say nothing of having to transcribe the hours and hours of interviews conducted by a newspaper such as the New York Times.
It is an interesting question for online journalism nonetheless. With programmes like the Open Government Data Initiative tipping more and more raw materials into the internet, will news organisations benefit overall from taking the same open approach?