No, you can't read the article before it posts

press badges Bob Brown

Many times over the years I've had interview subjects ask -- usually after an interview has been conducted -- whether they can see the resulting article before it publishes. The answer is always no, though if it's a topic I'm new to or uncomfortable with, I might double-check on a quote or two.

I was recently asked, before an interview, if I'd show any resulting post to the interview subject before it published. She said she started making this sort of request after being the victim of mistakes in articles. This popular and carefully marketed subject, who has established a size-able following online, assured me that "some very large publications" (most I'd never heard of because they are focused on a niche I don't follow closely, but one big tech-oriented website that I do know) have allowed her such access. I don't doubt that this is true, but I still declined to grant such a preview.

FUN: Head-spinning history of the Propeller Beanie

The request did get me thinking though that interviewee expectations might be getting reset as new journalists, such as those blogging about niche topics, play by different rules than traditional journalists who wouldn't think of previewing articles for interview subjects. Interview subjects might also get look-sees from those who generate content for native advertising campaigns or those who write for corporate websites. 

It's not like I don't understand the concerns of interview subjects:  I've been misquoted myself, and every time I am interviewed, I get nervous about how it will turn out. After all, I've had a front row seat at the story-making sausage factory for years now.

Sometimes you say things that just don't sound right when you see them in print, online or in audio or video (I recall being introduced to this as a young man when I was quoted referring to my parents as "my folks," a term I've just never used. Not a big deal, but it stuck with me that journalists do sometimes hear what they want to hear). 

Sometimes the reporter or editor misinterprets something, especially if the subject matter is technical. And these days, while fixes can be made on the fly to online content, that content can also travel far and fast on social media and search engines even if a fix is made quickly.

But the drawbacks to giving an interview subject access to an article before it publishes are obvious. Once they get in there, they're going to want to change more than just factual information. They're going to want to change tone. The message. The commas... In other words, they're going to want to turn it into a press release.

So, in the end, I might need to bail on a story or two. But at least I won't be issuing press releases under the guise of news articles.

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