I find myself doing interviews by email on occasion, or at least getting the preliminaries out of the way electronically, rather than by phone or in person. Sometimes I use email not because of distance, but because of the interview subject’s desire to prepare in advance. They’re afraid of not “knowing” the answers on the phone, so they’ll ask for a few questions up front, especially if they’re not used to talking to a writer. That’s true when I’m wearing my magazine-journalist hat or my corporate-communications one.
When I need to interview someone in a faraway time zone, email can be very handy, particularly when you add a language barrier to the time difference. Right now I’m trying to write an article about a client site in France. If we had to stumble through the interview over the phone, each of us speaking a foreign tongue, it would be disastrous. (In my case, I might be able to ask the questions, but I probably wouldn’t understand the answers. When things are in writing, you have time to translate.)
If you are using email as an interview tool, check out Kim Hart’s article, InBox Journalism, in the American Journalism Review.
Hat tip to Amy Gahran at the Contentious blog.