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eScotty
08-29-2005, 02:56 AM
Help!
A week ago, I began interviewing the first of 20 people I'm planning to profile in a non-fiction business book. He asked, before the interview began, if he could see the finished chapter. I said that would not be kosher. He nodded, and joked that he could always sue me if he didn't like what came out in the wash. Everything seemed fine. We then did 2 hours of the interview. We were to do another two hours next week. But I guess later he had second thoughts about how loose his lips were. So he emailed me, saying that he would not participate further unless I agree to let him see the chapter about him prior to publication and allow him to suggest any appropriate changes--which I would be free to reject, as he would not have a veto.

So the dilemma is whether to agree to his conditions--against which every journalistic bone in my body protests--and get the remainder of the interview from him, or to refuse, and risk having him walk away from the tape-recorder. I should say that, while the first two hours were useful, the second two hours are crucial to having a full profile of his career.

With 20 chapters for 20 persons, no single interviewee is crucial to this book. Any one of them can be replaced. So I can risk losing him without rising the viability of the project. But he is one of the most interesting subjects and the best in his field.

But even more troubling than losing him is the concern that others may make similar demands of me. If I hold the line on "no peeking," others may walk away. I could then wind up losing participants to the point where the project would be compromised. On the other hand, if everyone who asks for a sneak peek is given one, that could be seen as selling out the integrity of the project--or would it? All my instincts tell me not to show chapters in advance of publication, but perhaps a journalist's instincts are not appropriate to an "author."

Your comments, pls…

eScotty

September skies
10-13-2005, 09:42 PM
Help!
With 20 chapters for 20 persons, no single interviewee is crucial to this book. Any one of them can be replaced. So I can risk losing him without rising the viability of the project. But he is one of the most interesting subjects and the best in his field.

But even more troubling than losing him is the concern that others may make similar demands of me. If I hold the line on "no peeking," others may walk away. I could then wind up losing participants to the point where the project would be compromised. On the other hand, if everyone who asks for a sneak peek is given one, that could be seen as selling out the integrity of the project--or would it? All my instincts tell me not to show chapters in advance of publication, but perhaps a journalist's instincts are not appropriate to an "author." eScotty

Oh my. I always hated that part of journalism. I run into so many who are pushy. In my situation, my newspaper editor always told us that there are plenty of others to interview, so if we have to, go to someone else.

In your situation, you say that the info is not crucial to the viability of the project....yet, he is one of the most interesting and the best in his field.

Have you tried meeting him at middle ground? Tell him you would like to have him included in the story but that you can not show him the final chapter. BUT, you are willing to email him a copy of any direct quote that you may use, or any figures or important data, for him to review. Just show him parts of it.

I have found that a lot of people are just afraid that they may say something that comes across as "not intelligent enough" or may sound stupid. (though I hate it when they try to talk in fancy words.) Maybe he just needs some reassuring.

You'd be surprised how many people actually are ok with it if you stand your ground. And, I usually end with a smile and "You're just going to have to trust me."

If he still insists on seeing the story, then only you can make that decision. But I would say it is not wise. Good luck to you.

In fact, just last week, I went against my norm. One person insisted on seeing what I was writing. I went round and round with her and finally, since this was for an advertising story (free advertising, she wasn't paying for it) I went ahead and sent her a rough draft of my story. She wrote through it and marked it all up and faxed it back. Changing areas where I referred to her by last name (which we do in newsprint) to her first name. Adding info about her two sons' schools (which had absolutely nothing to do with the story) and other ridiculous things. (like adding "wonderful" to her husband's description and "she said excitedly"...things like that.) I was so frustrated. I looked through it and took a quote she had (mainly to please her, not me. Her first quote sounded better, but she insisted she had said it wrong) and then emailed her a quick note telling her that I got her email and was changing the quote to the way she wanted it but that the other changes she suggested were not practical for newsprint. But that the story was fine and she was just going to have to trust me on it. In hindsight, I should have stuck to my guns and done what I always do. No one sees the story before it prints.

September

Alphabet
10-17-2005, 02:15 AM
Umm, it seems to me that this isn't a newspaper article and so I'm not sure 'you can't see it' is at all reasonable.

There is no way that I would ever accept 'you'll just have to trust me' from anyone I didn't personally know or have sufficient experience of. I'd say, 'ok, well I don't, goodbye!' I can't imagine that a business expert in any field was going to feel differently - after all, business savvy is their area of expertise.

Perhaps you've done books like this before that you can point to to show how well you treat your subjects?

Presumably you'd have to explain that last draft occurs very late in the production cycle, so he might have to see a non-final version, or accept a very tight deadline in which to review it before publication since you couldn't vouch any copy shown sooner would remain unchanged.

Nevertheless, good luck to you about it. I hope you will let us know how it pans out.

DonnaReed
02-03-2006, 01:55 PM
I wouldn't allow anybody to publish an interview with me without seeing it first before it goes to publication.