Why Q&A Style Interviews are Not True Journalism

Published February 23, 2021 by Maryanne
Photo by Marcel Straub

One of the benefits of being a self-employed writer is you get to pick and choose who you want to write for.

As a professional writer, mainly trained in news journalism, I include the subject’s voice in the content of the story. For example, see my recent articles here: https://maryannechristiano.contently.com/

That’s the preferred way to write for news publications. Oftentimes magazines opt for the Q&A type of interview. I did it myself a few times via blogging, or by special request of an editor or publisher. In this feature blog I wrote a few years ago when I conducted an interview with Coyote Shivers, it was done via email due to time constraints, with him being on the west coast, and me being on the east: https://maryannemistretta.wordpress.com/2015/09/01/dont-believe-a-word-interview-with-coyote-shivers/

That somehow worked, because you can’t go wrong with Coyote Shivers. But often it doesn’t. And here’s why….

When I used to copy edit for The Aquarian Arts Weekly, I wasn’t a fan of reading the Q&A style articles. It cheapens the subject the journalist is writing about and comes across as cold and not as informative. It’s an easy way to get “holes” (missing information) that leaves the reader questioning. This is why I don’t like when subjects say “Email me the questions” unless you’re interviewing a professional who is using medical terms and formulas that only other medical professionals will understand — for example, a trade publication. To chop up an article to a Q&A format so readers can look at it on their phones is not true journalism. I won’t work for any publisher who promotes tainting the art of true journalism.

When “journalists” resort to Q&A “journalism” they think it is cute to insert “um” or “uh” into the article if that is what the subject said. It’s not cute. It’s no fair. Your job, as a journalist, is to bring forth the subject in the best light possible. It’s also your job, as a journalist to ask the subject “Is this ‘on the record’ if they get comfortable with you and share very personal information. Journalism is a responsibility to your subject and your readers. Do it right. Just say “no” to the Q&A format.

I recently wrote a few articles for a publisher. It wasn’t until AFTER I interviewed the subjects and submitted my work that he bitched that it wasn’t in Q&A format. Wow, thanks for telling me that I worked too hard after the fact and that I could have slacked off a bit and you’d be happier with my work. (Note my sarcasm). I told him to “call me.”

When I got him on the phone, I was told that his webmaster said that Q&A format is better for SEO search engines and that people can read articles on their PHONE better with Q&A format. That’s a new one on me. Now journalists have to write in that tacky Q&A format to cater to those who only read on their phones?!

Uh, no. Writing is my art. Tell Freddie Mercury to cut “Bohemian Rhapsody” down to cater to the dullards with weak ears and a short listening span. DUH.

After that conversation, I agree to cut ties with this particular publisher. Yes, I am self-employed, but that doesn’t mean I am desperate. Telling me to write in Q&A style to suit those who read on their phones would be like telling Joe Dispenza to write for the National Enquirer. It would be going backwards. Way backwards.

I worked so hard to make a career in writing. I write because it’s in my heart and soul. I write because it’s in my blood. If I’m going to write articles in Q&A style for a living, I might as well go all out and start getting paid to write product descriptions for Walmart. How heartbreaking would that be?

They say when you do something you love, you never work a day in your life. I stand by that wholeheartedly. But “never working a day in your life” doesn’t mean doing sloppy, easy work that you are not proud of. I could never be proud writing article after article Q&A style. It would be like cutting my arm off. Just thinking about it brings a tear to my eye. That’s why I’m a writer. I am sensitive and protective of my muse. And I always will be. When publishers hire me, they will get my best. If they want me to perform my worst in order to get their SEO searches up, I am out the door.

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta can be reached at: maryannechristiano@gmail.com.

She is available for blogging, ghost writing, writing. She is also available for book signings and motivational speaking engagements (via ZOOM during covid). She is now coaching aspiring writers via ZOOM.

Maryanne is the author of the following books:

“Be (Extra)Ordinary: 10 Ways to Become Your Own Hero” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback or Kindle version, visit:Be (Extra)Ordinary

“I Don’t Want to Be Like You” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback, Kindle or audio copy, go here: I Don’t Want To Be Like You

Her fiction book “Love Cats” second printing is now available, under the pen name Krystianna Mercury, from Pink Flamingo. You can purchase it here: Love Cats

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