Thursday, October 30, 2003

Questioning and Answering

Pardon me while I jump on the Testy Copy Editors bandwagon. Debate erupted on that board about “question” and “answer” features. One side says the device is lazy. Another says, hey, readers like it.

I admit: I have put together a Q&A, many years ago now. At the time, I thought it novel and a way out of having to write a coherent story.

Today, I think it clichéd. It remains a way to avoid coherency.

The problem: Most people can’t say enough interesting things to justify the format. If you interview someone for 30 minutes and distill their comments to a couple of quotes, you have a shot at pithiness.

Use that interview as the sole material for a block of text and you’re asking for problems. In the trenchant phrase of Phillip Blanchard:

“Q&As are more stenography than journalism.”

Blunt, yes. True, also.