Media and Advertising

How the New York Times conducts an interview

How do western news organizations get such great quotes from their Chinese sources? Linghu Lei, creative director at New Weekly and founder of the online magazine Rocky Week (home of The iPod Times), describes a telephone interview he had with a New York Times reporter:

So this is how the New York Times conducts an interview

Unexpectedly, I received an interview call from the New York Times today. The theme was "How to you perceive the entrance of Vogue and other western fashion magazines into China?"

Reading the New York Times in the past, I had always felt that their reports were not only outstanding, but that the material and the reaction of the interviewee worked together to serve the content of the article - it's not easy to achieve this. When this kind of narrative + interview is written in the domestic media, you get answers to questions you haven't asked, or the answers the interviewee gives are not really in accordance the perspective and outlook you had planned for the article.

During the interview process today, the reporter from the New York Times first spoke a good deal about why he wanted to do the interview, and then after I had answered the first question, he said that he "identified" with my viewpoint and felt that it was "special." Then he said, "Your viewpoint is extremely close to what I want to communicate with in article," and wanted me to discuss it further. To express this identification that he felt toward my viewpoint, I elaborated on the point I had just mentioned in passing, and then expanded a bit on his viewpoint. Then he echoed my viewpoint. During this process of communication, the New York Times reporter always led me to understand that what I said was precisely what he needed for his article. My viewpoint supported his argument exactly. So unwittingly I became his news spokesperson. At the end, for the final question, the reporter summarized our entire "discussion" and asked me if I agreed - at this point, there was no way I could deny what I had just said, so - right, "that's correct."

The reporter seemed satisfied that he had obtained all of the viewpoints he needed for "the article he wanted to write," and he said "Thank you" and hung up. This, then, is a New York Times interview.

--written 12 September

See this and related posts at Language Log for a further analysis of the phenomenon.

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