Is Journalism Ready For the “Open Interview”?

Would you ever let a subject put your interview on Youtube for everyone to see? That’s what Chad Witacre, the founder of online gift exchange program Gittip requests for each and every one of his interviews — something he likes to call an “Open Interview.”

The philosophy behind an open interview, to Witacre, is supremely simple: as a transparent company with an accessible open source API and clear funding partners, it only makes sense to bring out discussions with the media to the general Internet community and ensure users that there’s literally nothing to hide.

“With journalists I’m much more comfortable requesting openness,” Witacre writes in his article on Medium. “They’re writing for the public record, and it benefits readers and keeps us both honest to have the raw material on record as well.”

But that honesty drove TechCrunch away from going forward with an interview request, simply because the reporter did not want his questions broadcasted to the general public.

The sense of propriety over information is an increasingly tender topic for journalists, especially those who conduct their work almost exclusively online. With every single journalist crowding onto Twitter to “break” news and find exclusive or original information, it can be hard for a journalist to essentially turn over hard-earned quotes in the interest of openness. Even worse, the desire to scoop other outlets can be a real threat — who is stopping a competitor from watching the interview and then writing a story herself?

In terms of the scoop excuse, Witacre isn’t convinced.

“How would publishing a raw interview threaten a journalist’s scoop? I think it’s important here to see the distinction between ‘open’ and ‘recognized.'” Witacre writes. “A raw hour-long YouTube video is going to get no traffic compared to a published article.”

It’s a sensitive subject to tackle, but one that will become increasingly more important as digital journalism grows and changes. If more startups desire transparency with their users and want to use open interviews to make it happen, then it might mean reevaluating what makes a story valuable in this day and age. And in the world where many outlets simply chug along regurgitating information from other places, is there really such a thing as an exclusive quote?

From the looks of it, not many corners of the journalism world are ready for the open interview: there’s too much at stake in handing over information to the greater public. But perhaps, down the road, we’ll be able to use open interviews as a way of accountability or a new strategy for involving readers.

What do you think of the idea of an open interview? Let us know in the comments.