Stilted? Forthcoming?

Journos are still trying to figure out how to handle sources who, à la Eggers, only communicate via E-mail.

As we have seen, sources are under the impression they are writing a deposition and can never be edited. Invariably, they write either AOL-style or in stiff hypercorrectness.

The fussy little men over at Slate (NUblog passim) are all chuffed at incorporating the equivalent of live news feeds into the delicate glass menagerie of their writing style.

Anyway, we can spot an E-mail quote a mile away. And they are usually not identified as such. We consider this a minor journalistic sin, far down the evolutionary scale from, say, refusing to note that a quotation derives from an undercover wiretap but residing on that axis nonetheless.

(One humdinger of an example: Steve Ballmer. Oy!)

Or is our opinion in the minority?

And E-mail does have its advantages. For one thing, it’s practically impossible to misquote someone. [Some soon-to-be-jobless nabob], editor of’s technology and business section, also believes some sources are more forthcoming or express stronger opinions in writing, contrary to the idea that written responses are stilted or more measured. “Some people might be more candid when they’re typing,” agrees [some] sports columnist [or other] at the Dallas Morning News, when they aren’t being grilled by an unfamiliar voice over the phone.

Certainly the change in voice in online discourse is well-known. It is so well-known we covered it back in 1994. Yet again, journos carry on in ignorance of our grand history of trailblazing electronic journalism.

From that history, we know what works for us: Lining up a phoner by E-mail, and using the latter to clear up factual errors later on.

How oldschool.

Posted on 2001-07-02