Wednesday, April 6, 2016

LESSON LEARNED (yet once again)

My rule:  Never, ever, let the subject (interviewee) see a draft of your story.

Several times in my career, this has happened and most of the time it can be disastrous, adding more work, headache, and time.  Let me explain.

Case in point. This just happened with a heterosexual couple I interviewed who are both actors. I will explain later why it’s necessary to use the term “heterosexual.”

When I interviewed the couple at their home, they presented themselves as open and free ~ or at least this is how I perceived them. A week later I was approached by their publicist who explained that they were not offended by some of my questions, but had some doubts as to “what” kind of story I was writing. They asked to see a copy. My managing editor submitted it.

I learned long ago not to do this as it jeopardizes the integrity of the writer and can result in the “sanitization” of the piece. This happened back in the early 90s when I was writing my gay role model book, STRAIGHT OUT. I interviewed Don Bachardy and he asked to read the piece. This rookie journalist acquiesced. Don returned 5 pages of meticulous edits!

Oftentimes, the interviewee will say things during an interview that they later regret or ponder why they even said such and such. This is normal for anyone.  My gift is that I possess an air of trust and am easy to talk with.  The couple revealed things that they only wanted to stay in the living room but . . . I am a journalist.

During the interview with the acting couple, I asked: “What celebrity would you like to have wild animal sex with?”  They squirmed, paused, then decided not to answer. That’s fine. It was an inappropriate question for them. I’m not used to interviewing straight couples, or any couples, for that matter.  I commonly pose this question to men – gay or straight – and there’s never an issue.

After the couple saw the early draft of the story, they handed back their edits ~ with the zealous help, I’m sure, of their publicist. Arguably, some edits were appropriate. But they overstepped their bounds, changing adverbs and adjectives which described my impressions of them. They wanted to present themselves in the light THEY saw themselves, not the writer.  The piece was compromised. 

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