Being a journalist is hard. Being a journalist trying to interview people in other countries is harder. Being a journalist trying to interview someone in Yemen is turning out to be even harder.
I got in touch with a reporter for the Yemen Times and he got back to me a few days later. That’s the good part. The not-s0-good part is that he doesn’t have the time to do a phone interview (and I don’t have the money for it, either) or a Skype interview. From my personal experience, I doubt he has access to Skype because I know it is blocked in some Middle East countries (goddammit, Oman).
We’re taught in the J-school to avoid email interviews at all costs. I would argue that email interviews are just as viable as a phone interview.
Argument: Their response to your questions could just be PR.
Counter: Valid. But if you’ve been in regular contact with the person you want to talk to, you should have a good grasp of his or her language style. Besides, you can take a fairly educated guess at who did the typing based on how long it took them to respond and the word-choice. That’s your cue to reword the question and ask it again. Don’t let it go. And if it is a contentious question, ask it again when all your other questions have been answered satisfactorily. Or keep that one question for a quick phone call.
Argument: The person being interviewed has time to review their answers and censor themselves if needed.
Counter: Also valid. But again, if they responded immediately, they likely did not censor themselves. Besides, the person is media-savvy, they would have been careful with their words regardless of which medium was used to interview them.
Argument: You can’t pick up on body language, tone and intonations.
Counter: I think a person’s word choice in emails is very telling of their tone and impression they are trying to create. But, I have no solid counter-argument.
2 to 1. I think email interviews should not be considered a bad option. Sometimes on a deadline, email is all you have. Or sometimes, when the person is in a country stuck in a civil war, email is all you can get.