Can I interview on a cell phone?
April 8, 2007 7:53 PM   Subscribe

Is it considered rude to conduct a press interview by cell phone? (I'm the writer, not the subject.)

I'm about to start writing some freelance articles for my previous employer. I'll try to do all interviews at night and on the weekends, but if I have to schedule an interview during my lunch hour, is it considered bad manners to conduct the interview on a cell phone?

My cell phone rarely cuts out, but I don't want to come across as unprofessional if someone can tell I'm sitting in a parking garage on my phone. Or is everyone so time-crunched these days that it seems natural one would interview someone on a cell?

On a related note, does anyone know if there's a recording device one can attach to a cell phone to record the interview. (I'll ask, of course, for permission to record beforehand.)

posted by faunafrailty to Writing & Language (18 answers total)
I've been interviewed by cell by New York Times reporters, so take that for what it's worth.
posted by spitbull at 8:02 PM on April 8, 2007

My cellphone can record conversations. It's a pretty no-frills phone from Sprint.

My boss(es) would notice that you're on a cell phone but they wouldn't care at all. (I work for comedians and they are all interviewed pretty frequently.)
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 8:03 PM on April 8, 2007

I talk to the press/am interviewed every week and I'm on my mobile phone 50% of the time and I'd guess the reporter is on their mobile about 25% of the time. It's not a problem provided you have a decent connection.

If you'd like to record a conversation it's standard practice to ask first.
posted by donovan at 8:06 PM on April 8, 2007

I think most people would understand that journalism is an on-the-go type of profession and that cellphones are ubiquitous in today's world. So, no, it's not rude. Sometimes that's the only way two people can catch each other.
posted by Brittanie at 8:11 PM on April 8, 2007

Although I would still tell them, just casually and in case of static, that you are on your celly.
posted by Brittanie at 8:13 PM on April 8, 2007

It's not rude, but keep in mind, you'll be missing many unspoken things that you might like to capture for your article. For example, you'll miss the subject's body language, miss what his/her office looks like, miss the fact that they have a cluttered/spotless desk, etc. These little items will have an impact on your writing and add value to your article, especially if the point of the article is to reflect the person's personality (which is itself reflected by the subject's surroundings).

You should never interview by phone when in-person is available and reasonable to achieve. But other than that, there's nothing inherently wrong with an interview by phone.
posted by frogan at 8:20 PM on April 8, 2007

who has a land line any more?
cel interviews are totally acceptable (i've conducted quite a few).
just find a quiet spot with good reception.
posted by twistofrhyme at 8:42 PM on April 8, 2007

Totally acceptable, as long as you have a decent phone. However, let them know your number so they can call you back if your line cuts out (and make sure you know theirs).
posted by acoutu at 8:51 PM on April 8, 2007

I second frogan. It's s.o.p., but lazy as hell. Of course, as a photojournalist, I have to do what I do in-person. I can't count how many times I've gone out on an assignment where the writer couldn't be bothered to show up, only to get some of the choicest quotes or new key information for the story.
posted by TheGoldenOne at 9:13 PM on April 8, 2007

Just as you try to conduct regular land line interviews in a quiet place where there will be no interruptions, you should also be aware of your environment when doing an interview with your cell. In other words, try to find a spot where it's quiet and your connectivity isn't going to be a problem.

And I must disagree with frogan and TheGoldenOne. Yes, in-person interviews are generally best, but there are times and places for phoners. You, I'm guessing, already know that and don't need to be told.
posted by brina at 9:26 PM on April 8, 2007

Best answer: I've been interviewed by cell phone a bunch of time (I am one of those people with a land line) and I'd agree with what people have said here generally

- cell phones are fine, and expected
- make sure people know you're on a cell and say you'll call back if you're disconnected
- don't do the interview while you're messing about doing something else (driving, making lunch, etc)
- don't put somone on cell phone speaker phone, that sucks ass
- if the conversation is staticky and/or diffcult, offer to call back when you have a better connection and/or from a land line.

The only problem I've had is that rarely someone will call me on a bad cell phone, or with bad reception. I'm a little hard of hearing and so I'll usually mention a few times "Hey can you speak up or switch to a different phone, I can't hear what you're saying." Most of the time this isn't a problem, occasionally it's a problem (in that the person calling me says they can't do anything about it and I'll just have to manage) and I find this pretty lousy, so just an opening "I'm on my cell so let me know if you can't hear me okay" would be appreciated.
posted by jessamyn at 9:50 PM on April 8, 2007

I was recently interviewed by a LA Times reporter via cellphone. I've probably had others, but never noticed. Her connection wasn't great and resulted in me having to repeat things a few times in an hour-long conversation, but otherwise it was fine.
posted by mathowie at 10:47 PM on April 8, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you everyone. I was always chained to my desk before so I just wanted to make sure of the polite thing to do.
posted by faunafrailty at 10:49 PM on April 8, 2007

I'm a journalist and I've interviewed people by email and by instant message. I once did a four page feature interview entirely by email, having never met the person. Of course, I didn't let this slip in the actual interview.

I would say that it really depends on the length and style of the interview. It it's a long-ranging interview over several pages then face-to-face is best (and expected by readers). If it's a quickie on a specific topic then I don't see why cellphone, phone, email, IM or semaphore can't be used.
posted by humblepigeon at 3:37 AM on April 9, 2007

About recording: Radioshack (and probably any number of other stores) sell devices to connect your cellphone to a standard tape / digital recorder. The one I have cost about $40 or so, and works ok. However, because of how it connects to the cellphone, it requires the use of a hands-free headset. (There may be better models available; I bought the only one for sale at the local Radioshack.) Basically the device plugs into the phone, and then you plug your headset and recorder into the device, then make your call. Ask before recording, and check your state laws first.
posted by Forktine at 3:49 AM on April 9, 2007

I'm interviewed now and then and I find being interviewed by cell quite annoying unless the caller has perfect reception etc, which they never have. My irritation, even though I try to ignore it since I know the realities of this kind of thing, probably makes the interview less useful than it would have been.
posted by unSane at 6:09 AM on April 9, 2007

I had an interview last month, and both the interviewer and I were on our mobile phones. No biggie from my perspective - that's just modern life.
posted by deadmessenger at 6:45 AM on April 9, 2007

Just to add to the pile-on: I'm a reporter and I conduct tons of interviews by mobile phone. Totally normal and expected.
posted by dead_ at 6:58 AM on April 9, 2007

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