Sitting for an interview can often be an uncomfortable situation, especially if you’re talking about yourself. A lot of questions can run through your mind. Is the reporter going to ask fair questions? Am I going to be portrayed fairly? Am I going to sound stupid?
Those are valid concerns and when the interview is over it isn’t unusual for the subject to contact the interviewer and ask for a do-over on a specific answer, and it’s always a judgment call for writers and editors whether to allow it.
That was the case for Dale Baich, who runs the Capital Habeas Unit of the Federal Public Defender in Phoenix, after he finished an interview last month for the weekly “UpClose” feature in the Arizona Capitol Times. The feature is a short Q&A that is meant to provide a glimpse of the subject’s personality while delving into the public policy issues the person deals with in his or her job. Baich’s interview is in this week’s paper (Dec. 10).
Baich defends Arizona’s condemned prisoners in the last legal stages before an execution and he
spoke with the Capitol Times about such serious subjects as witnessing executions, building relationships with convicted killers and battling the state over its use of a drug it got from a foreign source in the execution of Jeff Landrigan, the latest Arizona inmate to be executed.
Throughout most of the interview, his words were measured and he often paused before answering, so nothing flip or regrettable was likely to come out of his mouth.
But as the 51-minute interview moved to a series of lighter, off-beat subjects, there was no hesitation when I asked: “I understand you’re a blues aficionado. Who are your favorite artists?”
“I have to say Dave Riley and Bob Corritore and Tomcat Courtney because they’re on my record label,” Baich replied, smiling. He owns a small record label called Blue Witch Records and he has produced six albums.
Three days after the interview he sent an e-mail asking if he could revise and extend his answer to the above question. He said he wanted to change his comments because the question was unexpected and after thinking about his answer for a while, he thought he may have sounded flip and self-promotional.
There are many things to consider when deciding whether to allow for a change of remarks that were on the record and there’s no absolute journalistic principle that dictates whether it is appropriate.
In this case, we left the original answer in because we wanted to stay true to the Q&A format, which is conversational and spontaneous. Besides, who is going to blame a guy whose line of work involves life and death for being a tad flip on a light question and for wanting to plug the artists he’s recorded.
For the record, here’s the revised answer to the question of who are his favorite blues artists:
“I met and heard many great artists over the years. It’s hard to pick. I really enjoy the gritty sounds of Magic Slim, R.L. Burnside, Koko Taylor and Howlin’ Wolf. Dave Riley and Tomcat Courtney, who I recorded, have a special place in my soul.”