Troublesome Interviewees By Angela Hoy

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I was contacted this week by a writer who was stuck in between an editor and her interview subject.

She wrote an article, on spec, for a magazine. The editor sent a friendly note back, rejecting the article because its focus was too local. The magazine has a statewide readership.

The writer graciously thanked the editor for his time and asked him to contact her if he ever needed her services. He agreed.

The writer then reported to her interview subject (one of her instructors) that the article was rejected and why. The interview subject got very upset and demanded the writer contact the editor for more information about the “real reason” the article was rejected.

The writer contacted me because she had recently read my article about not arguing with rejecting editors…but she also felt somewhat obligated to her interview subject.

Here’s my response:

The name of the publication makes it obvious that this is a statewide publication, not a local one. The editor’s response was entirely acceptable and should have been expected if that’s their focus (state, not local).

Arguing with him or asking more questions is only going to anger him and kill your chances of ever writing for him again. I assure you that he knows his readers better than your instructor. Don’t let your instructor, who likely knows nothing about the industry, make you burn your bridges.

Some interview subjects do get that Prima Donna attitude, perhaps because they believe they’re the “star” of the story. We all need to remember that the editor of a publication is in charge of the story, not your interview subject. If your interview subject tries to take control of any aspect of the interview, writing, editing, submission or publication process, gently remind them that the editor is in charge, not you or anybody else.