As a method of communication, the telephone seems to have fallen out of fashion. Is this another sign that the art of conversation is waning? More and more frequently I see interviews with journalists which state that their preferred method of communication is email, and this always makes my heart sink.
I completely understand that contact via email is less of an intrusion, as the recipient can decide when to check their inbox, and when to respond (or not!). However there seem to be so many downsides to email ‘conversations’, primarily the fact that an email exchange isn’t really a conversation at all. When you pick up the phone and talk to someone you often find out extra, valuable information, plus you get an insight into someone’s mood and personality.
There is far too much potential for an email to be misunderstood. So often they seem abrupt, or even rude. This is probably rarely what the author intended, more likely that they have just written the message in a rush.
I discussed this topic with some journalists this week, who outlined the pros and cons of seeking comment via email. On the plus side you can contact a number of people, provide a thorough brief and questions to respond to, and then get on with something else before the responses come back. That said, what you get back has often been so sanitised that it loses its sparkle. When talking to someone on the phone, they will be far more open, and probably more entertaining to boot. How many classic quotes that make an article come from written comment? And what would happen to buzz of a newsroom if everyone turned to electronic communication?
The telephone is so much more speedy and satisfying. You can call a person, discuss the options and make a decision within minutes, or sometimes even seconds. In comparison, email exchanges can sometimes continue for days, with an inordinate amount of messages before a conclusion is reached. If used well, technology can make things simpler and faster, but sometimes the old fashioned approach is the winner. It’s good to talk!