One of my least favorite things about being a journalist in the era of 800 million news outlets is that you end up interviewing people who have been interviewed a dozen times before, asking them many of the same questions that all the other journalists asked them. I’ve had stories where I think I’ve gotten a good quote, and then I see the exact same one in another article.
But hey, it happens to the best. In the run-up to the release of The Social Network, the Aaron Sorkin-scripted, David Fincher-directed film about the fraught founding of Facebook, New York magazine and The New York Times are among the publications writing about the movie that “defines the decade” (or so says Rolling Stone).
Here’s David Fincher to Mark Harris, in New York magazine’s Sept. 27 cover story, “Inventing Facebook:”
“I know what it’s like to be 21 years old and trying to direct and sitting in a room full of grown-ups who think you’re just so cute but aren’t about to give you control of anything,” says Fincher. “I know the anger that comes from when you just want to be allowed to do the things that you know you can do…”
Fincher to David Carr, in The New York Times’ “A Zillion Friends, and a Few Enemies:”
“I know very subjectively what it’s like to be 21 years old and sitting in a room full of adults who are all taking about how cute your passion for your vision is and how angry that makes you,” he said.
At Jonathan Franzen’s City Arts & Lectures appearance in San Francisco recently, he took a long pause before answering one question about family in his writing. He said that he’d been answering so many questions that he’d found himself repeating answers, and wanted to avoid that, but there were only so many ways to respond.
You can’t fault the press for asking relevant questions, and you can’t fault interview subjects for these semi-canned answers, because they want the press, and there really aren’t that many ways to impart the same information. Most people won’t read multiple articles on the same subject, unless they have read everything by Franzen and/or think Jesse Eisenberg (who plays Mark Zuckerberg) is very cute. There’s just the nagging question, what’s the point of 100, or even 10, articles about the same movie? I defended (or rather, had Lydia Davis defend) multiple translations of classic novels last week. But when I go to, say, the press page of the movie Touching Home, and see the links to 52 articles (not counting TV and radio interviews), one of which is mine, it starts to feel a little pointless.
What to do? A) Only write about really obscure things, or B) keep writing until you can write the best damn article out there, no matter how many similar efforts exist.
*Yes, I know "Sam" has nothing to do with this, but "David" messed up my not-that-funny joke.