It’s one thing to walk up to someone on the street and interview them. The street is public space. The interviewee can see you coming. They see the gear you’re wearing. They know what’s about to happen. It’s not a big surprise.
It’s another thing entirely to waltz right into a business, recorder rolling, and start asking questions. A business is private property, for starters; a reporter does not have a right to be there recording. On top of that, it’s surprising to the people inside. They aren’t expecting a reporter, never mind a reporter with recording equipment turned on. Clearly, it’s a bold method of reporting and it has a name: “doorstepping.”
An episode of More Perfect, the podcast about the Supreme Court from Radiolab and WNYC, features an excellent example of doorstepping. For the story, Nina Perry was hired by More Perfect to “doorstep” a pharmaceutical company at the center of a death penalty controversy. Nina bravely pressed record, stuck her mic out, and walked right in. She says it was like no other interview she’d ever done for Radiolab. Karen Duffin, the reporter for the story, said Nina’s approach during the surprise interview was all “charm and moxie.”
On this episode of HowSound, Nina and I dissect her doorstep moment — the ethics, how she prepared, what was going through her mind, and more.