When Questions Are Asked but Not Answered

A recent interview with a corporate spokesperson turned into an interesting and slightly frustrating exchange. Among the list of questions I’d presented was one which they flat-out refused to answer, and another to which they responded by saying the company hasn’t collated that data. 

The former touched on financial matters, so it’s understandable if the company didn’t want to divulge any details, even if it was a question many people would like to see answered. But the latter surprised me. I’d assumed it’d be a metric all enterprises of their size would track — yet given a peculiarity of the business environment here in Taiwan, I might well be wrong.

When I told the spokesperson that my article would mention that they’d declined to answer the first question, and that they couldn’t give me an answer to the second, I was told: “You shouldn’t do that.” It was irrelevant, they said. I’d be wasting the readers’ time. I should report facts, not the absence of them, I was advised.

I can’t help but smile when people try to do their job (protecting and enhancing their employer’s reputation) by telling me how to do mine. They didn’t want to say, “Please don’t do it, because it could embarrass us.” Anyhow, this experience has reminded me of something important: The questions that people can’t or won’t answer are very often as newsworthy as the answers they’re willing to provide.

Note to everyone I interview: If an answer to a key question isn’t forthcoming, don’t expect me to pretend that the question was never asked.

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