What do your writers use for recording interviews?
I suppose some writers have remarkable memories and can mentally capture everything they need to write up an article or paper. They’re a technical version of those waiters who can remember every detail of an order from a party of twelve – who wants their veal rare, who doesn’t want ice in her water, and which salad dressing everybody wants.
I can’t do that. Can you?
The mechanics of recording interviews
Some writers I know take copious notes and begin writing the piece in their brains while the interview is still underway. My father-in-law was a journalist and he used to do that. Then he’d drive home and dictate the story over the phone to a transcriptionist. What a gift.
Other writers – like me – use a digital recorder or record interviews through an app like Skype or GoToMeeting. Interviewees don’t mind, as long as you observe their rights and let them know you’re recording them. In parallel, of course, we’re taking notes furiously and relying on the recording to supplement our notes.
The hardware and software are relatively cheap and more reliable than tape, especially for writers who move the files to a PC. Sony makes excellent software for jumping through and transcribing text quickly. Most web recording services also offer transcription, which saves you keystrokes but drops a lot of valuable context.
Better yet, learn to trust your brain
My colleague and high school classmate, Gene Gable, has firmly negative ideas about using a recorder.
“You’ve got to get out of that habit,” he counseled. “It seems like a good idea until – as happened to me – something goes wrong technically and you realize that you haven’t given your brain enough credit, and your notes aren’t sufficient and there’s a deadline nipping at your heels. If you take good notes and you’re not distracted by things like today’s prime rate or your Twitter account, you’ll find it’s not that hard to write a good piece without the recorder.”
Do you believe in recording interviews? How do you use the recordings? More important, can you tell the difference between a piece written from memory and one written from a recording?
photo credit: Joe Haupt