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taking notes

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by ScooterP, Dec 29, 2006.

  1. ScooterP

    ScooterP New Member

    This may seem like a stupid post but in the vein of self improvement, but I can't always use a tape recorder and am wondering about how to take better notes. I've heard all the stuff about shorthand but that seems like something hard to learn. What pointers might all of you have?
  2. DyePack

    DyePack New Member

    Always put each person's quotes on a different page. Unless you work for CNHI or JRC, you can always get more notebooks.
  3. Bruhman

    Bruhman Active Member

    this is some duh-advice. nonetheless...

    make sure you can read your notes. or least enough of them to include the best and most important quotes.

    it never ceases to amaze me how much scrawl looks perfectly legible while scribbling, only to look at them later and wonder what the hell you wrote.
  4. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    If you are going sans recorder, don't try to write everything the person says.

    Just write the good stuff.
  5. Football_Bat

    Football_Bat Well-Known Member

    I find I can get a story done on deadline much faster when I write quotes as opposed to digging through 20 minutes of tape to get same. If you have time, tape is wonderful, but sometimes you don't have that luxury.
  6. if I'm falling behind as I'm scribbling down stuff, I'll ask a dummy question -- something just to get the guy talking for a moment so I can catch up. I make sure I get the stuff I really need in the notebook and legible, and once I'm caught up, i'll get back to asking stuff i need
  7. Batman

    Batman Well-Known Member

    I use a big notebook -- a Five-Star, not a little reporter's pad. Draw a line down the middle of the page and put quotes on either side of it. I write big, so it usually ends up as four good-sized quotes per page.
    And develop your own shorthand. It doesn't have to be all squiggles, it can make sense in a code kind of way. I don't use a lot of vowels or words like a, the or is. So a quote like "We played a good game and showed a lot of hustle out there" would get jotted down as "We pld gd gm & showd alot hustl out ther".

    Sometimes it's almost impossible to use a tape recorder. Ever tried to listen to an interview done in a noisy gym between basketball games? Between the PA, the music, the crowd and the bouncing balls you're lucky to get every third word.
  8. I would love to have back all the time in my life I've spent listening to a tape, but I'm at peace with the fact that it's the only way that works for me. I've failed miserably (most of the time) trying to go off my own note-taking because, frankly, I'm not very good at it and I'm somebody that relies heavily on quotes.

    A simple piece of advice: Always take notes whether or not you're taping. I see too many people just standing there with their recorder out, and I wonder what they would do if for some reason there was a dead battery or malfunction.
  9. Norman Stansfield

    Norman Stansfield Active Member

    I think all of us, at one time or another, have been burned by relying on a recorder. That feeling in the pit of your stomach as you rewind a 30-minute interview only to find silence is definitely sickening.

    That being said, I still record everything and only take notes sparingly.

    For a little peace of mind I still use a micro cassette recorder rather than a digital one. There's something comforting about seeing that little red light blinking whenever my interview subject is speaking.
  10. txsportsscribe

    txsportsscribe Active Member

    that's one of the best bits of advice i ever got way back and one i've passed it on to students and young reporters. always surprises me how so few young reporters know this trick.
  11. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    yeah, i'll second that. i was very pleasantly surprised to see it on this thread because i got the same tip once. helluva piece of advice, that.

    you know you're in charge of any interview when you can pull this off with ease.


    as for the original question, shorthand is not really something you can "learn". there's no such thing as, you know, "real" shorthand -- it's just whatever you do that works for you during the heat of the moment.

    i guarantee you there's not a soul in the world that could legibly interpret one of my notebooks after i've just finished a postgame interview. but i can -- and that's all that counts.

    buck-dub (tm)
    turning chicken shit into chicken scratch since 1982
  12. happygirl

    happygirl Member

    --on deadline, I take notes. No deadline, I use my recorder.
    --I never understand why people still use old tape recorders. The digitals have much better sound quality, are easier to navigate and, of course, don't require tapes that have to be turned over in mid-interview.
    --I have problems taking notes at the same time I'm recording. Find it hard to balance both. I always make sure my batteries are fresh. Only been burned once when I accidentally erased an interview.
    --I also tend to try to write everything down when I'm note-taking, figuring I don't know what's important or not. That's a mistake. Try to write down only the best stuff.
    --Over the years, you'll develop a sort of shorthand of your own, but you'll also find you can't read half of it. I hate when that happens.
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