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transcribing an interview

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by lukaitis9, Jul 31, 2007.

  1. lukaitis9

    lukaitis9 New Member

    I just conducted an interview for some background on a story the other day and when I went to rewind the tape and start transcribing the tape broke and I had to write my story by memory.
    I don't totally trust the digital recorders and I am looking for some ideas.
    Someone told me about a digital recorder with voice recognition software that will transcribe it for me. That would surely save a bunch of time.
    Does anyone know who makes something like this?
    What do you use?
  2. I looked into one, but it was going to cost WAY more than I was ready to spend. Maybe someone has found one cheaper than, say, $300, but I couldn't at the time.
  3. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest

    Lukaitis -

    We've got about a million threads on this over on the Journalism board. Use the search window and enter "digital recorders."

    That said, I've used an Olympus DS-2 digital for two years and couldn't be happier. I can download files to my laptop (MacBook Pro) to organize and listen to interviews, but there's no software yet available that will reliably transcribe them for you. There's plenty of voice recognition software available, yes, but you have to train it to recognize your own voice. It wouldn't recognize the interview subject's voice.

    Always back up your taped interviews with sufficient written material to cover yourself in the event you lose or break a tape. Good luck.
  4. lukaitis9

    lukaitis9 New Member

    Thanks for the input. I was fortunate to be taking notes as well as letting the tape run but I hoped to get more quotes for the story. I'll have to check with the guy that told me about the recorder and see if it's something that will work for me.
  5. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    An old Olympus DM-1 has held up great for me. I was a really earlier adopter. I liked it because other recorders at the time had the memory chip built in so you were limited as to how much you could store. My DM-1 used smart media cards, so when one filled up, I could pop another in. Then I'd bring them down to my computer and transcribe.

    I now actually use my iPod a lot for this. I have the Griffin iTalk attachment. I use it a lot for phoners, of which I do a lot. Or you can pop a microphone into the attachment for even better quality, although the attachment alone works fine. It saves the digital file on your iPod and you can bring it down to your computer to listen to it -- or listen to it on your iPod. It's a nifty little attachment.

    As for transcription software, I have been on this for more than 10 years, since Dragon and IBM started with their earliest products. I used to have to ton a transcribe of interviews every week. Unfortunately, even though the software has gotten better, they all rely on training the software to recognize one person. In an interview you have two people talking and the second person is different each time. That confuses the software, so it isn't a viable way to transcribe interviews yet. Dragon recently came out with a new version and a friend and I spend more than a half hour on the phone with their tech support idiots trying to figure out if it could recognize multiple voices. It sounded like it still isn't there yet, when we found someone high enough in the chain who actually understood the software and helped develop it. Don't count on transcription software that works well for journalists soon.
  6. TyWebb

    TyWebb Well-Known Member

    I also use the Olympus DS-2 and it has never let me down. And it actually has great range for when you might be at a press conference and can't get that close.

    But because of incidents like yours, I always - ALWAYS - take notes. You have to back yourself up.
  7. lukaitis9

    lukaitis9 New Member

    Thanks for the great ideas. Looks like I'll be looking into a new recorder soon. :)
  8. Piotr Rasputin

    Piotr Rasputin New Member

    I have an hour-long interview to transcribe right now. I use my trusty Sony tape recorder, circa 2003 vintage. The headphones I use are a pair of the ones they sell you for a buck on Jet Blue airlines. I also use my notes, where I have marked down the counter number for a certain quote or idea I want to use. I have an embarrassing number of tapes dating back more than a decade of interviews.

    I see the logic of the digital age. Had my first tape mishap since college last year. My recorder slid off the angled workstations they had in the newsroom, and an important tape was slipt cleanly. I spent the next 90 minutes fixing it, gently pulling the tape out and using a small bit of scotch tape to splice it back together. Fun, fun, fun.

    I would love to splurge for a digital, but I'm waiting for them to come out with a computer program that transcribes the whole thing for you as described above. Then I'll pay whatever it takes to get my hands on that.
  9. You don't really have to "splurge" for a digital anymore. They are pretty cheap. I think I paid $25 for my last one.
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