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Your Note-Taking System

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by CR19, Jun 27, 2010.

  1. CR19

    CR19 Member

    I'm sure this thread has popped up before, but I want to see if anyone has changed the way they've done it. When you're covering a game, doing an interview, preparing for a game, etc., how do you take notes? Do you use different notebooks for different things, keep the same? Is there any specific formats you use? What advice would you give someone on taking notes? Any advice is appreciated.
  2. BobSacamano

    BobSacamano Member

    I've been wanting to make this topic for a while, so I guess now's a good a time as any to ask: Am I the only asshole who doesn't take notes with a pen and pad?

    My audio recorder does the job for me with interviews and my BlackBerry handles the rest when it's question time. Normally, I let the player know that I'm not being rude and checking text messages, but referring to notes in my digital memopad. They appreciate that.

    I tried doing the hand-written notes thing at first, but felt like I was losing too much of the interview while trying to keep it conversational. It also helps to have a fantastic memory and strong understanding of any tangents the interview may drift toward.
  3. mustangj17

    mustangj17 Active Member

    I use one notebook until I fill it. Only use voice recorders rarely, as backup. Usually for gamers on deadline just to see if there is anything I didn't catch the in the notebook. Otherwise, if I have a gap, I'll call for a followup question or two.
  4. Greg Pickel

    Greg Pickel Member

    It really depends on the situation for me. Sometimes I'll only use a recorder, sometimes I'll only use pen and paper, and sometimes I'll use the recorded and then jot down parts of the interview I want to go back and either ask for clarity on, or listen to specifically in the piece I'm writing.

    Doing prep for a game, I use a score sheet that has categories that most statisticians would use, plus any categories I consider relevant or would like to keep. If I'm going to a prep game, I'll also go online to the metro that keeps the stats and what not and jot down some information on both teams unless I already have it.

    Hope this helps.
  5. WBarnhouse

    WBarnhouse Member

    1. Rely on memory.
    2. Look over other reporters' shoulders at their notes, laptops.
    3. If those fail, make it up.
  6. EagleMorph

    EagleMorph Member

    Rely heavily on recorder because I can't read my own writing, nor can I write fast enough to keep up in my own shorthand. I have a notepad with me that I'll use for other purposes.

    Also found a recorder tends to help create more conversational interviews, especially in one-on-one post-game situations. Frees up another hand to use however - write notes about follow-up questions, detail a reaction, etc.

    During the game, the notebook is a sort of repository for any information I may need post-game. Stats, observations, streaks, etc. Also used post-game to reflect back on things and jog my memory.
  7. writingump

    writingump Member

    I'll use a voice recorder most of the time because it does help conduct better interviews, plus I write so slowly that I tend to lose too much in translation. If I'm covering a night game with a tight deadline, I'll go with a notebook so I can write quotes and not have to go searching for the quote on the voice recorder. Thankfully, I do have a good memory so I can go that route and know that I'll be accurate. And to answer Bob's question, I've covered games with others who go the Blackberry route as well.
  8. schiezainc

    schiezainc Well-Known Member

    I use a legit notepad (Not a reporter's pad) that is regular high-school like size. All of my coworkers think I'm strange but it's nice because I'll have all of my notes, for every game I go to, for an entire season which proved VERY helpful.

    As for what notes I take, I do play by play on my notebook, use the margins to highlight things I want to talk about later and use my recorder to do interviews afterward.

    Question I have for everyone: What do you do with interview tapes? Do you transcribe them or do you just listen to them and input quotes while you're writing. I know it takes a while but I like to transcribe everything, mainly because it allows me to really think about what the person said and a lot of times I notice things I didn't on the first take.
  9. esport12

    esport12 Member

    Really interesting topic. I think it depends on the story and the situation: gamer, feature, prep, pro, etc.

    I like voice recorders because they pick up everything. But I think they can also be a hindrance. Some people see that as intimidating, and all of the sudden they become less candid. It's an interview not a conversation.

    I also like to have a notepad because I can write down things that aren't said: sights, sounds, scene, reaction, etc.
  10. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    I don't know if voice recorders are quite as intimidating today. Sit down for a chat with someone and chances are there will be a phone or Blackberry on the desk, either yours or the other guy's, and some of those can record too so it's much more subtle. Not like a years ago when you'd plop a giant tape player on the table (and even microcassette players look big now).

    I'm way too addicted to my recorder; I'm jealous of people who can take great shorthand. I'm sure I've spent an entire year of my life transcribing.
  11. JackReacher

    JackReacher Well-Known Member

    Gamers = pen and pad
    Features and other non-gamers = recorder.

    The worst is when someone comes in from his or her game 30 minutes before deadline, then spends 25 minutes transcribing his notes from the recorder. Never a good thing.
  12. copperpot

    copperpot Well-Known Member

    Other than when I first started out in the biz some 15 years ago, I've never used a recorder. I like to use steno pads. I've heard too many stories (probably rarer nowadays) of people who didn't take notes and then accidentally erased their tapes, found their recorder wasn't working, etc.

    Beyond that, for me, taking notes by hand is kind of a built-in editor. When someone gives me a gem of a quote, I write it word for word; beyond that, I do basic notes. I think that's helped me not dump my notebook in most of my stories and not rely completely on quotes. Since I do a lot of editing these days, I can usually tell when a reporter has used a recorder -- long, drawn-out quotes -- and when they haven't, although that's not so much a condemnation of recorders as it is a reflection that reporters need to use better judgment on what all belongs in a story.
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