Ace Reporters Use Both Recording & Transcription Services for Interviews

Clark Kent Ace Reporter Always Archives a recording with his transcription

Clark Kent Interviews Always Include a Recording with the Transcript

A Transcript Sans Audio Recording?
I had a customer recently ask for a transcript of a conference call interview recording they were doing with a high profile figure.  Since this is one of our core services, I said, “Sure, would you like a copy of the recording as well?”  His initial answer may surprise you: “No, I don’t need the recording; just the transcript is fine.”

When I questioned him about this, it turns out that the transcript was going to be used for a magazine article, not for a podcast production or any other audio medium.  While this answer makes sense on the surface, further examination will show the flaws in this thinking.

Your Personal Interviews
Think about the conversations you have in the normal course of your day—at work, at home, with the taxi driver, etc.  How many times do you find yourself asking the other person to repeat themselves?  You probably do it without even thinking: “what’s that”, “pardon”, “excuse me”.  And that is a conversation you are having in person.  How much more difficult is it for a transcriptionist during a conference call or other phone conversation to accurately comprehend every word being said?

My sister who is an elementary school teacher recounts a conversation with her boyfriend during a marathon phone interview, eh hem, I mean, conversation.  She says:

“He thought I was talking about having a ‘cash can’ behind my driver’s seat, and I was talking about my ‘trash can.’  He didn’t know why I was emptying Kleenexes out of it.”

“On another occasion I said, ‘I talked to the PTA lady today,’ and he thought I said ‘I went to the pizzeria today.'”

And finally, a more serious issue came up that threatened to break up their relationship.  She said:

“I’m putting my hair in a ponytail now.”  And he thought she said, “I’m putting my head in toilet water now.”

Your Business Interviews
All kidding aside, you can see that the last example has implications in the business world too.  For instance, when interviewing a high profile sports figure about his alleged improprieties with a mistress, two people can hear the same response in two different ways:

“I never see her without my agent being in the room.”

This is very different from:

“I endeaver to see her when my agent leaves the room.”

Verifying Accurate Comprehension
This brings us back to the original scenario.  As a magazine editor, printing the later quote can have serious implications.  Do you trust a transcriptionist 100% of the time in 100% of the situations he/she may come across in an interview recording?  Let me ask that a different way: Do you trust YOURSELF 100% of the time in every situation when you are listening to a recording?  The answer is, of course, NO.  No one is perfect.  And even though at AudioFile Solutions we strive to be 100% accurate—and have safeguards against transcribing incorrect information—are you willing to trust your livelihood and your company’s brand to anyone other than yourself and your staff?  And if you’re using another audio transcription service, what safeguards do they have in place to protect against inaccurate comprehension?

A Legal Record
Looking at it a bit differently, when this hypothetical sports figure takes you to court because he now regrets talking about his indecency, how are you going to prove to a judge that your interviewee actually did say, “I endeavor to see her when my agent leaves the room.”?  Will only a transcript suffice?  Of course not.  Wouldn’t you feel better having the actual audio recording in-hand to prove beyond a doubt what was really said?  Afterall, your career is on the line here.

I think the takeaway is obvious: Always, always request an audio recording of your interview along with your transcript.  This is the only way you can review the transcriptionist’s work and protect yourself against being wrongfully accused of mis-quoting someone.

Note:  Have you had someone accuse you of misquoting them?  Or have you had a transcriptionist misunderstand what was said on a recording?  Share it with us as a comment to this post.

photo by Thomas Duchnicki :: Location Scout

2 Comments

  1. Peter Clark February 8, 2011 at 11:27 pm - Reply

    Hi, my name is Peter Clark and I recieved an edited version of an audio recording and I wondered if there is any way to proove this (in a court of law)?
    Please send my any resourses or information about this.
    Thank you,
    Peter.

    • Andy R February 9, 2011 at 9:26 am - Reply

      I am not an expert in forensics Peter, but there are ways to tell if a recording has been edited. Certain edits are easily visible in an audio waveform, while others may be invisible. An expert in audio forensics should be able to draw some conclusions based on both the audio and the visible waveform. Proving it in court is another story. Try Googling “audio forensics in court” or “voice recording as evidence”.

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