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Importance of Transcribing Interviews

Michael Gallagher
Michael Gallagher
Posted in Zoom Oct 18 · 19 Oct, 2015
Importance of Transcribing Interviews

The interview is the most critical tool journalists have to obtain information, expand on the information they may have from other sources, clarify facts, and see things from different perspectives. Moreover, the interview is their source of quotes – the exact words said by the interviewee. How do journalists get these words ready to use? There is no alchemy here: recording + transcribing.

What Is Interview Transcription

What is an interview transcript and why is it important? The interview transcription is probably the most tedious part of a journalist’s daily routine. Whereas taking the interview, meeting, and chatting with people is always an adventure and constructing the article is a thought-provoking task, the interview transcription is the least exciting job on one’s to-do list. And yet this ‘necessary evil’ is necessary.

How to Conduct an Interview?

To put it together, all interviews we enjoy reading in magazines and newspapers have definitely gone through the following three phases:

  1. Conducting – making and recording the conversation.

  2. Transcribing - turning the audio or video recording into a text file.

  3. Editing - arranging the questions and answers adequately, writing an introduction, adding notes, details, explanations, etc.

Why Should We Transcribe Interviews?

Experienced reporters claim that it takes an hour or more to transcribe ten recorded minutes. Kooky, isn’t it? Can you imagine a prominent journalist at The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Independent, BBC, or any other media giant doing it? Certainly not! They simply don’t have the time.

Advantages of Delegating Interview Transcriptions

Well, transcription agencies come into play here. Actually, this is one of the reasons they exist. Journalists do their best to take the interviews and leave the rest to the transcribers. All right, not all the rest, just the most tedious part.

Some journalists and media outlets try to avoid delegating this type of work or hiring outside help because of privacy concerns or any other reason. This couldn’t be further from the truth, though. Here are five ways outsourcing interview transcription can help:

  • Saves time

Outsourcing transcription work to a professional service can save time and money. Most serious transcription companies have experienced (and often certified) staff with different backgrounds, including journalism. A transcriptionist will listen to your recordings and write down whatever is said, proofread the text, and format it in a way you want.

  • Maintains privacy

As for privacy concerns, any professional transcription service has multiple ways to ensure strict privacy - from NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) to splitting your content into smaller sections for different transcribers. That way, journalists don’t have to worry about any unexpected leaks before publishing a story.

  • Increases accuracy

Word-for-word accuracy is critical when transcribing interviews. If a journalist fails to make sure everything your interviewee has said is spot on, they can compromise their credibility and end up in legal trouble. A reliable transcription service can produce 100% precise transcripts so there’s no need to worry about any of this.

  • Enhances collaboration

Regardless of the industry, interviews usually require observation from several people involved in the process. When it comes to journalism, the entire newsroom might need to refer to an interview before publishing. Instead of sharing large audio and video files and forcing everyone to listen through them, a journalist can share a tiny text file in seconds.

More importantly, text files are a lot easier to work with than any other type of content. People can search for words, phrases, and quotes they need and find them in a split second. It’s a lot easier than scrubbing through audio and video.

  • Simplifies record-keeping

There’s no way to know when a journalist might need to go back to an old interview. This could happen years after publishing. Interview transcripts are a lot smaller than other types of media, and they’re searchable, so a journalist can easily access interviews that are years or decades old at the click of a button.

Transcribing Interviews Isn’t a Question

Once a journalist gets their interview transcriptions, they can go on doing their job: composing the interview and shaping up an intriguing story from all the questions and answers.

Although there are plenty of automatic voice recognition services, which might be useful to some extent, let us remind you that:

  • 170 out of 540 million English speakers are not native, meaning they probably have accents (automatic transcription cannot distinguish accents).

  • Automatic transcription software is helpless with homophones (words that are pronounced the same but differ in meaning).

  • Voice recognition software captures sound, after all, and any interview is a conversation between at least two persons with different voice pitches, tones, and intonations.

The benefits of human-based interview transcription are obvious, so it’s an absolute no-brainer. It’s fast, affordable, secure, and accurate! More importantly, it can make work significantly easier for the whole newsroom!