Reporting, not transcription

May 6, 2007

Guest blogging by Tom Michael

I understand the desire to “watch the watcher” but we ought to be careful when taking this approach.

After all, an interview is more than just getting the quotes right. If it helps for clarity, make adjustments to the quotes, too. It’s reporting, not transcription. I’ve patched together audio interviews, where the subject, and here’s a controversial statement, said something other than what they meant. No one speaks with exactitude and the best oral histories are largely edited.

And then there’s dialect. During the 1993 NBA Finals two Chicago newspapers took two methods to report a quote that I heard myself. Chicago shopowners, preparing for a victory riot, boarded up their store windows. The boastful Charles Barkley of the Phoenix Suns teased them and suggested they “remove the boards from the windows,” because the Bulls weren’t going to have a victory riot, because they weren’t going to have a victory. One paper transcribed it exactly as we all heard it on television, in full dialect. The other, better report, was more like the quote above.

Anton Zuiker

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