"Remember, you could be doing math right now."
That's what I tell myself every Monday, Thursday and Friday morning when I am inevitably transcribing interviews for what I call "Deadline Days." No, it's not my most creative name but what can I say? I've been busy transcribing.
Over the last week I've recorded about ten interviews--give or take a coffee gathering or phone call--for about five different deadlines. Considering there's seven days in a week, that doesn't seem too crazy right?
Any journalist will tell you the same--reporting is the best part of being a journalist. We love to get out there in the field with our voice recording devices and apps, notepad in hand and Canon camera slung across our bodies like a sash. It's about the closest to "combat" any of us are ever going to get. Nevertheless, we head out with our gear, get to know new people, taste free food, attend fun events and even get paid to travel for those princes and princesses of the writing world who are deemed valuable enough for the expense.
And then, when all is said and done, when the fat lady has sung and we've run out of questions to ask, we drive home feeling nothing but utter accomplishment...but then we remember something.
"Oh my god. Was that interview really an hour?"
Because guess what folks? We have to transcribe that.
Sure we've taken our notes and remember the general jist of the conversation we just had with a valued source. But details? Yeah, we don't remember those so much. If you hadn't guessed, that's why we record things. You know, so we can have a real human-to-human conversation with someone without having to ask them to repeat themselves 20 times because our hands can't write fast enough.
Recordings have saved journalists from early onset arthritis, and don't think we aren't grateful. Because we are!
But transcribing sucks.
It always has, and it always will. Dozens of companies, bless their hearts, have tried very hard to make this part of our jobs easier and more enjoyable. There's iPhone apps, Google Drive transcription, and online services which only charge an arm and a leg. What a deal!
But no matter how great the technology, it's never going to be as good as you strapping yourself into a chair like a mental patient and doing the work yourself.
Believe it or not, I actually spent more time correcting the errors of Google's transcription job than it would have taken me to just do it myself. Also, I don't think it's worth paying more for someone else--who doesn't even know your story--to transcribe your interviews than you're actually getting paid yourself to write the story. In my opinion, that just doesn't add up.
So, yes, to all those memes of Gene Wilder saying, "You transcribed that interview yourself? You must have a lot of time on your hands."
No Gene, no I don't.
This is why I pull all-nighters. I'm not embarrassed to admit it. I took the time to do my work and I'm proud, even if I do look like an extra from Warm Bodies.
The point is, if you're trying to find a way out of transcribing your interviews, don't bother. You'll only end up more frustrated with the less-than adequate results of a computer or you'll end up broke from paying someone else to do it. No one knows the story better than you. No one else knows what parts are important and what parts are just ramblings worth skipping.
Maybe one day you'll have an intern you can assign the dirty jobs to, or maybe the government will finally legalize cloning humans. Either way, you've got a long way to go so just plant yourself in your cheap wheelie chair and grow roots, because it's going to be another long night.
But hey, when you're three hours into a one hour recording and you're starting to lose your mind, just remember...You could be doing math.