Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Note taking software for journalists improving, though most still offer limited capabilities

Conducting interviews, either in person or over the phone, continues to be a time consuming chore for most newspaper and magazine writers. The interview itself is the easiest part, transcribing the interview quickly and accurately is where the work is at.

Before proceeding I should point out that I always seek the consent of the recorded party while on the phone, and never continue the interview unless I have received that consent. I always point out that I only record to make sure the quotations are accurate.
My iPhone usually works just fine, either using the phone's built-in app from Apple, or one of several other apps that work, as well. The advantage of the Voice Memos app is that once you have connected your phone to your computer the voice memos will sync, this will allow you to use iTunes to hear back the interview, using iTunes to repeat sections or advance to the next question.

The problem with the iPhone, though, is that notes have to be taken on a separate device. For me, I simply open up the TextEdit program on my Mac to take simple notes. The problem with solution, of course, is that it doesn't work on the road.
One advantage of using Evernote, available for both the iPhone and iPad, is that it will allow you to record an interview while also taking notes silently in the background. The program will also let you take pictures with your phone (or iPad, though the camera on the iPhone is vastly superior).

The app lets you organize the interview into a logical whole, and then upload the notes and recordings to the Evernote website for easy access. The user can then, if desired, download the audio file (which comes in a wav file).

If there is one complaint I have with Evernote it would be that right now the app does not support external USB microphones. Ever since the last major iOS update that included Apple launching an iPad version of GarageBand the iPad's port now works with third party USB microphones (assuming you have Camera Connection Kit).

And speaking of third part microphones: Blue Microphones have several options of external microphones that will work with both the iPhone and iPad through the Camera Connector Kit, but again, one needs to match this up with a software solution. Sadly, my old Mikey, which worked so well with my iPhone 3GS, does not work with the iPhone 4.


Tablazines said...

I've been trying to come up with a way to record iphone conversations... what are you using to do so?

Douglas Hebbard said...

I actually never record iPhone conversations because I use a speaker phone for interviews, then use the iPhone or iPad to do the recording.

But I have heard that some people use the voice mail function: call the person you are interviewing, then add yourself to the call (essentially creating a conference call), you will go right to voice mail and it will record the conversation.

I would guess this would work best for very short calls, however.