'The major change I’ve seen about interviewing is it is now so much easier to get it right.'
-- Walter Robinson,
Imagine actress Mae West or American film producer Ray Starks is sitting with you, ready and willing to be interviewed. You pull out your voice recorder and settle in to begin the interview, when their sudden refusal to be recorded forces you to adjust and rely solely on a notebook and pen.
Larry Grobel, author of several books and a famous interviewer for Playboy Magazine, remembers those interviews clearly. Grobel said he was prepared for the switch, but using only pad and pen has never been his preference.
“I have always used a tape recorder,” Grobel said.
Although Grobel said he uses voice recorders to conduct his interviews, he acknowledges that he has not adapted to digital recorders, but remains faithful to his tape recorders. Grobel, now 65 years old and 48 years into his career as a journalist, said he will most likely never convert.
Bulletin interviews with several journalists throughout New England showed that the use of a voice recorder was common in every generation. Journalists found that using tools such as the voice recorder not only made the job easier, but also made interviews more successful.
“I think it’s necessary for young journalists to use both the recorder and the notebook,” said Kyle Brennan, who has been writing for Citizen’s News in Naugatuck, Conn., since he was a senior in high school.
Brennan thinks that journalists can’t be one-dimensional. They need to be able to use multimedia, which includes using a voice recorder.
a former editor of Citizen’s News who is now reporting for The
Boston Globe, said: “We’re expected to be able to do multiple
things at once.
Borchers sees technology as a great tool for journalists. He even encourages journalists to record phone interviews, if possible. While editor of Citizen’s News, Borchers had phone recorders installed for reporters to use. He also suggested calling subjects with Skype and using the program Pamela to record it.
Borchers thinks that using voice recorders during an interview allows you to be more engaged with the person. When you aren’t consumed with writing everything down, you are able to focus on listening and therefore ask better follow-up questions.
Walter V. Robinson, a professor at the Northeastern University School of Journalism and Pulitzer Prize-winning former reporter and editor at The Boston Globe, thinks that using a recorder gives you the ability to connect with the subject and make it more like a conversation, not an interrogation.
Robinson began his career in the mid-1970s and remembers when lugging a large tape recorder that had to be plugged in was the only method of taping an interview session. Robinson said he began using a recorder in 1984.
“The major change I’ve seen about interviewing is it is now so much easier to get it right,” Robinson said.
After listening to recorded interviews, Robinson realized that there were a lot of things he had missed in his notebook.
Robinson recalled a time that he and five other reporters were asked to cover a story at a fire station. He said they went down to the station and were told that they could not record the interviews. The five of them did their best to take notes as firefighters spoke with them, Robinson said. But as they returned and compared their notes, they found that they all had written different versions.
Borchers agrees that recording an interview allows you to report more accurately. He also finds that it can be a safety net for anyone who tries to challenge the accuracy of what you have written.
Borchers speaks from experience, having used his recorder to validate his writing in the past. He spoke about a time he was covering a mayoral race in Connecticut and was challenged by a candidate he had interviewed over a quote he had written.
“It was helpful to be able to go back and say, ‘Look, Mike, this is what I asked you and the conversation is on tape. Cut it out!’” Borchers said.
Although recording interviews
is common, some reporters stick by their notebook and pen.
“I work the old-fashioned way, with a pen and a notebook,” said Donoghue, who has been a journalist for 42 years.
Tim Dwyer, editor of The Day of New London, Conn., has been a journalist for nearly as long as Donoghue, but views using a voice recorder much differently.
Dwyer likes using a recorder for longer stories, profiles and narratives. Dwyer said he will usually use a voice recorder unless he is under a tight deadline.
Dwyer said that, although he favors using a recorder, a reporter should always take notes during an interview because you can take different notes that way.
“If you want to describe what a person is wearing, if the person is smoking cigarettes, any kind of detail, it’s not going to be on your tape recorder,” Dwyer said.
Even if reporters view the use of voice recording differently, they all seem to recognize its benefits.
“I would try to do it as much as possible,” Borchers said.
'If you want to describe what a person is wearing, if the person is smoking cigarettes, any kind of detail, it’s not going to be on your tape recorder.'
-- Tim Dwyer,
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