Note Taking

In a previous post, I said using a recorder is probably a bad idea. I’ve had time to think about that and I still stand behind it. I think a lot of other reporters would agree with me.

Consider the other day…

I was outside at the Natchaug State Forest. The forest is the largest in the state with over 18,000 acres of trees, rivers and animals. I was covering a “crew” of men and women who are working to fix up the forest’s roads and picnic areas, which have been neglected due to the lack of staff at DEEP.

A recorder would have been useless. The crew was split in half into two groups. One was using power tools to build picnic tables and the other was using a makeshift firetruck, formerly a military truck, to clean out culverts along the roads in the forest. I wouldn’t have been able to pick up anything on my recorder, had I brought it. I knew not even to bring one to even try. It would have been a lost cause. And my story would have suffered accordingly.

Some shorthand:

via A Guide to Alternative Handwriting

With my note taking, I’ve learned to get as much as I can while I’m talking to people. The trick is to get as much down the first time and then go back, afterwards, and fill in the gaps. I’ve heard about shorthand, but I really don’t think I could pick it up and be successful at it. I just found a better link and found this. I think I could look into it. I think each reporter has their own system that they “perfect” over a period of time. You learn what works for you and what doesn’t.

The trick is to not get too carried away with your shorthand. Worst case scenario, after an interview, you can’t read your own handwriting. I’ve had some tough times understanding my writing, but I’ve gotten better. I can’t stress enough how important it is for me to go back a couple of times, with a different color pen, and go over the notes I just took. It will make the story better and relieve some stress. Especially if that story is on deadline.

Will you turn to shorthand?




5 Responses to Note Taking

  1. Pingback: Lots of Pens « Just Starting Out

  2. Caitlin Byrd says:

    I agree that it’s important to find your own style of note-taking and rely on that rather than a recorder that can fail or, as you argued, will not always work in all situations. However, I cannot stress enough how crucial it is to have a recorder for legal purproses. When arguments get heated, people forget what they said and how they said it. Pressing play makes for a much more convincing defense than a scribble of notes that they may be dead-set on ignoring since hand-written notes can be fabricated.

    • Thanks!

      But since they know you will have the recorder on you they won’t get as animated. I noticed that in college. People aren’t as open when they see a recorder on in front of them.

      Bottom line, my notes will protect me. Scribbles or not. I mean, with my editors behind me, of course. Real journalists don’t fabricate notes, ever.

      It’s an interesting conversation, though. I’ve been told, since getting this job, to only have a recorder in “rare” occasions, but I’ve never used one in the last six months. Other editors may say something different.


  3. Pingback: The Notebook « Just Starting Out

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