Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Why I Don't Outsource Transcription

Photo by Brandon Sigma

As you may have noticed, I love interviews.  I don't love the transcription process quite as much, though.  It can be incredibly time consuming and monotonous.  Transcribing an interview is one of the times that writing really feels like work.

Some time ago, I was involved in a discussion on a writer's board about the value of transcribing interviews.  I just won't do it.  Why?  If transcription is such a nuisance, why don't I just outsource it and carry on with my writing?

Here's my main reasons:

1.  I'm seriously cheap.

Quality transcription is expensive.  At this point in my writing career, I just can't afford it.  Period.  But I think that even if I could afford it, I still wouldn't.  I don't want to spend money paying someone else to do something I can do myself.

2.  It's a great way to review the subject.

Listening to the interview again as I transcribe keeps the information fresh in my mind.  It also helps me find little nuggets of wisdom that I might have missed the first time.  I can use the time to really think about what quotes I want to include and how to incorporate the interview into my finished piece.

3.  I'm kind of paranoid about transcription.

In a previous job incarnation, I had to rely on transcribed pieces to do my job.  I was horrified at how many errors I found.  While sometimes the errors were funny, sometimes they were scary, since doctors also relied on these transcriptions, which were a part of the patient's permanent medical record.  The doctors were supposed to review the transcriptions before they approved them, but it didn't appear to happen very often.  Some of the scary mistakes I found were centered around doses that sounded similar, but could potentially kill.  For example, a common error was 15 vs. 50.  Said out loud they do sound alike.  But when the patient's normal dose of insulin is 15 units, a 50 unit dose could do some real damage.

While my articles aren't likely to kill or maim anyone (I hope!), I still want my information to be accurate.  I don't want to misquote anyone or state a false statistic.


  1. I hate transcribing and avoid it as much as possible. I actually insist that if we're going to operate from recorded interviews the client pay for getting those into word...usually that means we find another way.

    1. I haven't found a way of interviewing that works as well for me as recording. So transcription kind of becomes a part of that. Not my favorite thing in the world, but I've decided to just deal with it. ;-)