Friday, June 29, 2012

Why Are Transcriptions So Tedious and Time-Consuming?

On a daily basis, staffers circle the office pool like stealthy sharks, hunting for naive prey.  It’s almost as if they can detect the scent of weakness or inactivity. Once they hone in on a target, there’s no hope for the intern; it’s do or die. The cruel, agonizing ritual continues unabated until the victim is left at the end of the day mentally and physically drained.

What is this horrible practice?

Transcribing:  the bane of my existence.

Since I’ve been at the magazine, I’ve lost count of the number of transcription tasks I’ve had to complete.

There’s even repeat offenders who’ve forgotten my name but recognize me around the office and frequently request for me to record their interviews for posterity. Although it was difficult at first, I’ve slowly become accustomed to typing up the recordings; it’s almost like hand-eye coordination, except it’s more auditory than visual. Plus, some editors are more tech-savvy and make it a bit easier for me to transcribe by uploading their audio files to iTunes on my computer.

With the arrival of the last wave of new interns, I no longer feel singled out as the defunct typewriter; others are experiencing the soul-crushing assignments as well.  It’s a necessary evil, but I can’t help wonder why I’m still stuck with them when I never had to at previous internships. Maybe other publications have their writers do it themselves, or at least pay someone that’s a professional typist.

This magazine treats transcribing like a mandatory task that every intern is expected to complete without question. Sometimes I wish I could turn down the summons and say, thanks but no thanks.  I feel like it's busy work to give me something to do, but I see it as a huge waste of time. Since I’m there only twice a week, I’d rather do something more constructive where I’m actually learning something new and/or contributing to the production of the magazine. During a previous internship at a similar publication, I was assigned tasks like writing photo captions and news items for the website. Oh, how I miss those days.

I’m trying to cooperate and be a team player, but I still struggle with transcribing and secretly hope that after a while I’ll stop receiving requests. But, I’ve belatedly realized on observation that transcribing is a cleverly covert way to find an “in” with the staff.  If you’re the eager intern who’s the first to volunteer for them and have a quick-turnaround, you’ll be rewarded with exclusives like writing on the fly stories or last minute invitations to red-carpet events. I want to be the one to reap these benefits, but I guess I’ll have to swallow my pride and continue to transcribe so that I can live on to fight another day.

OK, Edsters:  Any advice on how to handle transcribing?

See ya next Friday,
Entertainment Intern


  1. Transcribing is actually a really important part of the process of putting a magazine together. It's essential for fact-checking, and helps the writer craft a well put-together story. Plus, it teaches you what a good interview sounds like. Your editors are trusting you with the bounty of information they'll pull for a story--some of which might be delicate or even confidential--and are trusting you to type it right the first time. It's an insider peek at what its really like to interview sources and edit down their interviews. You should be grateful.

  2. Uh, you can learn a LOT from transcribing, don't be so ungrateful. For example, my interview skills improved 1000% by listening closely to the way different interviewers handled different subjects. You also get excellent fact-checking experience (very necessary to get that stuff right when you're transcribing) AND it's a huge chance to stand out, wanna know why? If you can turn in a transcript and the editor finds very little copyediting to do in regards to grammar, you'll make a HUGE impression because 99% of interns don't have a freaking clue. Good luck...

    1. Love that we posted essentially the same thing, Erika! I agree with you 100%. Interns who are actually good at transcribing and know its value are GOLD.

  3. Hi ScatterBrainiac and Erika, thanks for your feedback. I appreciate the insight into the editorial process. Actually, I AM grateful for the opportunity to have something to work on, even if it's a task I'm unfamiliar with. I realize now that it does have value in showing me the level of trust my editors have with their work. I will keep that in mind the next time some in the office asks me to transcribe.

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