Welcome to episode four of the Reporters Shop Talk, I’m Stu Campaigne, BayToday reporter here with Dave Dale, a Local Journalism Initiative reporter with three decades of experience in the business.
In this segment, Dave goes over his interview recording style and some best practices on how to put the information collected to use.
You will find below the full episode transcript plus the embedded audio file. Enjoy!
Stu: What we'd like to talk about today, Dave, is when it comes to recording (interviews), are there some regulations around, what you can and can't use legalities wise?
Dave: As long as one person in the conversation knows it's being recorded, it's fair game.
You can always record every one of your conversations. But again, like the photography, it all depends on how you use it.
Actually, at Village Media, they follow some of the CRTC guidelines of getting permission from the person to use their audio clip and then adding it in the reports as part of the storytelling.
So what I do, I don't necessarily always tell them it's been recorded at the beginning of the interview. But if I think there's a good quote and a good clip of them speaking clearly, that'll help and enhance the storytelling, I'll ask them at the end of the interview. I'll say “I have recorded this audio file. Do you mind if I use it as an excerpt in the story?” and I'll get their permission and they'll have it recorded. That's a company policy.
I'm not sure if it's legally necessary. I could record anybody's conversation and publish it on Facebook with or without their permission. It's done all the time, but I think ethically and morally when you're doing interviews, the rule right now that we work under is we get their permission.
But I don't want to interrupt the flow and have them sort of self-conscious during the interview. Depending on what they say, of course, there's an underlying rule that I'm not going to use something that makes them look bad either. I don't like to do that in journalism, I’m not a “Gotcha!” type of guy. It ruins relationships. If it's relevant, and it's, you know, a straightforward hard news story in the question, I'll take their answer. But even when they answer, I'm not going to use parts where they stutter beforehand or something like that. I think I try to be very fair.
Stu: I think it's pretty good practice. I saw an example of that recently where it was a television guy, he kind of surprised someone with a question. And this is kind of a public figure on the video, he is taken aback, and then he answers.
But the guy from the TV used the whole thing. I would think that’s ethically questionable, not necessarily for some people. That's how they operate journalistically is using any kind of “gotcha.” It doesn't matter to them.
But the guy was asked the question. He was taken aback, didn't want to answer. He asked if he could take a second to think about it. The answer. And that's when the reporter said yes.
Dave: Well, that almost says you're giving them another chance. Right. So, you know, there's some assumptions made there when you go into an interview and you're not too sure about it. Definitely as an interviewee, I would want to clarify how it's going to be used.
If I was being interviewed by somebody with the television camera, I'd like to know exactly what's fair game and what's not. And I’d talk to the person probably beforehand and have an understanding. Same thing with when I'm recording somebody, I'm not there to make them look bad. You can do some wild editing in sound to make yourself look better and make the other person look bad, if you're if you're that kind of person. And, so I think, the general rule of thumb is just be fair.
If you start burning people in interviews and using stuff that they didn't expect you to use, you're not going to last very long in this business.
Stu: That's true. Of course, one of my favourite questions at the end of an interview, “Is there anything else?” And, you know, it doesn't always work out, but sometimes people have to know, they’ve already said it once, they have time to kind of think about it. Take what was 10 sentences and put it down to three.
There you got your quote, fair to give the person one more chance. To be honest, it's for us, too, because they can't go back and say that's not what I meant.
Dave: There’s nothing wrong with asking the same question over again. In fact, it's very interesting when you do that to see how they change their answer.
It's funny, along those same lines. That's exactly why I never interviewed any of the councillors after a council meeting. I figured they had their chance to say it in the public meeting. I didn't give them another chance to change it.
Stu: You know, you're right, we've talked about this and I often wondered about when I worked in radio, I had to go get the sound clip. But now that I'm back in print, you're ight, I mean, there's no element of it in being the moment at all … (if you stick to reporting the meeting content) I think they're a little more careful about what they're saying, but not always in a bad way for us. I think there maybe a little bit more on point.
Dave: I figure council meetings are the game and what happens in the game counts more than what happens after the game.
Stu: I agree. That’s something I learned from you, even in the last few months, just about how I approach things. Of course, you know, things are a little different right now because we're not at the meetings in person anyways. But I've made very few phone calls following meetings except for to elaborate on things later on.
Dave: Well, I love it that the meetings are recorded and you go back to them. I'm really curious to see what municipalities are going to do after COVID when it's not necessary, because this is really good public transparency. I think it should continue.
(Dave asking for permission to use a clip after the interview is over)
I record my interviews because note-taking is bad, I have a bad hand, and at the beginning you had a good sound bite about ‘If you don't get the blanket back, you might take people up on an offer to do it because it's such a sweet thing.”
Would you mind me using that one little bit of an audio bite to put in with the story?
“Oh, not at all. Yeah, please do.”
AUDIO CLIP EXAMPLE THAT WAS USED:
“No leads, no luck yet. I keep checking that sort of other folder in my Facebook messages just to see. But we have had so many offers to remake the blanket, which has been which has been really sweet. So I think if once we exhaust the search that we will maybe take someone up on that. I think that would be a nice sort of token of this whole experience, to be honest. Yeah, I guess people can really get behind a blanket, your grandma made, and like, have a sentimental attachment to it.”