All posts tagged tamara-bentzur

  • Writers outsourcing interview transcriptions: lazy or smart?

    An interesting discussion on the Mess+Noise boards today.

    The thread linked above is dedicated to transcribing interviews, and the hatred thereof. The first message:

    [transcribing interviews ] …is possibly the most tedious task on god’s earth.

    oh lord, I hate it.

    It was started in February 2007 and has been periodically resurrected as M+N writers bemoaned deadlines and the tedium of transcription.

    I wrote this, 17 November 2009.

    I’ve outsourced every interview I’ve done (ie. dozens) since June this year to a mother of five in Israel. Rates are very reasonable and her work is top-notch. Message me if you want a reference.

    Mobile phone on speaker > Sony USB recorder > YouSendIt. Word document back within a few days, always.

    I’ve mentioned this fact on my blog before, where I detailed how I came across the services of transcriptionist Tamara Bentzur of Outsource Transcription Services after interviewing Neil Strauss and querying him on the matter. From my interview:

    Do you have any interview transcribing tips?

    Yeah – outsource it. (laughs)

    For real. Even if I couldn’t afford it.. I just have to have someone else transcribe it. Sometimes it’s good to listen to because then you relive the conversation, but sometimes I find it easier if if I can fucking find someone I could pay a little bit to do it. Even when I didn’t have the money, I was like, fuck – it just makes my life easier.

    So I did, and like I said, I’ve engaged Tamara’s services dozens of times since June. She’s awesome. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made this year.

    Some of the other writers didn’t take too kindly to my admission.

    M+N writer A.H. Cayley – talented in her own right, and certainly a young writer to keep an eye on – didn’t like the suggestion at all.

    Jesus, NiteShok. How incredibly lazy. Her name should go right next to your byline, I think.

    I hope you pay her more than half of what you get paid, given that transcription is the longest, most tedious part of the process, and the least fun.

    My response:

    It’s her business. She is a professional transcriptionist. Why are you so offended by this concept?

    Cayley again:

    I think it’s incredibly lazy, and I’m not sure I’d have the gall to call myself a writer if I didn’t actually do the writing part.

    Each to their own.

    Whoa. That stopped me in my tracks. A strong accusation. M+N writer Shaun Prescott came back with:

    well, transcribing isn’t really writing. if the Q&A is going to be published as is, then I don’t see a problem with it.

    I doubt niteshok has Israeli women transcribe his live reviews while he sits in the corner dictating in his slippers with a pipe.

    Great imagery there. Craig Mathieson – the former editor of M+N, who also wears the crown of Australian rock journalism – said:

    C’mon Anne, handing off the transcription doesn’t make you any less of a writer.

    Cayley then admitted she’d gone too far. But the whole discussion got me thinking.

    Does outsourcing interview transcription devalue the role of the writer?

    M+N user MichaelDudikoff suggested:

    I actually applaud McMillen for his inventiveness while worrying that he might miss nuance.

    A fair statement. The responsibility of transcribing a conversation is significant, especially considering the reputation of the publications in which my writing appears. But I trust Tamara. She hasn’t let me down in the five months we’ve had a business relationship. I proof-read everything before it’s submitted, of course, and pay attention to the construction of sentences to ensure that it reads as the conversation played out. Where Tamara’s unsure of certain phrases or the speech is inaudible, she’ll timestamp the section and move on, leaving me to listen back to the audio and finalise the correct transcription.

    Writers, what are your thoughts? Is outsourcing interview transcriptions lazy or smart? Does it devalue the role of the writer? Do you feel I’m less of a writer for engaging the services of a professional transcriptionist to free up my time elsewhere?

  • Neil Strauss, Addendum

    How I put myself in the position to spend 45 minutes with one of my favourite writers:

    1. Read The Game by Neil Strauss in 2007. Love it; re-read it several times. Buy a used copy from eBay and a new copy from a bookstore to lend to friends.
    2. Through Neil’s mailing list, receive information that Emergency, his new book, was due in March 2009.
    3. Email several people to find the Australian publisher of Emergency. (Answer: Text Publishing)
    4. Request a review copy of Emergency for FourThousand.
    5. Inadvertently receive two copies of Emergency from different publishers. (I’m still not sure how this happened.)
    6. Review Emergency for FourThousand.
    7. Send review link to Text Publishing to solidify that relationship.
    8. Through his mailing list, receive information of Neil’s forthcoming Australian book tour in June 2009.
    9. Contact Text Publishing to request an interview Neil on behalf of FourThousand. (This request was a near-certainty, given my relationship with the publisher.)
    10. Discover that Neil’s book tour omits Brisbane. Sadly, resign the interview to a 20 minute phone call.
    11. Meet with Nick Crocker on Sunday, June 21 2009. He suggests the unforeseen possibility of flying to Sydney to interview Neil in person. (Nick: “Since he’s such a massive influence, why don’t you spend a couple hundred dollars to fly down to make a better impression?” Andrew: “…” [stunned silence, having not considered this option at all])
    12. Later that night, book flights to Sydney to interview Neil in person.
    13. Fly to Sydney on Tuesday, June 23 2009.
    14. Meet Neil. Complete my biggest interview yet by having a conversation, instead of referring to questions point-by-point.
    15. Begin transcribing the conversation at Sydney Airport.
    16. Fly back to Brisbane, head full of inspiration.
    17. Per Neil’s advice, outsource the rest of the interview transcription; in this case, to Israel, to an excellent transcriptionist named Tamara Bentzur. (I found her by Googling “outsource transcriptions”.)
    18. Spend the next two-plus months pitching the interview feature to various magazines in an attempt to recoup the $300 airfares.
    19. Get rejected.
    20. Eventually post the entire interview – 8,000 words-plus – online, free.

    Regrets? None.