Transcription Transgressions

logo for the Pryor Center

While August 2012 still feels like fall before last on remembering my second and final layoff from the newspaper profession, June 2013 seems longer than the six years it maths out when I recall that month’s part-time job, transcriptionist at the University of Arkansas Pryor Center for Oral and Visual History.

Those few hours a week did teach me two lessons I won’t forget, the value of transcriptions and the fallacy of transcriptions. Visiting the Pryor Center for a book reading inspired me to ink these up.

While my next university job was the 2014-15 term at its journalism department, the courses I taught did not have an opening for a reporting exercise I hadn’t seen anywhere (which doesn’t mean it’s not done). In some beginning or intermediate journalism class, it’d be cool to present a 3- to 5-minute recording excerpt, such as from the Pryor Center, and have the students transcribe it. By transcribe I mean word for word, with all the stumbles and repeats the least and greatest of us utter when speaking.

They would be encouraged to repeat the tape as often as needed, using a free transcription software app. Afterward, I’d hand out or put on a screen the official transcript so they’d see what they missed.

The only students who could get an A+, one would predict, would be someone who was a former stenographer.

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Lunch. Free? Sure.

Guy Unangst, early 1998, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newsroom, Little Rock. Photo by Sandra Wyman
Guy Unangst, early 1998, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newsroom, Little Rock.
Photo by Sandra Tyler

I have one good story about the recently departed editor Guy Unangst but didn’t know it was a story until a new reporter in around 2004 asked me, “Did you have a fistfight with Guy Unangst in the middle of the newsroom?”

“We did? What, us? Nah, there was no –.

“Wait a minute. You must mean the time –”

Who was I? In 2004 I was on the night universal desk of the Northwest edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. In 1997, the year of the story, I was the new Sunday editor, overseeing the newsroom end of producing the Sunday and Monday editions. Print.

Who was the previous Sunday editor?

Gruff Guy was.

In October 1991, Gannett Inc. closed the Arkansas Gazette, and the Arkansas Democrat bought its assets and became the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The Demzette management was determined to not grow complacent as merged papers seemed to do. It helped that Gov. Bill Clinton was elected president and the state newspaper had become relatively prominent. We used that clout to attract better talent.

The Democrat had hired me in 1985 as a news copy editor. A year or so later I became assistant wire editor and a year or so after that wire editor, in charge of national and international news, pulled from wire services and the syndicated arms of papers like The New York Times and Washington Post. After 10 years, I begged for a change.

Guy, who had worked at some major dailies, was hired as special projects editor to oversee enterprise reporting including investigative pieces. The Demzette around the same time hired another top editor for investigative reporting, and Guy proposed a new job he could also do, Sunday editor.

Reporters appreciated Guy, his meticulousness and his fierce loyalty to them. The newsroom’s midlevel editors, however, disliked answering to him on the biggest edition of the week. If there had to be a Sunday editor, make it someone else.

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The Indian and the Jew

Kevin Dawes
Kevin Dawes, about 2016
Photo by Carly Hamilton, with permission

“The Indian and the Jew.” Kevin loved saying that about us. This is a man I’ve known since we were 6 or 7 years old, meeting and becoming fast friends in first grade at Ballman Elementary in Fort Smith. That’s in the vicinity of five and a half decades.

I have not seen Kevin in the last four of those decades. He moved away, although not all that far from our hometown. I moved away, not that far, either.

The Facebook tributes to Kevin Dawes, who died on the 17th following a long illness, are uniform in how many of his school buddies and adult friends admired his kindness. The childhood friends in particular haven’t shared large anecdotes, just everyday ones. That is key. Ann related that her first dance date was with Kevin. David noted that he, Kevin and Brian rushed to enjoy off-campus lunches in high school.

My clearest memory is the zillion times he’d walk the three blocks from his house on Wolfe Lane to my house on Valley Lane for us to play h-o-r-s-e using my driveway’s basketball goal. That would be latter grade school and a good chunk of Ramsey Junior High. Continue reading

Bad-bad and Bad-good Choices

Insight on waking today: We daily make bad-good decisions and bad-bad decisions.

These are common calls, far milder than “Should I drop out of school” or “Should I marry this person.”

Logo of Tofutti BrandsBinging on chips and dip — make mine vegan if you please — is a bad-good decision. Dwelling on grim news that is more than a couple of steps distant from you is a bad-bad decision.

Wouldn’t sound better to write good-bad not bad-good? Certainly. Both pairs, however, are bad decisions, so “bad” is the primary modifier.

Junk food you can digest your way out of. Well, a few extra pounds might grow on you, but in moderation snacks won’t be what kills you in the end.

Obsessing on grim news outside the closer circles of one’s personal space radiates through the rest of the day like fountain pen ink on Kleenex.

Someone I know well just learned of a tragedy on Facebook. It’s not the closest connection nor a distant one, in the middle, more near than far. It’s a person whose day-to-day life is full of all sorts of lame luck and bad choices, according to their frequent social media posts. More a sad sack than schlemiel. One cringes when one hears in conversation or from posts the latest to befall them.

The bad-bad decision comes from considering the latest catastrophe (not ironic but indeed tragic disaster) longer than a moment. If you reflect or investigate on it further, your whole day, your thoughts and even activities are infected with the gloom of fate.

If you’re not in a position to help, it’s just poisoning yourself.

I realize in drafting this that I have been making a bad-bad choice for 14 1/2 months. Unintentionally infecting myself.

Several times a day I read on reliable news sites the latest chicanery of DJT (pronounced digit) and his administration. I’ve been steaming not just since Inauguration one year six days ago but his election in November 2016, when everything he said and did began to have a calamitous impact on my beloved country. Continue reading

Got My Back, Background?

Although it’s only been a year, I’m back in the job market. Heck, some people resume sending out resumes in weeks. New in 2015, with the positions for which I qualify, are third-party background checks.

Fortunately, I am an angel.

Earlier this summer, R— S— (hereinafter known as “Auld Acquaintance”) applied at T— U— (hereinafter the “Company”). That job description stated a criminal background check and a sex offender registry check would be performed. Understandable: No crooks or perverts. (Now, if they only could weed out the psychos.)

A third-party “consumer reporting agency” emailed a form a couple of weeks ago to Auld Acquaintance seeking basic information such as full name, any former names (maiden), current address and phone — and the applicant’s authorization signature, created on one’s computer by moving the mouse (or finger if a smarter device) as one would with a pen.

Auld Acquaintance was pleased, because it meant the Company thought enough of the interview to pay for the investigation. It was closer to an offer!

The first four paragraphis of the authorization.
Click the following phrase for a PDF of the authorization.

I just got a similar email. Whoopee, they like me, they really really like me!

Then I read the multipage document. If I wanted to move up in consideration, I had to follow course. I did. In confirmation, the Agency emailed me a PDF of the authorization.

In a nutshell: “The background report may contain information concerning your character, general reputation, personal characteristics, mode of living, and credit standing.”

And the Agency [“(or another consumer reporting agency”)] isn’t done with you when you take the job: “These background reports may be obtained at any time after receipt of your authorization and, if you are hired or engaged by the Company, throughout your employment or your contract period, as allowed by law.”

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