by Raymond Vetter, CER
At times we become so accustomed to our transcription routine that we forget our own creativity. Many of us remember using transcriber machines to prepare transcripts from cassette tapes before digital became the preferred tool of our trade. These machines varied distinctly in quality and had a reputation for frequent breakdowns. The breakdowns were, perhaps, due to the constant play/rewind needs of court and legal transcription and the continuous stress to the mechanics of the unit. A tape played on any unit, be it Panasonic, Sony, Lanier, Olympus, etc., varied greatly in sound from machine to machine, and once they broke and were sent for repair they were never the same. We continue to hope that reporters cease and desist from analog cassette recordings and move competently to digital recording, but old habits die hard, especially among my older generation.
I recently was assigned a 3-day administrative hearing docket on cassette tapes. My client kindly provided a transcriber unit and foot pedal. I have known their reporter for over 25 years and know him to be expert at this type of hearing, able to provide fine quality recordings and overly detailed notes. I have always happily transcribed his work. One large problem: the recordings sounded terrible and were nearly untranscribable. Indeed, I was near despair after too many attempts at completing the job. Before giving in, however, I fired up the little grey cells and considered my options.
Lo and behold, creativity kicked in. I played the tape on an old, high quality deck I still had and never used, and discovered that they were definitely very fine recordings. The problem was the rejected, refurbished and renovated transcriber unit. I put out word via Facebook to my chorus membership of over 70 contacts, and was able to borrow an old (covered in dust) boombox with cassette player. Once I had downloaded free Audacity software to my laptop, I patched the boombox to the laptop and digitally recorded all the tapes. It did take actual play time but it enabled me to use the noise reduction feature to make the new files of even higher quality, and convert them to WMA files to use on my digital player. The result, with minimal creativity, was a collection of fine digital audio files which let me produce complete and accurate transcripts at my highest personal production rate.
Moral of this little story: we all have tremendous experience upon which to draw. Our work keeps us alert and engaged and can help us find solutions with a bit of effort and a lot of friends and associates. Feel free to use the AAERT site or the Facebook group more often to exchange ideas and experience.
Raymond M. Vetter, CER, is a native of New Jersey who now resides in Tucson, Arizona.
He attended Georgetown University in Washington, DC and received a Bachelor of Science with a major in Arabic and a minor in Spanish. He also attended two separate scholarship terms at the American University in Cairo, Egypt for furtherance of Arabic studies. Raymond, a former AAERT board member, reported for 28 years and currently works part-time as a transcriptionist and interacts with the AAERT Certification Committee and as a member of the Education Committee.