Use recorder to obtain best quotes

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When I took Reporting I in my junior year, I never used a recorder because I wanted to be comfortable reporting stories without one. Now, if I’m covering something and I don’t have a recorder, I don’t have to panic because I know I have the skills to get by. This happened to me during my summer internship. I had to cover a women’s junior college basketball all-star game and I’d left my recorder at home.  I had to talk to a lot of people (players, coaches, scouts, etc.) and take hand-written notes, but the story turned out fine.

Whether to use a recorder is one question many students have. I say you should know how to report without one. That being said, once you are working for a paper, the only reason you shouldn’t use one is when your interview subject declines to be recorded.

Reading through the Independent Alligator today I noticed an abundant amount of terrible quotes. Most of them were under ten words. Examples:

“All of their songs get me in a good mood,” she said.

“The exercise room is going to be beautiful,” she said.

“They’re off to a good start,” she said.

These quotes are worthless because they add nothing to the story. These are what your quotes usually sound like when you don’t use a recorder and fail to take good notes. My rule of thumb for a good quote is 2-3 sentences. That way you can attribute after the first sentence and then continue the quote. The guys over at the sports department are usually pretty good about this. Example:

“It’s a real injury,” Meyer said Saturday. “We were worried it was just a tight hamstring, a hamstring pull or a hamstring strain. It might be something more. We’ll have more details on Monday.”

Quotes are the backbone of your story. They let your source tell their story in their own words. You should always be listening for the best quotes possible and building the nuts and bolts of your story around them.

What’s the best way to obtain good, accurate quotes? Use a recorder.

P.S.—If for no other reason, you should use a recorder for legal protection. If your source claims he didn’t say what you quoted him as saying, you have protection if you used a recorder. Otherwise, you could be in a world of trouble.

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