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Apr 17, 2024 by Marc Peruzzi

Trade Secrets: Julie Brown Davis | Record Everything

Featuring JOURNALIST, writer, and editor Julie Brown Davis

Home Base / Tahoe City, California.

Activities / Skiing, mountain biking, backcountry skiing, camping, hiking, traveling.

Sure, some journalists have superpowers and can write long-form features from the shorthand notes they scribbled on a notepad during an interview. But Hence Journal contributor Julie Brown Davis presses the record button whenever she’s sitting down for an interview with a source. “Because I know I’m getting all the quotes I need for a story in the recording, I can relax during the interview and stay more present,” says Julie. “I don’t write by hand very fast. Recording helps me focus my attention more on what the person is telling me, so I can ask better follow up questions and be a better listener.” Recording interviews also frees up your pen and paper, so you can take notes on the scene, capturing details that help propel a narrative forward or pull readers into a story. “What someone was wearing, the gesture they made when they said something,” says Julie. 

Always make sure you ask a source if it’s ok to record before you start the interview, Julie adds. She also records phone interviews, putting her phone on speaker mode and recording on her computer either with the Voice Memos app or a transcription service she subscribes to, like Otter or Temi. It wasn’t that long ago that reporters had to transcribe their recordings themselves or pay a service to do it. Today, thanks to artificial intelligence, you can pay a small fee to have your recorded interview transcribed in a matter of minutes. “It saves me so much time when I’m on deadline,” Julie says. “But I still always double check the transcription, because they often make mistakes. It’s not perfect, but it’s beyond helpful.”

Gratuitous dog lover shot. Julie and Squirrel.
And Squirrel as a pup.

Quick Tip

Keep recording until you get into the car. This was a tip Julie picked up in graduate school at UC Berkeley. “One of my professors told me to keep my recorder going until I got in the car, because sources tend to give you the best quotes as you’re walking out the door. And it’s true. It happens all the time,” she says.