How Do Journalists Record Interviews?

Many sources may provide information to a reporter that is “off the record,” or on background. But, without specifically asking to go off record and receiving permission from their reporter, any conversations remain on record.

Experienced journalists usually have an informal system for determining how much of an interview should remain on record and off record, which must be made clear prior to conducting any such interview. It’s wise to discuss this matter prior to engaging in any such interviews.

Legal Issues

Many state laws forbid journalists from recording conversations without receiving permission from all parties involved, which can be punished with fines and other sanctions. Furthermore, journalists who publish quotes taken illegally recorded conversations could incur civil and criminal liability. To avoid these pitfalls journalists must identify themselves as reporters when approaching crime victims to record conversations with them as reporters while also seeking consent from interviewees before conducting legal interviews and transcribing the results in a legal manner.

Journalists frequently record interviews for easier transcription or as a safeguard in case any quoted statements turn out to be false or incomplete. Reporters may also use recordings as verification of facts gathered, which is especially beneficial when researching complex topics like politics or business. No matter why journalists record an interview, quality call recording software must be utilized so as not to miss any part of discussion or accidentally record themselves instead of their interviewee.

At times, the most compelling part of any story comes from hearing first-hand from an expert or someone involved in an event. While some individuals may find it challenging to open up during interviews, others find it easier. A journalist’s success depends on her asking relevant questions and listening carefully for useful details from interviewsees; Oriana Fallaci was famous for getting world leaders, kings, and even guerilla fighters talking freely during her interviews.

An interview can be successful when its reporter has an in-depth knowledge of its topic, prepares by researching relevant documents or statistics, and has excellent questions ready. Experts believe extroverts tend to be better at connecting with interviewees as they think more quickly and speak spontaneously during an interview.

Some journalists make it a practice to require interviewees to approve quotes before publication, believing this practice ensures accuracy. Other journalists disagree strongly with this approach and find it can encourage interviewees to embellish their comments to impress the journalist or her audience. In addition, if an off-the-record interview occurs and then later dies of natural causes it can be hard to ascertain whether or not there was an agreement of anonymity that bound them both parties involved.

Recording Techniques

Journalists use recording devices not only to capture crucial information for easier transcription but also for practical reasons like maintaining eye contact with interviewees to make interviews feel less formalized and formalized; and to prevent notes distracting them from speaking freely during an interview session and potentially cause them to speak louder or lose focus during discussions.

Recording interviews is also an invaluable way for journalists to assess their own style and performance during interviews. Take the time to listen back and transcribe your interviews as this can provide an insightful look into the quality of questions and tone, helping identify areas for improvement. Listening back also shows you whether your tone was engaging and supportive or aggressive or interrogatory – both qualities to consider as an interviewer.

Whenever recording interviews, it’s vital that interviewees know in advance. This is particularly true of phone interviews where there may be no obvious indication that recording is taking place. Furthermore, setting up your recording device before beginning can ensure everything runs smoothly with no technical glitches or distortion occurring during recording.

Remember that, even though recording without permission may be legal, journalists should only do it in cases of extreme importance and with great caution. Doing otherwise risks breaking trust between journalists and sources.

Reporters typically rely on notebooks for breaking news stories while recorders are used for longer interviews with less pressing deadlines such as profiles or feature articles. While it may be possible to rely solely on the recorder device for interviews, having a notebook as back-up in case technical difficulties or accidental deletion arise. No matter what device is used to record interviews, investing in high-quality microphones for optimal sound recording should always be prioritized for maximum results; especially relevant are microphones compatible with mobile phones and other digital recording devices which have become mainstream journalism world.


Journalists use transcription techniques and software to ensure they obtain all of the information from interviews they conduct, which is key since inaccurate transcriptions can lead to misquotations or inaccuracy in stories. Transcription software can also help journalists eliminate unnecessary words from transcripts; but while transcription can be an invaluable asset for journalists, it should never be seen as a replacement for in-person interviewing.

Journalists need to pay special attention when transcribing interviews, paying particular attention to details such as pauses and hesitations which are crucial in understanding an interviewee’s meaning and context. A high-quality microphone/recording device will help minimize background noise so the journalist can hear each word spoken clearly by the interviewee.

Timing is another key aspect of transcription. Knowing when an interviewee pauses for thought or to respond can be extremely helpful in selecting appropriate wording when writing articles about an interview. Transcribing interviews can also be time-consuming for journalists who must listen back through audio/video recordings multiple times before beginning transcription work.

Some journalists believe there is no substitute for conducting in-person interviews, while others consider recording them essential in providing accurate and unbiased information to the public. It should also be noted that many states have laws regarding recording conversations. These laws often specify whether conversations can be recorded as official conversations or off-the-record, as well as whether consent must be given by all parties involved in an interview before it takes place.

Furthermore, interviewees may request that certain topics or quotes not be brought up, which can often lead to protracted pre-publication disputes between reporter and interviewee. Such disputes can usually be settled if reporters possess quality microphones and recording devices as well as transcription software to transcribe accurately their interviews. Henceforth it is crucial that journalists make use of high-quality mics/recording devices/software and transcription services which allow for accurate transcriptions.


Journalists use editing techniques to hone their interviewing abilities and produce articles with accurate information. Journalists may also need to edit transcripts or audio recordings for clarity, length or brevity. Editing software such as Scrivener or ProWritingAid provides journalists with quick solutions for correcting spelling and grammar errors quickly. These apps can be found online as well as mobile phone apps.

Journalists usually ensure they obtain consent from those being interviewed before conducting an interview, by clearly identifying themselves as reporters and explaining to the interviewee that anything they say will be recorded, used in stories published or broadcast, and may even be published or broadcast. To avoid miscommunication or mistrust during interviews, journalists should make this clear at the beginning of each conversation to avoid missteps in communication or confusion during subsequent sessions.

Some journalists worry that interviewees might misunderstand the implications of being recorded, particularly young or traumatized individuals. Therefore, some may argue it’s essential to inform interviewees clearly of this possibility – while others think most interviewees understand these risks and are willing to sign onto these terms anyway.

Interviewees can often be unprepared to answer the questions posed by journalists, giving responses that might be offensive, insensitive or inappropriate – possibly even fearing answering because this will embarrass or offend a reporter or others.

Reporters should always take time to carefully consider and prepare the questions they wish to pose during interviews, and have another person review an interview recording or transcription afterwards to check for discrepancies or gaps.

Some journalists will show their interviews to interviewees prior to publication and seek their opinion regarding tone and accuracy of the article. Other journalists disagree with this practice, asserting they alone are responsible for creating news articles of acceptable content and that allowing an interviewee to influence or shape them before publishing is unethical.