Why A Journalist Should Not Use Google Voice to Record Calls

google voice: journalist tools

Google Voice: A good tool for journalists?

Taking good notes during an interview is a must, but an experienced journalist knows it’s a good idea to have the right tools and to record everything if possible. You probably won’t have time to listen to the whole thing, but it might save you if sections of your words get thrown out, or you can’t make out your own writing (a problem I experience frequently.)

This post will focus on the iPhone because that’s what I have and can talk about from experience. For landlines or in-person, you can use a digital recorder.

In Clay’s earlier post about 5 iPhone apps for journos, he mentioned CallRec.me (I’ll get back to this one later) and Google Voice as two options for voice recording.

Google Voice worked for me. I recorded a 15 second conversation from an incoming call with no problem. I pushed 4 during the call, and it worked. And then I tried it on a real interview … but it failed.

We both heard the voice say it was recording. Then when the interview ended, it did not show up in my inbox. Thankfully I took notes during my conversation and didn’t need the recording. Still, I hoped Google Voice recording would work, especially since it’s free.

What I found during my ensuing search in the Google forums is what makes me believe that journalists should not rely on Google Voice to do their job — even though Poynter first called it a game changer in 2009.

One forum post about people’s recorded calls not being recorded goes on for 20 pages. The first message is below:

I just recorded an hour long call for work (I am a journalist). It is very important to me. However, when I went on to Google Voice to download the call, all I got was a two second static-type noise. Is there any way I can retrieve the recording? It’s listed as a recorded call AND the google voice software said “Call Recording On.”

Thanks in advance.


Supposedly you can report missing recordings and they will find them for you. Some people say this takes days and most people have no luck at all with this tactic (I didn’t.)

From all these desperate pleas, multiple people who call themselves journalists periodically appear. Overall, it seems that Google Voice is simply unreliable. Use it if you wish, or if you don’t have another option, but you won’t know if it works until the end and that’s scary.

Don’t give up all hope of using Google Voice, though. It’s call forwarding features can be very useful to journalists. Read more in this post about the digital tool.

Back to CallRec.me

This free app isn’t too confusing, but it does cost money to actually record. When I made a call from the app, the sound quality during the phone call could not have been worse. It sounded like we were on the moon and it beeped even after I turned the beeping noise off in the settings. My poor experience could be unique, but given the reviews, I doubt it.

Also, Recorder is another app that cost 99 cents yet the minutes are cheaper. I haven’t used this one but it gets decent reviews and might work if you’re set on using an app to record you calls.

What is the best way record calls? What tools should a journalist use? I think I have an answer, but you’ve got other things to read, so I’ll leave it for a later post.

One Response to Why A Journalist Should Not Use Google Voice to Record Calls
  1. [...] record-a-call function at length, but beware of lost recordings. SustainableJournalism.org has an informative post on why journalists should not rely on this [...]

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