How Journalists Should Record Phone Calls

record calls journalistLet’s talk more about recording phone calls. Last week, I showed you why you shouldn’t opt for Google Voice when you need to record a journalism interview. Were you convinced?

I don’t like going back and listening to my own recordings … sometimes I ask weird questions or say things that make no sense at all. But it’s a must when I need to make sure I wrote down a quote correctly or that I didn’t miss any interview gems.

So, what’s the best way to record phone calls?

I usually record for personal use only so I’m opting for the cheapest and easiest methods. If you need to be able to use the recording for radio or other use, you might want to spend a little more money on better tools and equipment.

Here’s my answer:

The first thing you need is a regular tape recorder, one that has good range and can upload easily to your computer in a usable format is best.

With an iPhone, the easiest way I’ve found to record conversations is to put the call on speaker and turn on your tape recorder. Of course, you need to be in a quiet space for this to work.

This journalism article has another good solution (see below,) which could come in handy if you don’t have any other method available.

 How to: record a phone interview using your iPhone’s voicemail

  • Call the interviewee;
  • Press the + button on your iPhone and dial your own phone number;
  • Listen to the voicemail message and, after the beep, carry out the interview;
  • You will then have your recording in your voicemail;
  • To download this you will have to run a mini-jack into recording software, such as free open-source Audacity, and play it back in real time;
  • You will be limited by the duration of your interview.

For cell phone or land-line recording, this telephone recording device costs under $20 and works even if you don’t have a smartphone. One problem with this device is that you have to have it in your ear which might be annoying for some journalists. On the other hand, you don’t have to pay for minutes.

Neal Augenstein is the first radio reporter to use iPhone as his primary field recording and production device. I asked him on Twitter (he’s @AugensteinWTOP) and he suggested using Recorder. I already mentioned this app in my last post. If you want to know, the minutes cost $1.99 for one hour and $12.99 for eight hours.

A few more ways:

  • If you’re using Skype, here’s a way to record audio for free using Audacity.
  • If you’ve got an iPad, a journalism student recently created an app for recording calls.
  • Also, this Apple patent has some really awesome potential for journalists but it’s not here yet. I would certainly try it out were it available.
  • UPDATE 11/7/11:
    You can record a phone interview using SoundCloud, which offers mobile apps. Make a three-way phone call by calling this number, +1 (215) 995 5025 (US) dial your interviewee and the SoundCloud line will then record your account. You can then upload the audio publicly or privately.

    You can also get your audio transcribed. Speaker Text is a transcription company that is integrated with SoundCloud. It takes 48-72 hours to be transcribed and costs 99 cents a minute. It’s a way of making audio search engine optimised but you can also link to a certain sentence within the audio, for example referencing a quote or comment.

Feel free to add your experiences or solutions in the comments. I want to know the best way for journalists to record phone calls.

4 Responses to How Journalists Should Record Phone Calls
  1. Kevin Wilson
    January 3, 2012 | 12:11 am

    Looks like there may be a new service starting up which can help solve this.

  2. Andreas Andrews
    February 9, 2012 | 3:02 pm

    I’ve moved from iPhone to Galaxy S2 (running Android OS) and have found an excellent app which I’m trailing for free at the moment which you can set to auto-record every call you make or receive as well as choosing the format (including Wav as an option) for full control over the recordings. There are a few totally free apps, but this one for £5 called ‘Total Recall’ seems to be the best, and actually records what is going through the handset so you get the best possible quality. The recordings can also be automatically backed up/sent to your email account and/or an Evernote account. The time and date of each call as well as the number is logged in the title of the file.

    Now all I need to do is arrange for some interviews…

    I found this article as I was just looking up the best format to use for the majority of my non-important calls between 3GPP, AMR and MPEG4. I’ll probably just stick with the default 3GPP as it takes up very little space, and sounds clear enough when played back.

  3. James Johnson
    March 9, 2012 | 11:06 am

    I use a service called RecordiaPro. For 30 bucks they give you 120 minutes of recording time. I can use any phone and I can show any caller ID I want. Everything is saved as a Mp3 file that you can DL off their site.

    The convenience factor far outweighs the cost for me personally.

  4. Ivan Wilhelm
    April 16, 2012 | 5:14 pm

    I truly appreciate this article.Much thanks again. Want more.

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