CONDUCTING TELEPHONE INTERVIEWS

By Elizabeth Bardsley

I have done numerous telephone interviews and they are, by far, my favorite way to conduct an interview. For the most part you have a focused and captive audience, and you typically get a clearer recording for transcription. One must, however, consider legalities before conducting a telephone interview as they are governed by both federal and state laws. California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington and Illinois are termed two part consent states, meaning that a call cannot be recorded without the consent of all parties. Refer to https://www.aapsonline.org/judicial/telephone.htm for a complete list of state-by-state laws. For fact-based or fact-inspired projects, I always recommend asking permission to record the calls; if, for some specific reason this is not going to be the case in your particular instance, it may be prudent to consult legal counsel in advance.

Again, digital voice recorders can truly be a writer's best friend as they are fundamentally easy to use and offer an enormous amount of recording time. You can transfer your interviews to your computer quickly with a USB cable or flash drive for future use and email them directly to us for transcription.

In our office, we are currently using a Sony IC recorder, model PX333, that offers over a thousand hours of recording time. Specifically for telephone interviews, we utilize a telephone recording adapter on our landline office telephone. We currently use a Vec Electronics Corporation TRX-20, which plugs into the base and the handset cord of our landline with a three-foot cord that couples with our digital recorder.

Especially for telephone interviews, it is important to start your recording with identifying information. Turn on the recorder and take a beat to make certain that the digital counter has started.

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  • Identify yourself
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  • Identify all present by name, letting them respond individually [so that the transcriber will be able to distinguish voices]
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  • State the date and the project that the interview pertains to
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  • Ask and receive permission from the interviewee(s) to record the conversation

BOB SMITH
This is Bob Smith, S-M-I-T-H, and I am interviewing Jane Doe, D-O-E and Joe Dane, D-A-N-E on September 24, 2017, regarding a project called Lucy's Adventure. Jane, do I have your permission to record this interview?

JANE DOE
Yes, you do.

BOB SMITH
Thank you, Jane. Joe, do I have your permission to record this interview?

JOE DANE
Yes, you do.

BOB SMITH
Thank you, Joe. Jane, how long have you lived here in Burbank?