The Ethical Transcript

I’m writing this blog post to lay out my thoughts on quality control, cyber security, and ethics as they relate to transcription in the modern world. Ambitious, right? Maybe even totally pretentious/impossible. Bear with me for a moment here, though.

Like just about every other industry, transcription has been irrevocably changed by the digital revolution. Massive workforces can be mobilized easier than ever. Complicated processes can be streamlined or even automated. Things are getting “flatter,” in the Thomas Friedman sense. This has led to amazing changes for the transcription industry, which we at Rogers Word Service, having been in the business for 32 years, are in a unique position to observe. It used to be that we’d need to have a large workforce in the office, local, to do any transcription projects that came in. It was a clunky process, and fraught with danger. When we’d have a sudden rush of work, we’d have the same workflow capacity as when things were slow. When things were slow, we’d still have to pay those employees.

Now, thanks to the internet, accommodating the ebbs and flows of business has never been easier. Personally, I feel confident that Rogers Word could handle just about any large-scale transcription project practically at the drop of a hat. We’ve developed close, long-term relationships with the very best transcriptionists in the industry. They know us, respect us, want to work for us, and we know them, their strengths, and their work capacities. We’ve put years of effort into developing this network of high quality transcribers and editors. Their expertise and commitment to quality makes me so proud.

However, there is, in contrast, a “dark side” of the transcription industry. We get offers on a regular basis to outsource our transcribing work, often for what amounts to pennies per labor hour for the person actually doing the work. To me, not only are you likely to get a very shoddy product, it’s also unethical and a potential security risk. Many transcription companies use these services to “crowdsource” their transcripts, meaning they’ll break the audio down into small segments (often just a minute or two), and pay a hundred different people to transcribe one small chunk each. It’s actually fairly ingenious, but you end up getting transcribers that 1) don’t care about quality because they’re literally getting paid pennies to do the transcript, and 2) are not necessarily skilled or educated transcribers.

The thing I’d like to impress to people is that transcription is NOT easy. Even the very best transcribers make mistakes and need proofing. Personally, I’ve been transcribing for YEARS, as well as editing transcripts produced by very intelligent, educated people, and every single time there is something that truly needs a second or even third set of eyes. It could be a small dropped word, it could be a grammatical mistake, it could be some extra bit of Googling/research that makes the transcript truly exceptional. That level of attention to detail is just what you get when you get a Rogers Word Service transcript.

I’ve seen transcripts prepared by top voice recognition softwares. They’re often, frankly speaking, hilarious, and usually require more time editing than it would take to just transcribe and proof against the audio yourself.

At Rogers Word Service, every single step of the transcription process is done by someone who is an expert in what they do, who truly cares about delivering a quality product. We reject the assembly line mentality. We reject the facelessness and lack of accountability that is made possible by modern technology. We care about our customers and our employees, and we strive to treat them all with respect and humanity. If you get your transcript from Rogers Word Service, you can be assured that we will deliver the very best, most applicable transcript we can, and that the transcript was done ethically by people who are proud of the quality of their product.

I stand behind our product and believe in it, and I am so grateful to our customers and employees that make this business possible. It’s important work.

-Paul Rogers

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