Covering Coronavirus: Tips, best practices and programs

Three free tools for transcribing interviews quickly

Working from home these days consists of Zoom meetings, recording coronavirus briefings off TV and conducting remote interviews. That can mean a lot of transcribing. But you no longer have to spend an eternity adjusting ear phones and thumbing the replay button on your recorder. With the help of technology, there are many tools available for journalists to transcribe audio on a deadline (and a budget). 

Here are three tools you can use for free:

Google Docs Voice Typing. This tool comes pre-installed in the Google Docs software. Its purpose is to serve those who cannot easily type or who prefer to dictate notes, but reporters can use it to play back audio files and the Voice Typing tool will automatically transcribe the words in real time. Quartz reporter Leah Fessler tested it for an hour-long interview and noted the accuracy, including proper names and grammar. 

To begin, start a new Google Doc. Under the “Tools” dropdown menu, select “Voice Typing.” You will now see the recording icon. (Note, you can also switch languages at the top dropdown menu.)

Click on the microphone to start the dictation. You’ll need to have your computer’s microphone turned on for it to work.

Two tips: Make sure to keep the Google Doc window open during the entire interview, otherwise the recording will stop, and make sure to work in a quiet space, or excessive background noise will result in reduced accuracy.  

Otter. This free app offers a real-time transcript of dictation, conversations or even a meeting. Simply hit record on the web site and the app will start transcribing the session. It also allows the user to download recordings that the app can transcribe while the user completes other tasks. 

The transcript features timestamps throughout the text, which are essential because the transcription still requires careful review. However, the app will play the recording and follow the transcript. Moreover, you can advance to a portion of the transcript and automatically play the sound to check accuracy. The app also distinguishes between two speakers and identifies them separately in the transcript. Here’s a PCMag review from 2018.

The free app does not create a transcript document, but it allows you to save as text on Clipboard. As an added feature, Otter is offering up-to-date transcripts of COVID-19 press briefings, from WHO briefings to Dr. Anthony Fauci’s recent interview with Trevor Noah. Using a two-month free trial Otter also provides live transcripts of Zoom sessions.

YouTube. You can also MacGyver a transcript with YouTube. First, you have to convert the audio recording into a video file. Upload the file to YouTube. The YouTube captioning service can create a free transcript. The file conversion can be tricky, however, and take up valuable time.

Bonus tool: Trint. Trint offers AI transcription within minutes. Once audio or video files are uploaded, Trint will convert into text, make audio and video files searchable and put captions on videos.

To start, just click on the Upload button. There will be a prompt with a few questions about audio quality. Next, it will ask to set a language (currently, Trint offers about 28 languages). Then, you will click “Transcribe.” When it’s ready to view, Trint will send an email. (Trint promises that the conversion will take less time than the length of the file.)

We included it as a bonus tool because it is only free as a 7-day trial. Click here to see their pricing packages. 

Share your favorite transcription tools and we’ll feature them in a future newsletter.