• "Made in the Shade"
    A package on Southern writers: profiles, interviews and an 11-state directory of writers you may never have heard of but are worth your time. Appeared in Creative Loafing chain.
  • "Mass Appeal"
    A day-in-the-life profile of a telegenic parish priest in Miami. Published in Catholic Digest, reprinted in the St. Petersburg Times
  • "The Liberation of Tam Minh Pham"
    How the first West Point graduate from South Vietnam disappears after the fall of Saigon, only to be rescued by his classmates two decades later. A cover story in The Washington Post Magazine


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Luis Gomez

I remember sitting at one of the school board meetings I used to cover and this lady (I remember her being old enough to be my grandmother) sitting next to me was scribbling nonsensical wobbly lines all over the paper and she just went one page after another without stopping. I asked her what that was and she said it was the old school shorthand. She learned it in school, far too soon before they even knew about cutbacks and NCLB. So I asked if she could rephrase every word said and she did. Anyway, I know there's a method out there. Just gotta either go back in time or take a class.


In personal interviews, I always tell people up front that I don't write/type as fast as people talk (that's almost a lie re my typing, but never mind) and that I may interrupt them from time to time to get caught up (or not fall behind).

Covering a meeting is dicier; in that situation I worry more about getting the substance of and reason for the action than any direct quote. Doesn't mean I won't take down any, but it's not the first priority.

Eric Beavers

I use a digital recorder, which gets rid of some of the problems of tape. I use an Olympus DM-10 (~$120). It provides more recording time (more than four hours at high quality, which I can stretch to almost 12 hours at low quality. Hope I'm never in a 12-hour meeting!). The files also export to Windows Media Player format.

On top of the quality (no hiss like a tape) I can download the recordings to my computer and archive them onto CD. If you haven't made the leap from tape to digital, now is the time to do it.


I, too, use an Olympus digital recorder, but only when I have a sit-down interview or something lengthy. For on-the-fly interviews when people talk fast, I made up my own shorthand, which is a plus because if my notes ever get subpoenaed nobody will be able to decipher them. :)
It basically consists of letters as abbreviations, like "r" for are or our, "D" for defendant (I cover court), "v" for very, which I stole from Bridget Jones's Diary, and various others. As long as you can read the shorthand, even if they are scribbles on a page, it helps.

Karl Weber

I have a great little note taking gadget called an Alpha Smart. It's a dedicated word processor, can't edit or format, just creates simple text files very easily. Weighs nothing, very sturdy, costs $250, runs on AA batteries for hundreds of hours. No one knows about it but I love mine.


I took shorthand classes and tee-line and hated both ... however I love my Sony TCM-359V cassette corder. It takes real-size cassettes which means I can play them back on a louder stereo system if required.

But more than that, I prefer eye contact all the way through an interview and the cassette recorder allows me to get on the the connection thing.

I've got my first 'email interview' in process. I'm curious to see how that turns out.

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