As professional reporters and transcribers, we like to think of ourselves as neutral and objective in our work: our goal is to capture speech in written form, and we do it as reliably and accurately as possible, while ensuring that the outcome is comprehensible and readable. This is achieved by making a series of rational decisions; our personal values and ideals should not play a role. While many of us work with politicians in parliaments, our own work is not political, but based on what is necessary or sensible in different situations – right?
Reporting involves making a lot of decisions: what to include and what to leave out of the report, and how to report all the details that are included. Should some things be emphasised, and others faded out, so that the purpose of the report is fulfilled in the optimal way and the reader gets the right impression of the event? These decisions often concern small linguistic and editorial details, but they occur quite often, and together they determine the nature of the report. We do not always agree on these decisions, and sometimes we debate them with our teams or colleagues. Eventually, this joint decision-making about common matters involves negotiating and prioritising conflicting aims, and brings us into the realm of politics in a broad sense.
Professional reporting is often based on academic knowledge and best practices about language and communication. It is also based on our subjective values, attitudes and ideologies about how to best apply this knowledge and experience to achieve our goals. When we stop for a while to consider linguistic editing and language regulation as politics, we can all identify conservatism in preserving traditional linguistic practices, authoritarianismin believing in a strict set of editorial norms determined by experts, and liberalism in allowing for more linguistic variation. We might also notice nationalismin avoiding loanwords or other foreign linguistic influences, populismin emphasising personal emotions and experiences over arguments by “elitist” experts, and so on.
These ideologies are relatively easy to detect in others. However, it is essential to notice that these and other linguistic ideologies are not just something that other people have – they exist very much within ourselves. I can identify all the above “isms” in myself in some form. It is not possible to abandon attitudes or ideologies altogether. It is possible, however, to acknowledge them, be conscious of their effect, and search for a purposeful balance that best serves the problems at hand.
In this issue, we have a diverse collection of high-quality articles that open our eyes to different choices and possibilities in professional reporting and transcription. John Vice introduces us to varying ways of reporting non-verbal activities in different parliaments. Eero Voutilainen, in turn, presents how the Finnish Parliament’s reporting office has recently chosen to report routine administrative and technical speech by the chairperson in the official parliamentary report. Both articles show how different editorial choices affect the nature of the official report.
Sometimes reporters must make the best of circumstances that are outside their control. Henk-Jan Eras describes the process whereby the reporters of the Dutch House of Representatives had to search for another physical position for themselves in the plenary hall, and how they succeeded with comparative research and careful testing. Niklas Varisto depicts the actions that professional reporters had to take to report a strenuous, multiday filibustering session in the Finnish Parliament. Amy McMillan and Daniel Norman give a detailed conference report of the first virtual symposium of the British-Irish Parliamentary Reporting Association (BIPRA). The report discusses the current topics of working remotely, organising work during the pandemic and new technologies, including the use of automatic speech recognition (ASR).
Taking up new technologies is also a choice that requires careful consideration: how will the new system affect the workflow and existing reporting practices? In his article, Deru Schelhaas discusses the developments of ASR technology and highlights aspects that are especially relevant for professional reporters. Emrah Kuyumcu describes the principles, history and considerable impact that the F-keyboard has had on Turkish professional and competitive reporting. Piero Cavallo and Rocío Bernabé Caro introduce us to the finished LiveTextAccess open online course for real-time intra-linguistic subtitlers. The course is targeted at professionals using respeaking or the Velotype stenographic keyboard, and the student can take an exam leading to the new Intersteno-ECQA certificate.
In addition to our conscious principles, the circumstances that we get into and the technologies that we use, we are also very much affected by our underlying conceptions of reporting and transcription. In his regular scientific column, Carlo Eugeni discusses the influential notion of “verbatim” and how our understanding of it might affect the choices that we make in “verbatim reporting”. Discussing a variety of professional matters and perspectives, both theoretical and practical, helps us to be aware of the choices that we make in our work.
I invite you again to engage in this lively conversation on the pages of Tiro!
Eero Voutilainen is Tiro’s Editor-in-Chief.