How the sausage is made, part 2: The good listener

Occasionally I have an entire interview professionally transcribed. It’s not something I do very often—only when the subject matter is technical or controversial or I’m really pressed for time.

I love the transcripts though, which read like plays written by someone who has never seen a play before. They expose how much of an illusion it is when someone comes off as articulate—how many sentence fragments, grammatical errors, and fillers contaminate the speech even of distinguished intellectuals. They’re also full of non sequiturs and—when done by me anyway—are completely one-sided.

For example, a few months ago I interviewed generous longtime donor Charles Jacobs, AB’53, JD’56. Of the 22-page, 10,000-word interview transcript, my contributions came to slightly more than 400 words. Here’s what would have happened if we had run just my side of the story (slightly abridged—sometimes even 400 words is too much).

QandA_QDrop.jpgI always make sure with lawyers, particularly, that I explain the tape recorder’s going on right now. So I thought what I would start with is your years with the Compass Players. I wonder if you could tell me a little bit about that.

QandA_QDrop.jpgThat would be great.

QandA_QDrop.jpgThat would be great.

QandA_QDrop.jpgDid you miss it once you stopped doing it?

QandA_QDrop.jpgI’m just wondering if it influenced your law practice at all. Did you have a lot of time in the courtroom?

QandA_QDrop.jpgHow long were you there?

QandA_QDrop.jpgAnd is that when you went into real estate?

QandA_QDrop.jpgNot as much as I should be.

QandA_QDrop.jpgWhy is that?

QandA_QDrop.jpgI’m sorry?

QandA_QDrop.jpgYes, absolutely.

QandA_QDrop.jpgExcellent. How did you learn about medicine? How did you kind of get caught up in that if you hadn’t had any medical training?

QandA_QDrop.jpgSo are you still there?

QandA_QDrop.jpgI’m sorry. Suddenly it seemed very quiet on your end.

QandA_QDrop.jpgThat’s what I was driving at.

QandA_QDrop.jpgSo what was it like living in Hyde Park in the 1950s?

QandA_QDrop.jpgDo you remember a particularly influential book or favorite book of that period?

QandA_QDrop.jpgI understand. Do you remember a particular professor or an influential professor, a favorite professor?

QandA_QDrop.jpgI understand.

QandA_QDrop.jpg[Laughs.] You’ve been a hugely generous and longtime supporter of the College, and I wonder if you could explain what programs particularly appeal to you and why.


QandA_QDrop.jpgI don’t think that sounds naïve at all.


QandA_QDrop.jpgThat’s really interesting. That’s a really interesting approach. So what advice would you give to current College students based on your College experience and your life experience?



QandA_QDrop.jpgI wish I could do that.

QandA_QDrop.jpgI can’t claim to be, really.

QandA_QDrop.jpgThat’s amazing.

QandA_QDrop.jpgSo one last corollary question: how did you get interested in opera?

QandA_QDrop.jpgWell, that’s all my questions. Is there anything that you wish I had asked you?


QandA_QDrop.jpgYeah. I mean, maybe now is the time to write a memoir or something.

QandA_QDrop.jpgYeah, could be. Could very well be. And then as you say, these questions really haven’t been settled in the medical, you know, as far as….

[End of interview.]

Carrie Golus, AB'91, AM'93

January 15, 2010