Drafted to Draft

Let’s say, hypothetically, that I got a surprise assignment today to take down a meeting in a higher office. Say too, that they need a verbatim transcription (thank God for the tape), but it occurs to me that I don’t have a guideline for deciding what information is pertinent. Some things should obviously be excluded from the record, like a speaker asking me if he should speak more slowly, but others, I am not so sure about. Perhaps our resident stenotypists, trained in court reporting, could help me out. Here are some situations—include or omit?

1. A participant accidentally alluded to something which apparantly was not supposed to be alluded to, and I was asked not to include it. (a) Do I include it? (b) Do I include them asking me not to include it?

2. A break was taken to secure additional documentation, during which some pertinent discussion continued. There I was with my pen, so I kept writing, naturally.

(by johnsapp for everyone)


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11 comments Add yours
  1. John, verbatim means verbatim.

    I would record all comments. I might make notes that there was a request to delete some comments. I would let the person who requested the meeting and your notetaking edit the final minutes. Who gets to listen to the tape? — Vic

  2. Hi JohnSapp,

    I am currently a court reporter and can answer your questions based on
    how I would handle your situation. I do court hearings, court trials,
    depositions, witness examinations, school board hearings, et cetera, and
    have been requested to provide a verbatim transcript for public hearings.

    If you're still interested in my answering, let me know. But I can tell
    you one thing – like I said, my situation may be different – no one
    proofs my work but me and I certainly would not surrender my notes and
    tape. When I have been hired to replace another court reporter, the
    transcript, notes, and tape are my responsibility. Some people may
    frown on tape backups, but tape backups have saved court reporters when
    they were accused of leaving something out of a transcript or the
    attorney didn't like what he had said. Tape backups are required in my

    I worked as a legal secretary and then paralegal before I became an
    official court reporter in 1987. I've worked in the legal field all my
    career and never in the corporate field, so my answers would be based on
    that experience.

    V-Lindsay, PLS, CSR

  3. hmm… that's a tough question…  I guess much would depend on what your bosses wanted. It would be best to ask beforehand.   All I can speak of is what I learned when I studied machine shorthand.   Everything is recorded, including "minor" matters as if you ask someone to slow down, or repeat a question/answer/remark. Record all conversations unless the person running adjorns the meeting, for a break, lunch, tea, etc…  Any other conversations could be of interest to whomever asked for the record.   Then perfect your record ad turn it in to your boss (or whomever).  You can attach a note telling them to mark out any part they wish stricken. In the end, it's their record, so if they strike part, it's their business.    A lot I suppose would depend on what type of meeting, also.  A regular staff meeting, board meeting, confidential/super-secret meeting.   In a nutshell, ask whomever asked you for the record then follow their instructions. It's their meeting and record. You are just there to record it.   Hope this helps   Mike

  4. P.S.    Other quick thought:   If you work for whomever asked for the record, defintely follow their instructions.   If you are hired outside the company/firm/etc…, you have more control oer the situation. In that instance, I would record everything, until an official break or adjornment is called for.  If the person who hired you is suprised by everything being recorded, just tell them you were hired to make a verbatim record.    

  5. As a digression,   I have heard about some entities that still use pen writers.  The Pentagon, CIA, FBI, Dept. of Justice I've heard use pen writers on occasion, as it is more secure than an analog or digital recording, or even machine writing.    In addition, I've heard rumors (rumors only mind you) that some mega-corporations use pen writers on occasion for very secretive meetings. I'm not commenting on the legality of this, since most are public companies. But pen writing can be a very secure record of a meeting, esp. if the draft is done on the premises and the notes are turned in with the perfected draft.   Maybe we should open a confidential reporting firm.

  6. Hey Mr S   I do a lot of verbatim transcripts of interviews done during an investigation process, as well as minutes of a statutory committee, so I'll be answering with that background:   1. If a person is reading from a document, would it be acceptable to put a note like this [read from exhibit A, section I.1.A]?   answer: If the quote is relevant to the argument, I'd type it in from the document — not from the tape — just to make sure it's accurate. I might include any asides made in square brackets with an identifier indicating the speaker added the note like this:   [I don't really believe this next bit — speakers note]   2. Since this is a transcript, not minutes, should I attach it as a seperate document?  Would you recommend it being on company letterhead?  Is there any particular heading, font, style or formatting used as a standard for transripts?   answer: ask the secretary who usually does the minutes if s/he usually keeps the minutes in a binder for a legal record — s/he may want them in a specific format, usually a separate document. I never put them on letterhead, but do indicate specifically: a) name of company, name of committee, date of meeting for a header for all the pages and b) Page X of Y usually in the footer.   sidhetaba  

  7. Okay I haven't done court reporting, but I've done tons of minutes for meetings (I'm a secretary).  When I've taken minutes in meetings, I do not inlcude things they asked not to be included.  You can double check with someone higher up (a supervisor or manager or the person who made the comment).  But that's the experience I've had. I also include what was said if someone leaves and the meeting goes on.  And having someone look over them before they are e-mailed or copied is a good thing.  Put a watermark, DRAFT on it if you can or feel like you need to for security reasons, or give only the printed copy to be looked over so nothing is forwarded. Debbi

  8. Thanks to both for the helpful input.   I will relinquish the tapes to the presiding officer along with the transcription, whereupon the tapes are destroyed (that's the official answer, for all I know they'll end up in his/her desk drawer).   The one who asked for the accidental disclosure not to be included was not the presiding officer, but I think the presiding officer implied approval by not directing me otherwise.   I will have the normal secretary for this meeting look over the transcript and have him/her forward it to the presiding officer (I was a stand-in).   I thought of another couple questions:   1.  If a person is reading from a document, would it be acceptable to put a note like this [read from exhibit A, section I.1.A]?   2.  I usually send meeting minutes by typing directly in an e-mail.  I consider e-mails the new memorandums, and I feel more efficient to send minutes in memo style; that is, it's a little more informal to make the minutes part of the memo, as opposed to attaching a formal minutes document to a memo with a message saying "I am attaching the minutes to this memo."  Especially since, with e-mails, that would mean uploading a Word docuement, which people don't appreciate because it clogs thier Inboxes.  Also, I like the minutes having built in the extra documentation provided by the memo header about the details of their transmittal.  The reason I like the informality is that it makes me look like I am more efficient by cutting out some pomp-and-circumstance and that I am such a busy worker, that it was all I could do to get the minutes down in a memo.  So here's the question: since this is a transcript, not minutes, should I attach it as a seperate document?  Would you recommend it being on company letterhead?  Is there any particular heading, font, style or formatting used as a standard for transripts?

  9. John S.:

    1. You are not the regular scribe for the meeting. Therefore, I would be very thorough. The degree of formality depends upon the use of the minutes. Is this a formal record for legal purposes, etc? Did you review past minutes to determine the degree of formally and the format? Personally, I would source the reading material.

    Minutes are often for people who are not present, and senior staff that don't attend low-level meetings, but want to be kept apprised of a work group's progress. Again, purpose and audience is key. If the meeting is extremely informal, do you need minutes? Why can't the participants take notes?

    2. If the draft minutes are to be edited by a supervisor/manager, a word document is the best choice. Then, the reviewer can make changes immediately and reduce typing and editing time. Further, the reviewer's changes can be tracked by the software (Word).

    3. Why not post the final minutes on a "shared" drive and eliminate the paperwork and emailing of the minutes completely?

    Vic/San Jose CA

  10. The problem is, being an idiot, I didn't ask for copies of the exhibits, so I don't have written versions of the readings; just my notes and the recordings. I guess I'll go off those.

    Good idea to use a shared drive, but in this case, I think I'll attach it to an e-mail for confidentiality.

    Lindsay, since I am not an independant agent, court reporting standards might not apply, but it would still be interesting to know how it is done.

  11. Ask a person who regulary attends the meeting for a copy of the old minutes/notes. There is always "CYA" guy who has all the meeting notes. I use to be one of those. Can you get in touch with the regular scribe/notetaker or would that be inapproriate? 🙂 — Vic/San Jose CA

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