Sitting in front of me as I write are six paper notebooks. They undermine my paperless journalist goal.
Four are A4 size, two are old-school reporter notebooks. One A4 notebook is open and I’ve an array of pens to hand – I’ve left a few messages this morning and am waiting for various call backs on stories I’m writing. There are many more used notebooks packed away in boxes.
I’ve made huge strides in the past two weeks reducing the amount of paper in my life – cutting the notebooks looks harder.
There are reasons
- A journalist’s notebook is a legal record of interviews, conversations and so on. If something goes badly wrong and I find myself on the wrong end of a defamation action, my notebook could be valuable evidence. In the past I’ve been told to keep old notebooks for seven years – many journalists keep them for longer.
- Notebooks are valuable. I write quotes, dates, times, phone numbers, web and email addresses as I go. There have been many times when I’ve gone back to a notebook and found a missing piece of information.
- Notebooks are physically hard to scan – I mainly use ring-bound ones.
- My handwriting is not easy to read, I use self-taught shorthand. Read scanned notes is difficult.
- There’s far too much to scan anyway.
Years ago I thought my Apple Newton MessagePad might solve this problem, but it was too slow and clunky. My Palm TX was also a useless substitute and the old style tablet PCs couldn’t hand the job either. I did see something called a ‘chording keyboard’ which looked useful, but in practice it was too flawed.
I’m interested in hearing how other journalists have dealt with this problem.