Transcription Error Nearly Cost Governor Walker His Reputation

Transcription ErrorWisconsin Governor Scott Walker is in the middle of investigation regarding violations in campaign finance just when he is in the thick of a battle for re-election. But some time back he was in trouble for an interview that he gave.

Back in January 2014, in an interview with the news website RightWingNews.com, Walker was quoted as saying that as a young teenager he had voted for former President Ronald Reagan. However, John Hawkins (Right Wing News blogger) who conducted the interview later found out that the governor had not in fact said that he voted for Reagan. It was a transcription error that led to the confusion and discussions that followed after the interview were published initially.

John Hawkins had interviewed Scott Walker while the Governor was promoting his new book, “Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge”. In the course of the interview, Hawkins asked Walker his opinion regarding what went wrong with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (R)’s presidential campaign. Walker said that Romney was “mis-served” by many people in his campaign who believed incorrectly that Ronald Reagan had won under similar circumstances, i.e. almost totally on the idea that the question was making the election a referendum on Jimmy Carter. However, Walker believed that Reagan’s campaign was much more than merely being against Jimmy carter; it was much more aspirational and this was understood by the Americans who voted for him. It is in this context that Scott Walker was quoted as saying, “I remember, I was a teenager, had just become a teenager and voted for Ronald Reagan – limited government, you know, smaller government, lower taxes, strong national defense”.

Several websites quoted the interview and claimed that Scott Walker who was born on November 2, 1967 was ineligible to cast his vote during the Reagan elections (both in the year 1980 and 1984). The Governor became the subject of huge ridicule for allegedly claiming that he had voted before turning 18 years. His interviewer John Hawkins later cleared the air by stating that it was a plain case of transcription error, and that Scott Walker had not made such a statement. He apologized for the error saying that he went back and listened to the audio again. The audio was poor at that point and the transcriptionist had made an error.

What Scott Walker actually said was, “A vote for Ronald Reagan meant limited government, you know, smaller government, lower taxes, strong national defense. You knew what you were getting. You knew how a Reagan administration, a Reagan presidency was going to be better for you”.

This brings home the point how important accuracy is in interview transcription. Just as in the case mentioned above, misquoting an interviewee can lead to serious consequences which may have an impact on the interviewer, the interviewee and other people involved. While it is true that audio quality does have a role to play in determining the accuracy of transcription, the transcriptionist should use his/her discretion while transcribing any audio/video recording. In the above mentioned case, a reconsideration of what Walker may have said and the effort to transcribe intelligently would have helped avoid such an issue.

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