It’s another election year and hundreds of candidate speeches will be recorded by news reporters and campaign operatives on the stump. Some will be recorded on video on smartphones and others on audio recorders. Virtually all reporters are dependent today on the internet to connect with homebase. But what happens when the net fails?
Despite what Apple, Google and the big wireless companies imply, there are not internet connections everywhere — especially in smaller towns, communities and rural areas throughout the country. When there is no good connectivity, it is left to the reporter’s ingenuity to get the breaking news clip to the studio or bureau.
Without the net, the old fashioned way is to transmit audio via POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service), meaning standard, dial-up phone lines. Traditional phone lines, thankfully, are still readily available everywhere. They can be a lifesaver when no internet service is working nearby.
For many of today’s young reporters, sending phone audio is something rarely done and totally new. The experience often ends in frustration and failure because the sender is unable to transmit clean sound at a usable level to the studio over the phone line.
We all know of the cheap telephone “interfaces” that claim to do the job. But, in my experience over the years, most don’t work. They tend to not generate enough "send" level to allow a broadcaster to make a good recording on the receive end. If the station can't make a good recording, then the material won’t be used. End of story.
This leads to telephone interfaces — both for cell phones (and smartphones) and landlines. Many of these small, portable devices can both send audio and record audio from phones. Many became very popular after the collapse of the World Trade Center in 2001 when landlines were dead and many New Yorkers rediscovered the value of cell phones.
For journalists, working from make-shift "newsrooms" throughout the chaotic city, the portable phone became a lifeline to the breaking story around them. Many began carrying phone adapters and have carried them since, using them in a variety of disasters.
JK Audio, a specialist in phone interfaces, makes high-quality broadcast versions of their interfaces. For example, the company’s THAT-1 ($142.50) passive device connects between a landline phone and handset for quick access to audio in and out. You can not only feed a broadcaster good levels of audio from the field, but record it as well.
The THAT-1, which weighs only six ounces, has long been used by radio stations to record and play sound clips from the field. It can be used with different types of analog, digital PBX and ISDN telephones.
For wireless phones, JK’s Daptor Two ($171.00) plugs into the headset jack of any wireless phone or notebook computer that accepts a third party headset or earpiece. Send and receive voice band audio during regular calls, or full bandwidth audio using third party codec applications.
The device will recognize the Daptor Two as a headset which will disable the internal mic and speaker. Daptor Three ($356.25) adds Bluetooth capability for wireless use.
For those who just wish to record two-way conversations on a wireless phone in the field, JK recently introduced the CellTap 4C ($99.75), an interview-recording adapter that connects between the headset and cell phone, providing stereo output to a recorder or mixer.
CellTap 4C is compatible with most smart phones, tablets and notebooks that use the 3.5 mm four-conductor TRRS headset jack. The user connects the CellTap 4C between an existing ear-bud headset and phone, and then connects the stereo output to a microphone level input on your recorder or mixer.
For landlines, there is also JK’s QuickTap IFB, which allows phone recording with the capability of mixing the level of both sides. Any conversation over the handset is sent over two audio output jacks. There are many versions of these adapters for multiple purposes. All are portable and professional quality and should be in every reporter’s toolkit.
For the cheapest way to record phone calls, the Olympus TP-8 Telephone Pickup ($13.99) tops the list. It combines a telephone pick-up, earphone and microphone in one small unit and can be used for recording phone calls on any telephone — land or mobile. It works very well and is used by reporters throughout the world.
Users simply plug the TP-8 into any 3.5 mm stereo microphone jack with Plug-In-Power on a voice recorder and place the earphone into your ear. The audio is picked up by the microphone from the phone’s receiver or headphones. For added comfort, the TP-8 comes with small, medium and large size earpiece tips. It is practically weightless and can save the day when a good quality recording is needed.
Technology for journalists is rapidly changing and has been for a long time. Internet-based connectivity has been a boon for field journalism. But, as veteran reporters well know, it doesn’t always work. That’s where a backup plan is needed.
If a reporter gets an important story, it is essential to have a way to get it back to the broadcaster without depending on the internet. The telephone is and continues to be the most reliable way.
Even if you rarely use it, having basic connectivity to landline and cellphones can save the day — and your story — when the Internet is not available.
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