Beey Gaining in Popularity Among Reporters. Interview with journalist Radka Wallerová

Beey’s users are well-represented in the journalism industry. One of them, Radka Wallerová, works as editor at Seznam zprávy and regularly uses Beey to transcribe interviews.  She has been working as a journalist for many years. She told us about the first time she met our current president and what he was drinking at the time, how journalism has changed over the years, and what aspects of her job she doesn\’t enjoy.

Radka Wallerová, editor at Seznam zprávy

Would you recommend journalism as a profession to your children?

I’m happy to let them choose their own profession, but of course I will gladly give advice to them if they ask. My eldest son did ask and is now studying journalism. Originally, he was studying marketing communications and PR, but after three years he switched to a new field. 

No doubt this was partly due to the fact that he grew up in an environment where media was discussed from a young age. Besides, he can see that I enjoy my work and perhaps he thinks that it’s meaningful – I think so too. I didn\’t want to discourage him from studying journalism because I think it\’s an important profession, but I tried to show him how the field is constantly changing and evolving, and that making it as a journalist might be harder now than it was several years ago.

So what’s your take on the future of journalism?

It will probably stem from the changes that are already taking place, and these can be viewed from several perspectives. I will mention at least a couple. 

Thirty years ago, print media was all we knew. Now, in many ways, the leading role is played by online media which, thanks to increasingly accessible data, is available practically everywhere. It stands to reason that it is more up-to-date and offers not only photo materials, but also audio and video. Unfortunately, readers have grown accustomed to the idea that whatever is online is free, and media outlets are now finding it difficult to find a way to charge for their content, in order to make some money, without alienating readers. For media houses, this is all the more important since print media sales are, with few exceptions, declining. 

Moreover, the internet has changed the way information itself is disseminated. While in the past people would just buy their favourite newspaper, nowadays the content that\’s online often reaches them through social networks – through what someone shares, what they look up themselves and so on. Hardly anyone will sit down at a computer and open a media outlet\’s website to read it like a regular newspaper, except perhaps on actual news sites, and even then people choose what they want to read – this leads to a struggle for the readers\’ attention; headlines and photos have to be eye-catching and are therefore often exaggerated or misleading. 

And journalists are changing, too – on the one hand, there are prominent personalities who for a long time now have not only been writing, but have also been making podcasts and videos, have stayed active on social media and, in effect, they are constantly promoting themselves. On the other hand, there are the regular editors working in newsrooms for very unlucrative salaries, and yet they are constantly under such time pressure that does not compare to the pace of previous decades.

What tools do you work with and how have these changed over the years?

There aren’t that many, except the big desktop computers that have become lightweight laptops, the first basic mobile phones which have been replaced by smartphones that can be used instead of dictaphones and, if need be, can even take photos or record a video. In general, we tend to use technology and various software apps much more, which corresponds to the development of technology in general. For example, lately I’ve been using the Beey app for transcribing spoken word.   

And were you happy with the results? On what occasions do you use Beey?

I enjoy doing interviews but I\’m not terribly fond of transcribing them. All journalists are like that – we don\’t like to hear our own voice, plus the transcription takes much longer than the initial interview itself. Transcribing interviews is definitely the least fun part of being a journalist, at least for me. Some colleagues who specialize in long interviews have them transcribed by a third party, but again – that\’s time-consuming and you have to pay for it, of course. 

At first, I was sceptical about Beey; it sounded too good to be true. The first thing I used it for was an extensive interview with a nurse, which was in the form of a recorded phone call – for authenticity\’s sake, it\’s better to do interviews face-to-face, but this time I couldn\’t do it any other way because of covid. 

I was a bit puzzled by the transcription in the first few minutes, but after that it was basically problem-free, and indeed with a bit of editing I was able to produce a result that was the same as if I had transcribed the recording word for word myself. And the problematic beginning? Beey had a bit of trouble transcribing the initial awkward and somewhat mumbled communication, which I think is understandable, so Beey can’t be blamed for that. All in all, it\’s a great tool for us journalists and I wouldn’t even consider spending time transcribing interviews anymore when a machine can do it for me; in good quality, in a matter of minutes, and for very little money.

What do you like most about your job?

Probably the variety. I couldn\’t just sit at a desk in an office somewhere, but at the same time I\’m not extremely adventurous, so this is just the right compromise for me. It’s great that I can continue to learn new things thanks to my work and it’s also true that I enjoy putting things into context and looking for potential inconsistencies. 

I\’ve had experience with all sorts of jobs in the media – I\’ve worked in daily newspapers as both a writer and editor, I\’ve been in charge of sections on health, housing or modern technology, I\’ve written for magazines and over the past few years I was charge of the lifestyle sections of websites at a large publisher where I worked as writer, editor and traffic manager; analysing readership, tracking trends and working with different data. I enjoyed that a lot, and it was easier to combine with a family life than working at a daily newspaper. Now I work at Seznam, partly as an editor of online discussions, which has also taught me a lot, and partly writing news articles, mainly regarding myths and misinformation. 

Did you always want to be a journalist even as a child, or what made you choose this profession?

As early as elementary school I was part of a journalism club, but my interest dwindled a bit in high school. Nevertheless, when I was thinking about where to go to university, I was terrified that I would have to choose one major – I found it a bit overwhelming. So I applied to more than one, but luckily I got into the journalism course. I was relieved – partly because it was in Prague, which is where I wanted to go.  

Which topics do you most enjoy writing about?

For a long time it\’s been mainly health/healthcare, education and social issues, because those are the topics I\’m most interested in. I got into health journalism by chance – while I was still in college, my friends and I were in a pub when we decided that we\’d go find jobs in journalism and that we\’d call or go somewhere to ask for work. I called the nationwide newspaper Lidové noviny and they took me on straight away because the editor of the health section had just left. Within a month I was interviewing pone of our ministers – not because I was that good, but because there were no people. But that was back then – it wouldn\’t be as easy nowadays.

Have you ever had an assignment that you really didn\’t enjoy?

I always joke that if I ever mess up, I\’ll be sent to edit the sports section as a form of punishment. But maybe I wouldn\’t be as lost as I was that one time when I had to cover for a colleague who was ill, so I was sent to report on a meeting of European Union defence ministers or something like that – a topic I didn\’t follow at all and of which I had a fairly superficial understanding. At the time, I had the feeling that they were not speaking English but Klingon, and it was quite difficult to write about. But other than that, I\’m lucky that for years I\’ve been able to choose and research my own topics.  

The exception was at various daily newspapers, where we would divide up the different political parties and report on their election campaigns\’ weekend events. The politics reporters logically chose the key players, while those of us who normally covered other topics were left with the less interesting ones and no chance of success. 

In May 2010, I was assigned to write a report on Miloš Zeman, then chairman of the Citizens\’ Rights Party, as he was sailing on a steamer down the Vltava River to the Troja Zoo, where he was supposed to be adopting some animal. The half-forgotten Zeman was smoking in the hold and drinking Becherovka – he really did drink it back then – and lecturing everyone around him. At the time, I really had no idea he would make it this far in Czech politics. 

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