On April 4, 2011 Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention was published, and the magnum opus of Manning Marable’s life’s research was finally in print. Sadly, for those who do not know, Dr. Marable passed away 3 days before the book hit the shelves. Thankfully, he was able to see the book in print before he passed away.
We first talked with Dr. Marable in January 2006 and discussed transcribing his archival recordings of Malcolm X and other prominent historical figures. Some of the audio was originally recorded in the 1950s and 1960s on reel-to-reel tape, which was first shipped to a firm to be converted to digital archival audio and enhanced where possible. We then received the digitized recordings and we custom-matched our transcriptionists to the audio content. In other words, we had transcriptionists with knowledge of contemporary black history work on this project. What we discovered was that recordings from the 1950s and 1960s, even after being digitized and enhanced to improve sound quality, were still very challenging to transcribe. In our 45 years of experience in the transcription industry, we’ve found that 5 hours of our total work process per hour of audio is a good estimate, but with these recordings we found that our team had to spend anywhere from 2 to 3 times that amount of time to transcribe this audio. Dr. Manning was adamant that we spend the time listening carefully to each second of audio and that the transcriptionists who worked on it had the patience of Job to slowly and methodically ease themselves through the transcription of the audio.
The time our staff spent transcribing was crucial for Dr. Marable and his team of researchers, as they needed transcripts delivered that made their research that much easier, and in turn limited the time they spent reviewing and filling in the blanks of what could have been inaudible.
After receiving the very first transcript that we sent back to him, an excited Dr. Marable called to speak with Sandy Poritzky (the owner of ATC) and wanted to thank him personally. It turns out, the time we were spending listening carefully to this historical audio content and transcribing was paying off in his findings. Within this first transcript was a nugget of information that Dr. Marable had spent the better part of 20-some-odd years trying to confirm. He now had the confirmation and was able to move on with his research.
As I look at the book on my desk, I realize I have a lot of reading ahead of me, but it is reading that I am so proud my firm had a small hand in producing.