You guys might not know this, but my day job is a closed captioner for live television. There are a couple ways to do it, and the style my company uses is called echoing. We echo what we hear, as we hear it, into a proprietary piece of software, adding in punctuation and speaker changes and other quirks of human language that software can’t get on its own.
Part of my job description is aggregating the big news stories of the day, and picking out new pieces of vocabulary I’ll need to be ready for.
The process of echoing requires a surprising amount of concentration. You have to be thinking about what you’re hearing, listening very carefully, and speaking very clearly, all while knowing the structure of a sentence as it is being said. You have to really listen.
50 PEOPLE KILLED, GUNNED DOWN AT A GAY NIGHTCLUB IN ORLANDO, THE WORST MASS SHOOTING IN U.S. HISTORY.
If you aren’t absolutely concentrating on what you’re hearing and saying, you risk losing accuracy and making the captions difficult to read.
INVESTIGATORS SAY 25-YEAR-OLD OMAR MATEEN GOT INTO A SHOOTOUT WITH THE SECURITY GUARD AROUND 1:00 THIS MORNING.
HE WENT INSIDE AND OPENED FIRE, TAKING HOSTAGES.
Most days, most days, it’s easy to enter a zenlike state as you report about the cute new viral video the anchors are giggling about, or as they urgently discuss the latest scientific study telling you why açai berries are good for your health.
PEOPLE RUSHING TO THE SCENE AFTER GETTING HEART WRENCHING CALLS AND TEXT MESSAGES FROM LOVED ONES INSIDE THE CLUB.
Or about the latest fight over the transgender bathroom bill or the woman in Kentucky who would rather go to jail than ever sully the Lord’s name by signing a same-sex marriage license, and in unrelated news, gun restrictions in Kentucky laxed over the weekend when lawmakers…
>> BODIES EVERYWHERE.
I WAS CRAWLING.
Captioning requires intense focus, you know? You can’t be thinking about anything else. You can’t be thinking about those are your people out there dying, slaughtered for who they are. You need to focus or you’ll lose accuracy.
>> MY DAUGHTER GOT SHOT THREE TIMES.
>> HE SAID HE WAS GOING TO DIE, HE LOVED ME.
HE SAID –
You can’t let yourself lose focus. You can’t think about the culture of violence and unrestricted access to firearms and hatred that lead to this. You can’t, because you’re too busy hitting the button for [INDISCERNIBLE] as a woman cries hysterically into the camera because her son is dead and she can’t stop holding her phone with the text message “I’M GOING TO DIE I LOVE YOU” still on the screen.
FEDERAL OFFICIALS SAY THE GUNMAN BOUGHT THE WEAPON LEGALLY IN THE PAST WEEK.
You can’t think about it, but you do, and your accuracy suffers because you can’t speak clearly when you’re crying and you can’t read the words you’re putting out, and you’re angry, and you’re heartsick, and take that poor woman off the fucking camera, ABC, her son is dead and no one can understand what she’s saying, because the only ones who speak the language of grief are mothers wrenched from their dead children.
TEMPERATURES TODAY ONLY GOT INTO THE MID-60’S, BUT THAT IS NOT GOING TO BE THE CASE TOMORROW.