Dictating (Or Why Mumbles Can Never Be a Unipresser

Here's the "Dictating" section of David Moffit's 1979 guide on how to cover football for UPI.

Speak distinctly. If your dictationist has trouble understanding you, you will be spinning your wheels. Get a feel for the speed with which the dictationist can keep up with you. The right tempo -- not to fast and not too slow -- makes for a smooth flow.

Spell names, even the simple ones. Repeat numbers, especially scores and yardage figures. Be sure the dictationist has them correct before going on.

When you are trying to get a story dictated and filed in the shortest possible time, the dictationist can make or break you. One of the pre-game arrangements should have been an effort to have the best available dictationist waiting to take your story.

Unless you have had a great deal of experience in dictating stories off the top of your head, it is best to write it out before you or you assistant starts dictating. It is easy to lose your place while dictating if either you or the dictationist is interrupted.

If you start writing five or six minutes before the game ends, you can have your assistant start dictating after you have written two or three paragraphs, continue feeding him a paragraph or two at a time, and enable him to finish just moments after the game ends.

Why, you may ask, is it necessary to file the story so quickly?

There are hundreds of college football games being played on Saturday. If your story, because of delays, winds up far down the queue it has less of a chance of being used -- especially in those two-service newspaper where you have competition.

A 10-minute delay by you added to a 10-minute delay in filing by the dictationist can throw a story into the NewsCenter behind a half dozen others on games that actually ended after yours did. The football editor at the NewsCenter, tied up by those other stories, might take 20-30 minutes to get around to your story. Compound that delay in New York were football stories are pouring in from all sections and before you know it your 10 minutes has become an hour.

The newspaper deskman putting out the Sunday sports section is being deluged with copy. Usually, he has a list of the football game stories he wants to use and, pressed for time, he usually works on a first-come-first-served bais. Beat your opposition to that desk with an acceptable story and you will usually get the play.