There’s a whole world behind the scenes at The Open. Take reporters, for example. Over 400 journalists from written press alone work inside the Media Centre, keeping track not only of every stroke played by all 156 players on each round, but also every word the players say. This last part is where the New York-based company ASAP Sports comes in to play, and the journalists depend on their work.
ASAP provide instant verbatim transcripts of all official player interviews (hence the company’s witty motto: “When all’s said, we’re done”). It means no journalist need worry about missing an interview or reading illegible notes, and complaints about being misquoted are virtually non-existent.
Peter Ballistreri founded the firm in 1989, realising there was a demand for this variation on court reporting. He began with tennis, and now the company serves 16 different global sports. ASAP’s golf clients alone include the PGA, the R&A, the European Tour, the LPGA and the USGA. The company website asapsports.com hosts a vast archive, which for golf go back almost 19 years to an interview Nick Faldo gave at the 1993 Johnny Walker World Championship. (For the record, his first two answers were: “I don’t know” and: “I don’t know.”)
Teresa Rider and Kristin Cawley are doing the job at Royal Lytham for The Open 2012. They spend their days in a corner of the interview room – a large marquee adjoining the press room, with seating for 180 journalists facing a dais where players sit behind a many-microphoned desk. Teresa and Kristin also receive a closed-circuit television feed from the “mixed zone” – an interview area between the 18th and the Clubhouse, where players speak to the media immediately after their rounds.
Teresa and Kristin start work on the first practice day, and will still be here next Monday for the 2012 champion’s press conference the morning after the day before. Both Teresa and Kristin are needed for each interview. One transcribes every word verbatim via a steno machine of the kind used in court, which looks like a typewriter with far fewer keys, none of which carry any markings. The other acts as “scoper” – proof-reading as the copy appears, and checking names and places which may come up. The turnaround is so quick that the transcript is delivered electronically to the client as the player turns away from the microphone.
“This is my tenth Open, and I think we set a record yesterday for the most transcripts in a single day – 38,” says Teresa. “We arrived at 10am and didn’t leave until 9.30pm. I guess you could do the job without knowing anything about golf, but obviously it’s far better to understand what you’re hearing. We can programme the steno machines with a dictionary particular to a sport or event, so that you can enter a short form of a frequently used phrase or name and it will recognise it.
“At the absolute minimum, you need to capable of taking 225 words a minute to work in this field. But some people do speak faster than that. In golf I’d say Brandt Snedeker is the fastest speaker. You have to be on your mettle for him. Jack Nicklaus too – he talks quickly and likes to tell stories. No one is always slow. I guess Tom Watson is always relaxed and considered. He’s so nice.
“Other than speed of speech, it can be a challenge to follow accents. Also sometimes if you have someone in vision who doesn’t speak fluent English, it’s somehow quite easy to understand their gist – yet when you read their written quotes, the meaning doesn’t always come across. But we don’t try to ‘clarify’. We faithfully record everything word-for-word – although I do excise every ‘you know’.”
Speaking as one who has benefited from ASAP’s excellent service at Wimbledon, this reporter can say that every ‘you know’ does appear in the transcripts there…and that one particular player – a household name – holds the record for the most ‘you knows’ during a five-minute interview. He managed 43 of them, at an average of one every seven seconds. But golfers are an articulate lot. You know?