I (Dan) might never have become a professional writer if I hadn’t witnessed something astonishing in 1988. It was in the summer between my senior year of college and, er, the bonus semester I needed to get the rest of my credits. (Like none of you had that happen!)

I was doing an internship at the Macomb Daily, and I’d been struggling with the challenge of taking good, thorough notes with those little hand-held reporter’s notebooks.

So there I was one day, wandering around the venerable old office in Mount Clemens (long since demolished I sadly report), when a colleague received a phone call from a source. She took the call, wedged the phone between her head and her shoulder, and like an assassin wielding a machine gun, got at it with her keyboard – taking down every freaking word the person on the other end of the phone was saying.

Wait, I thought. You can use your keyboard to take notes?

Even after four years at the Western Herald – including one as editor in chief – I had not seen this. I probably shouldn’t have, but I got close enough to see what she was typing. It was a bit of a mess in terms of typos and spaces but it was good enough that she could understand what she had typed, and a lot more complete than what you can scribble on one of those notebook pads.

I was going to try this. And I did the next time a source called me.

“Yeah, hi, I’m assigned to write a story about such-and-such. What do you have to say?”


This was life changing. It got me into trouble at times. I once got scolded by a magazine editor for using quotes from sources that were too long. (But my notes are so complete!) And it helped me to be very good at chronicling what my sources were saying. Good notetaking has become one of my strengths as a writer and reporter. And needless to say, when the day finally came when you could Bluetooth a phone to a headset – meaning no more of those painful head/shoulder wedges – it was a blessing from God.

Fast-forward to today, when it’s increasingly common for people to use AI-driven notetakers like Fireflies to generate transcripts of meetings, especially when you use platforms like Zoom or Teams.

I’ll be candid. As a writer, it’s hard to love AI, especially when prospective clients tell me they’re doing just fine with the drivel ChatGPT vomits out. But it’s pretty darn nice to have such a complete transcript – more or less accurate and easy to read.

But one day earlier this week, famed notetaker Fred from Fireflies showed up for a Zoom meeting – and didn’t take any notes. That famous e-mail with the transcript never came.

Fortunately, old habits die hard. I still machine-gun the keyboard for every meeting and every interview. It’s not that I don’t trust Fred . . . well, OK, I don’t trust Fred. At least not as much as I trust my own fingers.

I’m used to people I’m interviewing telling me, “I can hear you typing!”

Yep, I tell them. That’s how you know I’m getting down what you’re saying accurately. It’s funny, because that freaks some people out. As much as they would ideally want their interviewer to get an accurate transcript of what they say – so as not to be misquoted – I guess there is still something a little freaky about speaking and knowing that your every word is being recorded.

Hey, I’m 57, so I’ve probably reached the point in life where I become that guy who keeps doing things the old way – even though all the young folks laugh at me because the new ways are so much easier.

Sure. Until they don’t work.