Innovations, Platforms, Podcasts, Social responsibility

Trint founder Jeff Kofman on why journalists should be entrepreneurs

This week we hear from Jeff Kofman, founder and CEO of Trint, about the dark abyss of transcription, whether Google and Facebook are serious about funding journalism, and the good, the bad, and the ugly of social media.

In the news roundup the team discusses a bad week for UK media companies including Johnston Press going into administration, Esquire cutting back its print offering, and Shortlist going digital-only. The team go Thanksgiving mad (not in a good way).

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In our own words: Peter Houston

Occasionally we talk to platforms on Media Voices, Facebook, Twitter, Flipboard, but we rarely talk to suppliers. But this week we broke all our own rules and had Jeff Kofman, CEO of transcription company Trint, as our guest.

We work with Trint, they power our transcript pages, but that wasn’t what prompted us to get Jeff on. That was his 30-year career in TV news, covering stories from the Chilean mine rescue to the Iraq war. We wanted to know how come a broadcast journalist was now running a media tech start up?

The initial driver for the career switch was simple – the mind-numbing tedium of transcription, what a contributor to a little book I once edited described as ‘the carnival mirror of your own inadequacies’. And Jeff talks eloquently and enthusiastically about the benefits automated transcription brings to workflow and workload.

But he is also keen to explore how automation can make for better stories, making it easier to spot the gems among the dross. He says it’s about allowing skilled people to focus on quality content production, “On writing, on editing, on structuring… rather than simply on stenography.”

Beyond the mechanics of making great content we also spoke about the challenges in making social-media platforms accountable without suppressing free speech. He contrasts the positive effects of social media in triggering the Arab Spring in Tunisia with recent abuse described to him suffered by a prominent female journalist. “I have no problem saying that’s just not what free speech is about”, he said.

Long-term, Jeff says he’s optimistic for social media, although he says there will be pain to go through before we discover our ‘better angels’.

Returning to his new job and the switch from journalism to entrepreneurship, Jeff says his previous career has served him well.

“You learn to be resilient. You learn to be decisive, not to second guess. You learn how to ask a lot of questions and not be ashamed of asking stupid questions. You learn to stay calm in crisis. Those are pretty useful characteristics for someone who’s an entrepreneur.”


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