FIFTEEN YEARS AGO, I carried a Moleskine Journalist notebook everywhere to scribble down important ideas and to save clippings related to emerging technology. Today I'm using a Traveler's Notebook with thinner paper, accompanied by a Rode mic that I use to record lectures with creative media students. I'm reviewing best practice recommendations about contemporaneous note-taking by borrowing ideas I heard expressed by James Comey after he was fired by Donald Trump.
- Use a notebook or a document with numbered pages and date each entry. This will help establish the timeline of events and make it clear that the notes were taken at a specific time.
- Write legibly and use clear language. If your notes are difficult to read or understand, they may not be admissible.
- Use objective language. Avoid using subjective language or making judgments about the people or events you are documenting.
- Record facts, not opinions. Stick to the facts of what happened and avoid speculating or drawing conclusions.
- Use quotations when possible. If someone says something important, I sketch over-sized quotation marks or I draw a thick black line vertically along exact words.
- Avoid leaving blank spaces or tearing out pages. If you make a mistake, cross it out and write the correction next to it.
- Do not alter your notes after the fact. Your notes should be a true and accurate reflection of what happened at the time you took them.
- Keep your notes secure. I number the splines of my notebooks, record outlines of them in Obsidian, and store the copy books on bookshelves.
I often wonder if any of the notes I've taken since the 1990s will ever be needed in court. I hope I can retrace the steps I've taken in developing several items of interest while producing a series of monographs that my grandkids can peruse.
[Bernie Goldbach teaches creative media for business on the Clonmel Digital Campus.]