What does 16 November mean to you? Fair play to any Battle of Schöngrabern fanatics out there, but for most of us I guess today’s date brings back a couple of more recent memories.
The first is bittersweet. On this day in 1990, R&B megaduo Milli Vanilli admitted that they hadn’t sung a single note of their platinum album Girl You Know It’s True. Their Grammy award was revoked three days later. It was a sad day for music lovers, but at least it put paid to inauthentic pop music once and for all.
The second is joyful. On this day in 1992, metal detectorist Eric Lawes came across a chest full of coins and jewellery while he was out looking for a hammer that a friend of his had dropped in a field. The Hoxne hoard, which is now in the British Museum, is one of the greatest troves of Roman artefacts ever discovered, an inspiration to amateur treasure hunters everywhere. He found the hammer, too.
Reasons to be cheerful, part 3
At Hansard, we have a third reason to celebrate 16 November. For our counterparts in Argentina, it’s el Día del Taquígrafo Parlamentario, or Parliamentary Reporters Day, which commemorates the founding of the Asociación Argentina de Taquígrafos Parlamentarios in 1946.
Parliamentary reporters have been around in Argentina since the 1870s, and you’ll be pleased to know that—like us—they’re still at it. There are about 300 of them throughout the country, working on plenary sessions and committee sittings of the two Chambers of Congress and proceedings of the provincial legislatures. Their job is a lot like ours, as readers of our explainer post will recognise:
Trabajan generalmente en parejas. Cumplen turnos de solo cinco minutos, son reemplazados y salen a ‘traducir’ lo que anotaron. Al cabo de unos 45 minutos, cuando ya se ha completado la rotación, reingresan al recinto. El texto final es controlado por los revisores. (Clarín)
[They generally work in pairs. They do turns of just five minutes before being substituted and going off to ‘translate’ what they’ve noted down. After 45 minutes, when the rota comes full circle, they go back into the chamber. The final text is reviewed by sub-editors.]
Sound familiar? I especially dig how they talk about the chunks of debate that each reporter works on as turns—turnos—just like we do.
Ten years in the making
Reporters in Argentina take their job seriously. A recent interview with Guillermo Castellano, director of the reporting department at the Chamber of Deputies, reveals that it takes at least 10 years to learn all the necessary editing skills:
El trabajo del taquígrafo no se limita reproducir lo que dijo un diputado, sino a trasladar a texto lo que quiso decir, que no siempre es lo mismo. ‘Las transcripciones textuales suele ser malas. En el calor del debate los diputados…no cierran las oraciones…equivocan nombres, normas, fechas o hasta dicen lo opuesto de lo que en realidad querían decir. Ahí es donde intervenimos nosotros para darle sentido’, explicó. (Diario Popular)
[The reporter’s job is not just about reproducing what Members say; it’s about expressing in written form what they mean, which is not always the same thing. 'Verbatim transcriptions are usually no good,' [Castellano] explains. 'In the heat of debate, Members…leave sentences unfinished…get names, rules and dates wrong, or even say the opposite of what they really mean. That’s where we come in to make sense of it all.']
Brothers in arms
Sometimes, when you’re listening to a chorus of sedentary interventions and trying to work out whose voices are doing what, being a Hansard reporter can feel like being a Milli Vanilli fan who’s getting a little too close to the truth. Sometimes, when you’re searching for an obscure detail in an old Select Committee report, it can be like looking for a hammer in a field of buried treasure.
And just occasionally, on a long Tuesday in committee, it can feel like the Battle of Schöngrabern. But it’s good to know that 7,000 miles away, someone else is doing the same job.
Los hermanos sean unidos. Feliz día, compañerxs.