How Court Reporting Changed My Life
It was in a business class I took in high school that I first learned of court reporting. We were taught shorthand, and I was very fast and I loved being able to capture spoken words. Then, I did not realize how interesting and exciting the court reporting profession could be.
First, there’s the little machine that is such an ingenious invention. It’s ingenious because any consonant can be written with your fingers and the vowels written with your thumbs. So writing full sounds, words, and sentences is easy to do. It’s not like typing; it’s like playing the piano. Once you learn your theory of how to write, you simply need to write fast (like 225-words-a-minute fast), verbatim and accurately (95% or better).
Learning to write and write quickly was a challenge, yet so rewarding. Every day I report, I learn something new, whether it is an expert in ergonomics (the study of how humans behave physically and psychologically in relation to particular environments, products or services), to an expert in ear prints (I’m still looking at people’s ears), to someone that slipped on a tomato in a supermarket and was injured.
The technology has changed immensely since I started reporting over 35 years ago thanks to companies like Stenograph. We used to dictate from paper notes and now do what is called realtime. My Steno machine sends my notes to my laptop, which contains a dictionary of how I write words and translates the notes to my computer screen in English instantaneously. It’s like magic created by your own fingers. Have you ever wondered how closed captioning is done? It’s done by a court reporter or what we call a broadcast captioner. Another form of captioning is CART reporting – a CART captioner uses stenography, a computer and software to display everything that is said word for word for the deaf or hearing impaired.
Usually the first question I’m asked by someone when they learn I’m a court reporter is, “Why not just use a tape recording or a video to capture the record?” The answer is a transcript is needed, the written word. We are making a record. Just look at your cell phone voicemails that are transcribed. Are they anywhere near accurate? No. You’d think my cell phone would learn my name is Jan, not Dan. So, no, I’m not worried that court reporting is obsolete, nor will it be in the future. There needs to be a human involved to hear a question mark or a period at the end of a sentence.
Q. Did you kill Mr. Smith?
A. I killed Mr. Smith? – or – A. I killed Mr. Smith.
If you’re interested in becoming a court reporter, please contact me. I’d love to share my profession with you.