The Limitations of Institution

If only a reader could experience that same sour feeling I have having to write this. Recently, I spotted a non-steno recording job on one of the court reporting groups. We have a deep disdain for that stuff because digital recording is making its way into pretty much any market it can and our strongest potential defenders, the big box agencies, can be pretty much fine with whatever happens because they can switch direction or become a recording firm. They’re only going to spend money on reporting for as long as they’re making money on reporting. We, as individuals, couldn’t make so easy a switch. The jobs would, in all likelihood, pay a lot less and force a lot of us out. We don’t have anybody fighting for us. We don’t have, individually, a great deal of money. And, for some reason, we refuse to support state and national organizations that could, given a better budget and a more robust membership, fight for us. So before I jump into the limitations of institution, let me just say, join one today! There’s a heck of a lot of power in a collective, and it is one avenue we must not ignore in bringing more people into the field.

But now it’s time to talk about the restrictions imposed on institutions. They can’t discuss prices for fear of being branded as price fixers and slapped with antitrust litigation. They can’t, on a whim, make posts or statements. Everything is controlled by a board, or bylaw, or some legal standard. In the end, this is good, because it ensures that members that join a reporting association can pretty much join and be comfortable that the board is going to do the right thing, or everyone will be able to see detrimental changes to the organization from a mile away and be allowed to yell, “stop! Stop!” In the end, this is also bad, because it makes some tactics or solutions unimaginable or unimaginably slow for an institution.

That’s where we, mostly free people, can come into play. I’ve been quite troubled in recent times. We have a great presence of reporters on Facebook. There are innumerable groups meant to support reporters and we’re doing fine there. But the internet is large, and we are losing ground in a lot of places. On Reddit and Quora the digital reporting folks and the resurgence of stenography in India have started to block us out. YouTube’s got a lot of Indian steno too. If you’re searching court reporting, you’re getting recorders. If you’re searching stenography, you’re getting at least some Indian content.

So the other day I saw a job for exactly one position for a digital recorder on Staten, and I posted it on Facebook on my own page and in a very large NYC jobs page with over 150,000 members. But I did that with an objective. Along with this one position, I made sure the words court reporting, stenography, and machine shorthand reporter hit that page. I made sure to say if you like legal proceedings, come do what I do, there are jobs open for real court reporters today. I accept that I’ll be told I’m wrong. I accept that I’ll be talked about behind my back. But I brought the words machine shorthand reporter in front of a potential 150,000 jobseekers in one post. Jobseekers with friends, and family, and all sorts of people who know people. Frankly, why do you think digital reporters are sitting on our Reddit? To draw people and say come, do what we do. I say to any of you, they have these recording jobs already, and they’re going to fill them, so it’s probably time for we who are not limited by institution to fight exactly the way they fight. Be where they are. Grab the attention of people they’re marketing to. Yeah, you can do that, but you can also become a machine shorthand reporter and do better! You can do better! You can be one of us! And as for why I didn’t just mention straight court reporting? The gates of that group of 150,000 jobseekers are high. They have strict rules about what can be posted and how it can be posted. I had to fit their mold, and I used the recorders to do it.

If you want reporting to be a viable option for a child, friend, or family member, it has to stay robust and attract students. We all know how hard it is to make it through school. A small percentage of people that see court reporting will try it. A small percentage of the people that try it will like it. A small percentage of the people that like it will be good at it. And finally, a percentage of the people who are good at it will make a career of it. If we don’t get a whole heck of a lot of people to see court reporting, we’re looking at a situation where we’re replaced with recorders out of necessity.

So if you see me out there doing something you don’t like, feel free to ask, feel free to denigrate, feel free to do whatever it is you do, but remember that most of that energy can be used to come up with bigger and better ideas than I ever had. Remember that this field needs you.

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