The Good Reporter Fallacy

I’ll just come out and say it. There are folks among us that think speech recognition technology is going to beat court reporters. I’ll even go so far as to say I personally believe that the technology will eventually do what we do.

But first on the issue of technology: Read what they aren’t saying. The technology is 95 percent accurate! But what was the setting under which it was accurate? Was there an air conditioner blowing overhead? Was someone printing directly behind the recording machine? Were there people speaking over each other? Did the computer accurately designate who spoke? Was the computer able to handle an unidentified speaker? Were there multiple speakers at different distances? Did the test take place in rooms of various sizes and acoustics? Yes, it is my sincere and honest belief that someday technology will be there to seamlessly do all of this, but there is no telling when. Until it is there, it is smoke. They’re blowing smoke just like everyone else who wants to sell a product. When it is there, we still fight to keep the jobs we have.

And that’s the topic of today’s missive. So some believe we’ll be overtaken by technology, and they are saying: Do not invite people into this dying field. That makes sense if you take the fact that it is dying as true and completely irreversible. Our current crisis in the reporting world is a reporter shortage, and their answer is: Don’t do anything and ride this career to the bitter end. There will be jobs for the good reporters.

But what is that good reporter? A realtimer? There are more non-realtime jobs than realtime jobs. Even today, there are more non-realtime jobs. So even if everyone is a good reporter tomorrow, there aren’t enough jobs for you if we give up that non-realtime work. Sorry. It’s a delicate balance. Reporter shortage means it’s easier for customers to swap to recording because there simply aren’t enough of us to meet a demand. Reporter glut means we suffer because high supply generally means lower cost (wage).

Well, right now, at this second, we are facing a shortage, and in the great wide world of life, we have better chances if there are more of us. Consider NCRA’s old strength of what I’m told was 30,000 reporters versus today’s — whatever — 15,000. That was literally double the budget to fight for reporters. Double the constituents when politicians ask how many people they are representing. Double pretty much everything.

So you can get up and introduce this field to somebody and be a part of ending the shortage, or you can sit it out and see what happens, and we can be friends either way, but I think it’s best to act. It’s very simple statistically: Can’t win if you don’t try. People play lotto on that same principle, so isn’t a shot at saving thousands of careers worth trying too? Look at politics. When your preferred politician or proposed legislation fails, do you just drop everything and say “I support this because it’s happening.” Maybe, but according to my Facebook, not likely!

If you’re an average person, you matter. History was built on average people. Armies are built out of average people. Battles were won when average people got the enemy army to route. The computer technology we use started with overall average programmers using punch cards to give computers simple instructions!

If you’re above average, show us. We average people want great leaders. We want problem solvers and talented people to look up to. There’s a market for greatness and a world of ways to uplift people. What if someone could design a steno program that got someone out in months, not years? What if someone could design a political campaign capable of sustaining our jobs even when the technology does what we do?

Be a creator. Be an inventor. Be an innovator. Support the people fighting for you. Support the people around you. Support yourself. Do what people say can’t be done. Be a winner. And remember, besides thermonuclear war, there are few times you can win by not playing.

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