MA Payonk: Steno First.

Mary Ann Payonk is an exceptional person. She has been hosting yearly reporter empowerment conferences. She had sponsored me to go to an Anita Paul seminar when I was much younger and when Anita was still with us. In turn, I can say I’ve sponsored students and student contests to try to encourage people to be the best they can be. I’ve spent nearly my entire working career helping people either publicly or in PMs. I attribute at least some of that good nature to the fact that I was treated exceptionally well as a newbie reporter by her and other elites. We’re all in this together.

Some will have seen the occasional disagreement I’ve had with Mary Ann on technology and new people entering the field. While those disagreements stand on their merit or in their moment, there is a great deal that Mary Ann and I agree on.

Best I can tell, she’s the verbarian that coined the phrase real realtime, and that described what I saw as a very unfortunate movement where people who were not really ready to be realtimers were stating they were realtime so that they could make some money. Of course, this has the adverse effect of increasing the supply of realtime writers, and decreasing the price that realtime writers can command. If I get 20 percent of what someone is saying, she gets 200 percent, so seriously, people like me should not offer realtime in a service or freelance setting. We need to make sure realtime is a premium service and that when lawyers pay for it, they get what they pay for.

She’s been a true ally in that she has, like me, advocated for the working reporter to go out and get clients. She wants people to be resourceful. Even more than that, she wants companies to put steno first. There’s just a wealth of knowledge there that needs to be tapped and paid attention to by anyone who hasn’t gotten to meet MA personally, but particularly new reporters. She’s got class, sass, and fingers too fast for me. If you’re somebody who’s new to this field, you want to talk to her, you want to get some perspective. As a matter of fact, you want as many perspectives as possible because it will help you make informed decisions.

One of the big takeaways from the blog post linked above was the meme. If you think hiring a professional is expensive, just wait until you hire an amateur. Don’t be an amateur. Keep building the skills you need to be successful. Keep marketing yourself as the premier choice in speech-to-text. And realize that there are very simple skills that can automatically make you more marketable. There are reporters out there who have bad time management. I’m guilty. It hurts our marketability when deadlines are slipped. It hurts our marketability when our coverage radius is only a mile or two. It hurts our marketability when our coverage days are only the third Wednesday of an odd month. Yes, you can go out there right now and build a national business: But you can also do simple things that me, and Mary Ann, and half the steno world can’t say enough: Be reliable. Know your worth. Network. Learn your market.

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