The Empty City Strategy

Everywhere you look there’s an article about digital reporting. It’s the future! It’s coming! Abandon all hope ye who use steno! We’ve even had articles claim AI is 95 percent accurate or more.

You know what’s missing? Evidence of these claims. Everything is behind a pay wall, a service, a guarantee, a private company. We need to acknowledge that in this country, companies are generally allowed to lie. Anything short of serious fraud is probably not getting investigated. Anything short of serious damage is probably not being sued for.

Anyone can make a claim. Over 400 people read this blog in the last eight days. You have no evidence what we’re telling you is true. You either believe us or leave it. There’s no penalty for us if we’re lying. Decide for yourself while we get into the Empty City Strategy.

The idea is simple enough. When facing an overwhelming force, throw open the gates of the city, sit up in a tower like Zhuge Liang, and start playing your lute. Your enemies, so convinced that there’s a trap waiting for them, flee or fall back. The concept is one of deception and demoralization, and it’s something you see in business and politics.

If a potential opponent is demoralized, they will not fight you. How many people do not start a business because there’s already a huge company in that field that they feel they cannot compete with? If we say to you right now that we have a great idea — let’s begin a business selling burgers and fries — you’d laugh. Right? No! We cannot do that! There are too many big players in the field! McDonald’s would crush us, they’ve been around since 1955. Look at Shake Shack. Born 49 years later, and yet still managed to carve out some of the market for itself.

Nobody knows what the future holds. Giant companies go bankrupt all the time. Bear Stearns, survivor of the Great Depression, a company that had some $9 billion in revenue and 13,000+ employees worldwide, died thanks to the Great Recession. The case we are trying to make here is simple: Don’t be scared of the empty city. If someone is shouting out about how something is the next big thing and how everybody should jump aboard or be left behind, consider their motives, fears, and evidence.

We can go on and on about how ATMs replaced bank tellers, self-service kiosks replaced cashiers, cars replaced horses — or we can realize that this industry is just a little different. Many of us are reliant on these companies to bring us work, but we are not their employees. We are not disposable.

We have the option and opportunity to compete with them directly. It’s as simple as telling the law office secretary you take depos independently. The major startup costs for producing work, steno machine, CAT software, laptop, and printer are largely borne by us anyway. It’s not like your CVS where the employee has no hope of buying a storefront, or your teller that can’t afford to open a bank, or your horse that — well, you get the idea. We pay out the cost of doing business at the very start of our careers. Isn’t that worth thinking about?

So if you’re a stenographer and you’re on the fence about this field because people around you are telling you the future is bleak or uncertain, you can be certain that’s only one perspective. That’s one side of the story. For a field that’s been “dying” for the last fifty years, there’s a whole lot of businesses out there trying to get a bigger slice of the pie and have you forfeit your own. And if you want the unbridled truth, you’ll have to stop taking people’s word for it.

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