The Savior Chimera

Some will have seen the recent article in Legal Tech News where Max Curry, NCRA’s president, told the press straight up that electronic recording by itself is too risky compared to steno in taking the spoken word. Reading the article got me pretty concerned. I felt, as a member, that NCRA’s views weren’t represented well. I didn’t know if that was because of a lack of articulation or because the cards were stacked against Max. I didn’t know if the full breadth of what he was explaining was captured accurately. The words printed just don’t come off as pro-steno as his September 2019 Virtual Town Hall. So I did what anybody familiar with the issues at hand would do, and I wrote the author something super polite. I didn’t get a response, and something tells me I’m not getting a response. Something tells me the cards were stacked against our NCRA when that interview was taken. Hopefully, time proves me wrong, or journalists do a little more digging into this important issue. Just in case they don’t, here we go.

I’ve already gone on at length why I think stenography is the only solution to the court reporter shortage. Let me double down on this because I have the benefit of being self-published. Stenography’s the only solution. There are more stenographic schools than transcriber schools. We are two to four times more efficient than the record-and-transcribe method. AI is going to burn through investors’ money like the Joker in The Dark Knight (2008). When you get down to it, you are dealing with two very different organizations. I have been through several years of tax returns of both NCRA and AAERT. You know what jumps out at me? In NCRA’s weakest year that I reviewed, 2016, AAERT made about 13% of NCRA’s revenue. Let me say that another way. We stenographers fund an organization easily ten times more than the recording-is-the-future crowd funds “the future.” Even with a membership that is about one third the cost, it appears from my review of these returns that AAERT cannot attract even a third of our membership. Be proud that your money is going to funding conventions, a professional journal, and a dedicated staff who are all about what we do and a thousand percent in support of all grassroots stenography efforts.

There’s got to be alarm bells going off in people’s minds. In one corner, we have stenography, NCRA, an education culture of over 10,000 members, with strong support for anyone that wants to promote the profession or recruit. In the other corner, we have a Best Practices Guide that maybe a couple thousand people have read and maybe four schools.  If you’re someone who doesn’t know jack about court reporting in America, and you read this, which would you entrust the future to? Which corner would you be in if your goal was to solve the court reporter shortage of America? Stanley Sakai said it way better than I did, but there’s a reason that so many courts, attorneys, and classrooms pick steno over digital recording every day. There’s a reason that the “court reporting” companies didn’t just swap over to the technology that has been available since 1995. There’s a reason AAERT is not our shortage savior today.

Does all this mean we cannot do better? Does this mean shut up and have no opinion about this organization? Does this mean never dissent? No. The Journal of Court Reporting says in its mission statement that they are seeking out diverse views. Max Curry said himself in the town hall that if you are a member who has ideas, he wants you to bring forward those proposals. This is the time for people to step up and make submissions. This is a time of activism, research, and effort in the field. It’s time for people to submit all of the hard work they are doing and share it with your fellow colleagues so that they are inspired to go out and build on that work. I have one caution. Don’t get suckered into being divided and conquered. That’s frankly the only way for us to lose, and our dear friends in the recording businesses of “the future” are counting on it.

In several places on this site, I made a joke. I called us the Unremarkable But Reliable Stenographic Legion. Joke’s on me, because in the last three years you have all proven me very wrong. Whether you’re Open Steno, Protect Your Record, helping our heroes in their time of need, a superhero at the ACRA conference, or someone I haven’t even gotten to discuss on this blog yet, you are remarkable. We are out there every day proving that the human element means something. There is no existential crisis. It’s settled that we are the best method to capturing the spoken word. We need only continue doing what we do every day, promoting ourselves, promoting each other, improving, and providing excellent service.

Addendum. Special thanks to a reader who corrected my usage of “went” to “gone.”

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