Remember when the world was supposed to end? Computer programs were going to crash. Massive delays could happen. It was the doomsday that never happened about 21 years ago.
It turns out Y2K was a pretty big problem in the computer programming world. Computer memory used to be incredibly limited. To get around this limitation, many programmers designed programs to save dates using fewer numbers. MM/DD/YY was shorter than MM/DD/YYYY. The result of this design was that in the year 2000, many programs could believe it was the year 1900. Booked a flight? Good luck finding your 100-year old reservation in the system. Clocked in at work? You were going to be 100 years late. Had a bank account? They were going to owe you 100 years of interest. Anything where dates and computers were important was in danger.
That danger came and went because programmers went to the media. Programmers whipped up a frenzy of attention to the issue, and the people that pay them took the issue seriously. Millions of dollars were spent to fix old programs, and the result was that Y2K went down in the public’s mind as a hoax or joke.
There are a few things stenographic reporters can mirror here. We too have a looming crisis. Our reporter shortage is well documented. The average age of NCRA membership is 55. For all the reasons listed in the PCRA article, digital reporting and automatic speech recognition is an inadequate replacement for the stenographic court reporter. Indeed, I’ve even “pontificated” that if we fail, it will cause much more severe delays than courts already experience.
We too have people that need to buy in. Court administrations, private attorneys, captioning purchasers, and educators are all examples of people we need to buy in the same way banks, airports, and others bought in and helped stop Y2K. Ultimately, these are the people injured if we fail to recruit more reporters, and the least we can do is let them know. The schools are not going to survive long with the offshoring of the jobs. The rest of them are going to suffer from a quality issue.
We too have seen this coming in advance. For over 7 years we’ve been pushing out initiatives to recruit reporters. NCRA A to Z, Open Steno, and Project Steno have all grown more robust and organized in that time. We still have a good 7 to 10 years before the majority of reporters cross the retirement threshold and reality tells us whether we’ve won or lost. That’s 7 to 10 years to change the outcome if you think we’re losing or keep the lead if you think we’re winning.
Most importantly, we too can win. Programmers were facing an unprecedented issue and worked to fix it. They did not fix everything perfectly; a nuclear weapons plant had a little hiccup after all, but they fixed everything enough that nothing catastrophic happened. They had a choice, and they chose to be leaders. As I told many students on February 2021, we too have a choice. We are not facing an unprecedented issue. We are facing a labor shortage. We don’t have to do this perfectly. As I explained yesterday, the corporations that are trying to bump us out of the field are far from perfect and their arguments are completely hollow. There are so many of us that with even the slightest effort, we will eclipse whatever anti-steno propaganda is put out there. We just have to do it.