Quick recap on the issues. Businesses are pushing an automatic speech recognition and digital court reporting solution to the stenographer shortage. All available data says that’s an inadequate solution that will hurt minority speakers. Available data also suggests our shortage has been exaggerated and exacerbated by greedy people. Not one person in the last two months has refuted this in any meaningful way, and I haven’t been shy about letting the world know.
More than that, digital court reporting is likely to be leveraged or at least on borrowed time. Its biggest funders are all private equity owners, and the strategy there is buy, hold, flip. More on private equity next month. For now, know that every court reporter in the country might be more solvent than the big dogs. They’re not interested in holding these companies for 20 or 30 years like some of us and will lose interest as soon as one is a financial loser. If the gamble to exploit digital court reporters fails, our stenography students probably won’t have to deal with this ever again. Digital proponents simply will never again have the funding or support they do today. Digital will only get to fool investors the way they have been fooled once in a lifetime.
And beyond that, the stenographic legion is uncovering massive fraud, deception against students, irresponsible gouging, irresponsible handling of proceeding audio, and violation of procedural rules. We are unquestionably growing faster than all prior estimates despite being hamstrung by the Bureau of Labor Statistics publishing inaccurate data and digital court reporting propaganda so good it had started to infiltrate our stenographic associations.
The current strategy of digital court reporting proponents is to pretend that I don’t exist. That’s not working very well for them. 1% of this field reads my blog every day and spreads it to the rest.
I have a new strategy. Digital reporters can all come work for me.
The ship’s sinking. Over the next decade this little cottage industry where DR rotates CEOs between digital recording companies and milks court systems and taxpayers on equipment contracts is going to dry up. Some people might even go to jail. Who knows? Who cares? I care about as much as digital proponents cared about me when I was a young court reporter struggling to survive.
In fact, I care as much about digital court reporting’s future as Jane Sackheim of Diamond Reporting in New York cares about court reporters. Here’s a hint, she doesn’t care. On October 24, I urged her to do the right thing. I was met with silence. Though our justice system reveres silence, we all know in our hearts that it is the language of oppression. It is the language of denial and kicking the can down the road.
Now I urge all of you to do the right thing. If you’re on the digital side, come be a guest writer or content creator for me while I build this stenographic media empire. I’ll let you keep 75% of the donations that come in tagged for you. My audience is particularly interested in the seedy side. We want to know the horror stories and the situations you’re thrown into with no training. This audience, my audience, cares about you. As I grow, you grow. Might even pay your way through steno school.
To my allies, I extend the same offer, but your cut can be 99%. I’m growing a movement. Money is a means to an end and not an objective. I’m not kidding. Eat what you kill and benefit from my growing platform.
Easiest way to win is to get the other side not to fight. Offer is open until I beat my holiday blues. Write me at Contact@Stenonymous.com. We’ll get you hooked up as a contributor. You saw my message to Jane. I know that if I fail, many people will be in the terrible place I was in. Consequently, I have decided that I am not failing.
Thank you, donors. To anyone that has not donated:
When people donate to me, they do it with the understanding that I will use the money and power to support the profession in some way. As I grow, so will my support for the small businesses, schools, and the working people of my profession. There’s a ballpark of 30,000 reporters in this field and a median income somewhere above 50,000, a paltry sum of $1.5 billion. If we were to collectively donate about 1% of one year’s income ($500) to a relatively altruistic person, preferably named Christopher Day, that’s $15 million. $15 million placed into an investment, or multiple, with just a 2% return is $300,000 a year. Even if we cut that in half for taxes, that’s enough money to hire a full-time advocate for $100,000 a year and maintain a dedicated advertising/philanthropy budget of $50,000 a year. Even if I fall remarkably short of that goal and all my math is horribly wrong, a million dollars would be enough to advocate full-time for 10 years.
Just for a rough outline of what a full-time stenographic advocate for working people could work on:
-Keeping digital from literally subsuming our industry using their private equity money.
-Ending the shortage. The press alone from an industry making one dude rich so he could go fight for them would attract investors, students, and businesspeople to the field.
-Figure out the insurance problem. Freelancers pay too much for too little.
-Devise group support programs for students and reporters in need. Think about all the students over the years that have had to give up because the financial aid runs dry or all the professionals that have had an equipment failure and needed a loaner. We’re a rich field and can probably solve these things without raking people for hundreds of dollars every year. Let’s start acting like it.
-Devise nonprofit organizations or low-margin for profits to keep the profession’s tech running. Basically divest us from Stenograph. Imagine if a nonprofit could ascertain the bare minimum cost of creating a good stenotype and sell it at cost. We’d solve the captioner shortage real quick and become real champions for accessibility.
-Run for political office. There are laws on the books in many cities, states, and federally meant to deal with many issues in our field and others. The problem we face seems to be that the system is set up to automatically reject singular complaints. There are two ways around that. Either all of you can start writing complaints all the time on every issue, or you can stick a bulldog like me in the fragile political system and see what happens. Writing letters costs an indeterminate amount of time and money. Giving me a platform costs less than $500 but relies on other people to contribute. A government official that works for the people may sound crazy, but I think it would be a big hit. Our shortage would be over pretty quick too thanks to the media attention.
-Devise a system for intaking and tracking issues in the field. Right now we have an issue, like, say the NCRA testing stuff, it bubbles into outrage, and once the outrage is over the issue is quietly dropped and people go back to business as usual. Transparency and solutions will be the name of the game. Outrage will be a tool used as needed.
-Devise a system for tracking and assisting state and national associations/nonprofits in need. State bill or rule change threatening jobs? Here’s your lobbyist fund. Let’s get serious about that. Veritext and US Legal are. Are you? Let’s give our VOLUNTEER association board members a fighting chance.
-Expand stenotype services into other industries and make them available to the general public. There appears to be a human need to be heard and we are very, very good at hearing people. This also might lead to the USA exporting stenotype services and creating theories in other languages.
This is the future I’m fighting for. Less money coming out of your wallet, more money going into it. And make no mistake that I am ready for a fight. When Naegeli threatened to sue, I stood up for reporters and refused to take down evidence of their gouging. When a corporate rep bullied one of us in an email, I put him on blast. I have two limitations, time and money, and my fellow reporters have the power to erase those limitations.
For years you’ve been told why things can’t be done. You’ve been told things can’t change. Give me a shot and I will change things for the better. That’s my promise. I have given you solid math for why I believe this to be possible. For those of you I’ve already won over, please consider sharing this with your colleagues. As has been said by other reporters, the association model of decentralizing everything and relying on volunteers is nice in theory. It’s not working for us today. It is time to try centralizing our power so that the associations that have advocated for us over the last hundred years survive the next ten and that our quality of life is improved.