Some months ago, I was writing about a plot in our industry. In its loosest sense, this deals with Veritext, US Legal, and my documenting that the companies tend to spend a lot of energy building digital court reporting at the expense of stenography. In my view, both companies and the Speech-to-Text Institute appear to be crafting a narrative rather than responding to legitimate shortage concerns. “We cannot recruit enough stenographers from the 40 to 80 stenography schools nationwide, but we can somehow fill demand with digital reporters and Blueledge.” It’s not a believable position. To this day, I’m making efforts to determine whether there is actual cooperation among competitors, a sort of tacit parallelism where major players in our industry all suddenly and “independently” decided that digital reporting was the future, or something else. The motivation would be money. By making our market out to be an emerging market that investors can be first in on and omitting the fact that there’s a well-established profession, more low-information investors can be drawn in and more capital can be raised. My work is largely about restructuring the discussion from “the stenographer shortage is irreversible” to “we beat it.”
In the course of my writing and documentation in December 2021, I began experiencing psychosis symptoms. This culminated in a nasty bout of paranoid thinking where I made some crazy claims. Specifically, claims attaching Dave Wenhold and the National Court Reporters Association to the plot claims. I do want to clear this up for my readers: Dave Wenhold and NCRA have done nothing wrong. On all the available evidence I have today, Dave’s been a leader and friend to stenographers for many, many years. I’ve written before that I generally admire Dave Wenhold. I think he’s brilliant. My more negative thoughts about him and the NCRA were a side effect of the distorted thinking I was experiencing during my medical situation in December and some months afterwards.
I’m deeply sorry for some of what came out of Camp Christopher Day. I have no problem being a “bad guy” if it’s justified. But I stand firmly against misinformation. To the extent that I gave my readers misinformation that caused them to believe NCRA or Dave Wenhold are not working for stenographers, it’s a problem I need to address. The claims I made about them were largely motivated by a broken mind coupled with some bad information. I should not have written things I did in December.
There are a lot of promising things coming out of Camp NCRA that members can get behind. The organization is calling for volunteers and has launched an advocacy center. The advocacy center’s first move seems to be focusing on the Training for Realtime Writers Act. If successful, we can expect an expansion of stenographic education, as more dollars will flow to schools. If that’s something you’re interested in supporting, head over to the advocacy center page and send a message of support to your elected representative. NCRA’s made it easy for you, just fill in your address and it will assist you in contacting your rep.
It’s an exciting time to be in this industry. We are finding our footing in a data economy. It may be worthwhile for NCRA to continue to collect and publish statistics on our field, but especially rate data. For over a decade, a myth has pervaded our field that associations can never discuss rates. I surveyed nearly 100 court reporters last year. Over 72% reported that they did not have a good grasp on antitrust law. Over 86% had heard that associations can never discuss rates.
Despite the ubiquity of the rumor, it is untrue that associations can never discuss rates. In fact, the FTC itself states that many trade associations share aggregated data with members. I’ve clipped out the relevant text from the FTC site for my audience.
This is important for a number of reasons. My survey results showed a dire need for antitrust education that NCRA or a private vendor could jump on to increase revenue. Aggregated rate data on our field would help attract investors, new blood, and entrepreneurs to our field. The data collection could be featured in the JCR and increase the value of membership and the publication. Imagine, in the not-so-distant future, mentors being able to concretely tell mentees average rates and earnings. It would be a monumental project for NCRA alone, but perhaps the National Congress of State Associations can be mobilized to train and organize the state associations to provide state data, which could then be fed up the pipeline to NCRA every quarter.
I pledge to do my part, remain in treatment, and continue to platform people and support this profession. If any of my readers need clarification on my work, please comment below or reach out to me at email@example.com.