My behavior, to some, may come off as strange. I started the digital court reporter helpline on Facebook. Some people, even my own readers, take issue with the fact that I refer to them as reporters. I’d like to level with people, I know that what I do is different from mainstream stenography. There are ideas and strategies behind many things that I do. I’d like to share some so that people can understand and make their own judgments. I’ll also memorialize some steno history as I see it.
First, on the issue of shortage, I envision possibilities and then document events until I know a probable truth. For example, certainly at the start of my journey, I wrote about shortage and I viewed the shortage as our main problem. As I started to see the Speech-to-Text Institute inundate our side of the field with claims that the shortage was impossible to solve, this belief was replaced, I came to believe that STTI was simply digital court reporter marketing, and that by emphasizing the shortage, they were trying to fool reporters into going digital, fool agencies into using digital, and ultimately fool our associations into embracing the “new” court reporting. It’s called framing. How you frame an issue dramatically changes the response you get. If they framed the shortage as insurmountable, we would come to the conclusion they wanted: You must go digital. To wrap up my thoughts here, I formed two possibilities in my mind. 1) The shortage is impossible to solve. 2) The shortage is possible to solve.
Eventually, after much documentation and research of their claims, I concluded 2 was most likely. I’ll spare everybody the explanation. But that’s where I jumped into a number of activities, writing about digital reporting, the pitfalls, the deception of jobseekers. Here’s the strategy part: This all creates a record. It populates searches with Stenonymous blog posts. It begins to shape digital court reporting’s online presence and frames the issue in the way STTI was doing to all of you. So when people look up digital, they might see it’s a kind of “soft scam” and go elsewhere. This makes the economic cost of filling digital positions higher, and therefore disincentivizes digital use in businesses. Even now, search engines may start pairing digital court reporter with scam just because I wrote them together. So for those of you that want me to call them recorders, this is why I won’t. The people in power now have to live with the toxic title they stole from us.
I also scare off people that have an agenda, but no conviction. I was connected with Jim Cudahy (then STTI), on LinkedIn for a short time. At that time a lot of shortage media was going out, and I realized the man had a connection with an association for journalists. While I can’t prove it, I believe at least some shortage articles were engineered because I have been trying to get an article run on corporate fraud for over a year (on and off) with little success. Why in the world is every journalist DYING to talk about the end of stenographers, a field for which they previously had no interest? It might be big business interfering in our industry media. One analyst, Victoria Hudgins, ignored me when I wrote to her with corrections and kept publishing stuff that put stenographers in a negative light. I finally ran an attack ad on her, and we haven’t heard from her since. I called Jim Cudahy a fraud and he ran away to the Alliance of Crop, Soil, and Environmental Science Societies. Now I’ve been watching Steven Lerner’s articles at Law360. He’s a senior reporter at Law360. I feel his articles put too much emphasis on calling things equal, mostly because the idiot called STTI a stenography association, and he has outright ignored many things I’ve sent him. So quite frankly he may be next. Say what you want about me. In medieval warfare getting the enemy to rout was a win. At the point where its enemies flee, the stenographic legion is winning.
There is also a strategy to being solo. I’m a bit of a loner and you can’t really ostracize a loner. I separated from my volunteer roles in associations. This has many benefits as far as lawsuits against me for my publishing. A potential plaintiff would have to target me as an individual. The amount they could collect is limited because I just don’t have very much. The economic cost of a lawsuit would also be phenomenal for a plaintiff. Imagine for a moment the 400 or so blog posts I’ve made over the years becoming exhibits, the depositions, the interrogatories, the emails, the trial! This is on top of the fact that a lawsuit against me would not be meritorious, and therefore plaintiff would risk losing against a pro se stenographer.
I tried contacting law enforcement, but I don’t have any details on where those reports go. This leaves us in a kind of twilight where we need the media to cover this and ask the hard questions, like “hey, multimillion dollar corporation Veritext, why would you let a respected member of the profession say these things about you without trying to convince him he’s wrong?” Remember, they don’t have to sue, they just have to convince me I’m wrong. They haven’t tried. Because it’s a fraud. I even wrote them a letter. We also need the media to ask government questions, because that would probably get government to act. Until it does, we are a nation of unenforced laws.
Again, possibilities. 1) An event will occur which triggers a viral moment, calling attention to us in a way that changes the trajectory of digital recruitment and definitively ends shortage, such as attracting investors. 2) Such an event will not occur. So what is digital court reporter helpline? An assumption that I will lose. I will assume that court reporters will not increase their funding of Stenonymous over the next decade, that no journalist or lawyer will come to our rescue in a way that makes a difference, and that the number of stenographers falls to the point where we won’t bounce back (unlikely). So then the goal, for me, at least, becomes improving the lives and working conditions of working reporters. That means organizing people. That means communicating with them. That means thinking well outside the box. And if you see the description for the helpline, you’ll see what I mean. Again, as I grow this movement, it will hopefully decrease the steno-digital pay gap, leading to incentivized stenographer use because we are more efficient on average. And if the corporations decide to discontinue their aggressive pursuit of digital before we have a viral moment, so be it. But that’s what the helpline is about, taking control of digital court reporter spaces in a way that associations could never do.
But until I’m fairly sure I’ve lost, I’ll be trying to reach that viral moment. I’ve done this in a lot of different ways, even some ways people wouldn’t think about, like being a little more rude or aggressive. This is because journalists are lazy and about ten thousand times more likely to publish an article about me saying something a little off key than the math showing shortage is exaggerated. Seriously, somebody lie and tell a journalist I made a racial slur and I’ll be in the news tomorrow. But corporate fraud affecting thousands of people isn’t important. In that same vein, I was hoping someone would start media antithetical to mine and start an ideology war with me. Power’s about eyeballs, and nothing would get eyeballs like an open market media war. The most I got was Mary Ann Payonk blocking me and badmouthing me to others.
You see, for years court reporters predictably went in the same direction and were stuck in a kind of “group think.” By injecting the market with a new and growing viewpoint, we create an environment that is uncertain. In a “certain” environment, status quo reigns supreme, and right now the aggressive expansion of digital is the status quo. In an uncertain environment, the largest players have the most to lose and are the slowest to act. By taking our predictability off the table, we can force the largest players on the field to react to us. If your opponent is reacting to you, it means you have a shot at controlling the game.
Some miscellaneous points. As for why I allow uncomfortable conversations in the Stenonymous Facebook group, my business is information. It’s a cop tactic. Let the suspect talk themselves into a corner. Let the people that make us uncomfortable speak, we might learn something or we might not, but we certainly will not if we silence dissent. And learning new information can only help us because we are the more-established workforce.
Before I conclude, I would just like to say I’m imperfect. My execution of things isn’t always great. So I am open to criticism. I don’t discard it when you send it. I do not censor contrary viewpoints. That’s why I’m writing this. Being open minded is also part of my strategy. Evidence will change my views, particularly over time and with reflection. Building truth seeking into my worldview allows me to re-evaluate things and avoid confirmation bias trapping me in an endless loop of “I’m right and you’re wrong.”
I guess the bottom line is my life as a court reporter has taught me that a lot of “bad people” go through life with a simple moral code. “Screw you, stop me.” I’m experimenting with what happens when a “good person” has had enough and takes on the same moral code. What happens when a “good person” is willing to be the “bad guy?”