Wrote a poem. It’s about America instead of court reporting. This is one of the rare times I’m going to use the blog for something like this. Unfortunately, it’s the only way to ensure it gets picked up by web search services like Google.
For the longest time we’ve faced division in the country. I believe this to be intentional on the part of the ultra rich. They control our media, our social platforms, our transportation, our electricity, our groceries. While we battle each other over silly differences or disagreements, we do not address the extraction of wealth from our country. This is very similar to the hatred of digital reporting in our field. While we wasted time decrying digitals as button pushers, we hardly noticed or cared that the corporations were setting up for our replacement and to create a market glut of reporters where our incomes would fall and their profits would rise.
People on very gradient of the political spectrum are being squeezed. I know this to be wrong. I do not know how it will be righted. But I know it must be.
After I was given permission to mirror Andy Bajaña’s song, things dried up for a while on my end. I’m pleased to announce a new stenographer song by Anonymous, commissioned by Stenonymous.com.
The song’s available for download at $1.00. The song’s already free on YouTube and easy to share, but I know there will be those of you that want the wav file or to show support.
It’s thanks to this community that I’m able to do things like this. It’s like I keep saying, more resources give me more power to advance our interests.
Perhaps that makes it a good time to lay out some of my long-term goals. I’d like to grow big enough to begin to centralize our stenographic media, get some of our best influencers on a payroll or contract basis, and really begin extending our reach using several different entertainment styles. It’ll take me a long while to do it alone. Not so with the help of my fellow court reporters.
Regardless of what you think of that plan, enjoy the song, and have a great day!
I attended the National Court Reporters Association Town Hall today with President Jason Meadors, and boy, am I glad I did. It gave me confidence that the association and its leaders are pushing hard to represent the interests of members. The entire session was almost exactly an hour, so there’s a lot to unpack.
Present at the meeting were, as stated, NCRA President Jason Meadors, Executive Director Dave Wenhold, Max Curry, a Past President and Chair of the A to Z committee, Annemarie Roketenetz, Director of Communications & PR, and Jocelynn Moore, Director of Government Relations. The meeting started off with a lengthy discussion from Max Curry about the A to Z program, and he took the time to explain where the program started and how it was completely revamped. According to Mr. Curry, A to Z began with about 50 boots-on-the-ground programs in the states. That fell away when the pandemic happened, and most programs closed. Programs in Texas, Tennessee, Minnesota, and California all went remote, which showed that the program could be done remotely. A new vision has come into place where the program can be done remotely and all of the resources can be centralized behind the program, with fewer boots-on-the-ground programs. Eight programs will be done a year, four asynchronous and four live. This is to capture the different kinds of learners — ones that can learn on their own AND people that need interactivity to succeed.
One of the truly exciting plans was for a landing page that can be centralized that brings people back to A to Z. NCRA is planning to reach out to organizations and associations to have them host a button or link to the landing page, creating a spiderweb or net that helps catch all the people that might be interested in this wonderful career and bring them back to the NCRA’s A to Z to give steno a try. They may ask firms to donate $5 to $10 of their Search Engine Optimization budget to help bring people to the landing page. NCRA President-Elect Kristin Anderson’s Houston President’s Party will act as a fundraiser for SEO dollars to ramp up advertising about court reporting and captioning as careers.
Lisa Dennison also spoke and informed us that 15 A to Z scholarships were given out at $750 per award. NCRA interacted with ASCA, the American School Counselor Association, getting school counselors’ contact information, adding them to a contact list, and getting them information about court reporting. It was mentioned that the communications team has been working on Instagram, QR Codes, and other ways to spread the message. Reliance donated money for student memberships for previous A to Z graduates, which helped grow association membership as well.
It was mentioned that NCRA continues to work with vendors such as Advantage, ProCAT, and Stenograph. The StenoCAT iPad app, iStenoPad, was also described as a way to simplify the logistics of getting stenotypes to participants.
It was explained that last year 295 students were picked up by A to Z. Max Curry clarified that some local programs do not coordinate with headquarters, so numbers from those programs are unavailable. Ms. Dennison asked that participant lists be sent to the NCRA so that better data can be compiled.
A quote by Brianna Coppola was shared. “I have never seen or heard of another ‘career test drive’ course. It really spotlights the encouragement within the community of reporters and their love for their jobs and dedication to the field.”
Dineen Squillante asked about the possibility of reaching out to departments of labor in each state. Lisa Dennison responded that it was something that could be looked into.
2022 Program Leaders and Speakers were thanked. It’s an extensive list, and I feel they deserve the recognition.
Ms. Dennison made it clear that the door was open to anyone that wanted to reach out on A to Z.
Annemarie Roketenetz talked a little bit about plants for Court Reporting & Captioning week, and a lot about the many endeavors of NCRA. She also mentioned that a number of press releases would be made, leading up to a larger press release that will link back to all the smaller ones. This is in line with dispatching our news and events regularly, and a very smart move on NCRA’s part. Several events were mentioned. Review the Town Hall recording at the Learning Center for more, I cannot do it justice in print. Our PR and communications are in good hands.
Mr. Meadors noted that Legislative Bootcamp has been called a “money grab.” He stated NCRA does not make money on bootcamp and reiterated what an important program it really is.
Jocelynn Moore expounded on bootcamp, explaining that it is extremely immersive training on how to be effective grassroots lobbyists. She stated that the training is “going to give you all of the tools necessary to go in front of a legislator, oppose legislation that doesn’t agree with the profession, or advocate for a bill coming through. Some of the topics covered will be “politics 101,” how associations work, and how you can mobilize with other members in your state to move forward on a particular issue.
The Training for Realtime Writers Act was mentioned. It was also mentioned that it will be difficult to reintroduce this under a Congress attempting to cut spending. More information will be provided on that at bootcamp, but also more on the situation from Indiana. Participants will learn how to advocate in front of different parties and teach members to speak to legislators, because legislators do not always have all of the information we have about our field.
Ms. Moore continued on to talk about the Indiana issue. The proposed prohibition of stenographers from Indiana courts was revealed. We learned that NCRA began a grassroots campaign to find out what happened and why the proposed change was introduced. The organization has found difficulty getting information about the change, but finds the language to be discriminatory and mandatory, robbing judges of their discretion and forcing them not to use a stenographer.
It was a packed hour. My only criticism of the event would be that they ran out of time for questions. But you know what? It happens. President Meadors directed that efforts should be made to record questions asked and that efforts would be made to have them answered. Everything wrapped up with Dave Wenhold thanking the participants for coming out on a Saturday. He said that if you get any information on Indiana, you can pass it to him or Ms. Moore. President Meadors noted that just showing up and asking questions meant participants were dedicated to the profession. The meeting subsequently came to a close.
Refinement of the programs we have is going to seize the day here. Leadership is doing something very impressive. My opinion may not count for much, but I’d thank each of them for the hard work that they do and continuing to fight for this profession. It’s inspiring, and I hope reading a little about it has inspired all of you.
To the lawyers and support staff reading, all you really need to know is that your consumer choice is under attack. Available data says consumer preference is solidly for stenographers and/or voice writers.
In spite of this, a small number of court reporting firms and the nonprofit Speech-to-Text Institute have published bad data to get you to believe stenographers are not available despite there being a free national directory of stenographers. This bad data is then pushed by “reporters” like Victoria Hudgins and the Legaltech News outfit, whose primary purpose is to convince you to buy into their BS. You all have the power to fight against this attack on your consumer choice by sharing this blog with your colleagues. I have been a stenographic court reporter for the last twelve years. All I know is how to make an accurate record. With that, let’s set the record straight:
Victoria Hudgins has come up in my blog before. I wrote to her about some inaccuracies or issues with her past articles back when I believed she was an honest analyst or journalist. I let her know that Stenograph used a stock photo to represent its offices in one of the articles, and to this day the article still says “Stenograph offices” under the picture. In short, she does not seem to care about the accuracy of what is published with her name on it.
Now she’s come out with this article in Legaltech News. “There’s Fewer Small Court Reporting Agencies — But Don’t Blame Technology for That.” It’s very easy to see what’s happened. The shortage claims are falling apart, and the next move is for the private equity brigade (MAGNA, Veritext, and US Legal) to pivot to “we can provide investment in technology that small shops cannot.” As told by stenographer social media, that’s not even true, with small firm owners writing things like they have been proudly providing for all of their clients’ needs since the 90s.
This pivot is an admission that Veritext knows we can’t be beat. The big companies are having a hard time convincing stenographers and consumers the shortage cannot be solved, so it’s onto the next spin. They’re having that hard time because the propaganda they’re using is mathematically unsound. For example, in the linked JD Supra article, U.S. Legal Support uses an equation where we would have negative stenographers in about 30 years. That can’t happen if we’re getting new stenographers every year. How did the company fail to adjust for that? It’s not information being given, it’s an agenda being pushed.
U.S. Legal Support was giving off the same vibes just last week as far as not being able to defeat the stenographic legion. It’s actually kind of comical. The lack of serious and sustained antitrust enforcement for the last 40 years has caused the corporate types to realize we are a nation of unenforced laws. So we’re in a weird game of incongruence where the corporate types have been blatantly violating the law, and the workforce, namely stenographers, have been conditioning themselves to believe that even the tiniest appearance of antitrust infraction must be avoided at all costs, even to the point that our trade associations do not or did not collect and publish rate data despite being entitled to.
As for Hudgins herself, I would be shocked to learn she’s not taking money under the table. She ignored my comments in the past. She doesn’t seem to do any digging beyond getting a story to sound tech friendly. It’s all a media game of getting lawyers to buy into the hot new thing. It’s a hearts and minds game of getting people to repeat the same useless drivel so that everyone starts to believe it, because once people believe something, they hold onto that belief thanks to confirmation bias and/or post-purchase rationalization. Maybe that’s all Legaltech News itself actually is, a marketing piece to convince lawyers to buy, buy, buy into the next “it.” But if I were a lawyer, I’d be mad as hell when I figured that out that something labeled as news was being heavily skewed to influence me and my business. I’d be mad that the data and news showing “technology” would hurt my clients was being swept under the rug and routinely ignored. After all, Hudgins writes about the stenographer shortage woes.
But Hudgins doesn’t bother to mention the undeniable fact that there’s a debate about the shortage where, as I am quoted saying, 16% of all depositions in this country would be going uncovered if the shortage was as bad as claimed. That’s not something we are seeing anywhere in the country, not even in California, where the shortage was forecasted years ago to be far worse than anywhere else in the country. Hudgins doesn’t bother to mention that the shortage numbers have never been adjusted to account for increased recruitment over the last decade. Hudgins doesn’t bother to give facts, so I have no problem putting it out there: Victoria Hudgins is a liar by omission and Legaltech News seems all too happy to host the incomplete reporting. So says the largest commercial blog in the court reporting industry, Christopher Day, Stenonymous, which again, somehow flies under Hudgins’ radar.
The explosion in popularity came after I came forward about the dishonesty and pricing games permeating my field. I have risked my entire professional career to tell the truth. Lawyers, paralegals, and court reporters simply respect that.
Just for the record, stenographers utilize a lot of technology. Just about every single one of us invests a ballpark of $5,000 on a stenotype and a ballpark of $4,000 in software. The software has the capability to take our notes and stream them just about anywhere in the world with an internet connection. This idea that stenographers are still running old school with the paper tape manual machines is a fiction promulgated by propagandists. That’s in the ballpark of a $252 million investment in technology that the current workforce has made and not counting a single stenographer that is no longer working. How much money are the bigger companies saying they’ve invested directly on hardware and software?
Since it’s a media game, I’m ready to play. I’m going to advertise this on Facebook to the tune of $100 today. If you’d like to join me in an amount of your choosing, please head over to the home page at Stenonymous.com and use the donation box. All of my campaigns are public on the Stenonymous page and/or my Twitter, so you can see the kinds of comments we’ve gotten on past campaigns.
Apparently even Victoria agrees because she liked my retweet on this.
In order to facilitate the exponential growth of the blog and payment for services I plan to provide through it, I have upgraded the payment structure to work through Stripe. Check out the new system below. Please note that to the extent you are able to justify future payments to me as a business expense, you may do so, this is all above board and reported income.
Please know that my general plans remain unchanged. I will be recovering the next few weeks and updates will likely be sparse. This blog, based on its stats, may have achieved the threshold for major systemic change. This means that regardless of what associations do or do not do, I will likely be able to begin doing things that will achieve my original goals of better reporter pay and treatment, as well as larger revenues for existing stenotype services businesses.
Yesterday, about 0.5% of this field came out in open support for me and nearly 3% of you read about my ordeal without a single negative comment. It is the love and support of my loved ones, including all of you, that will make a recovery possible. I cannot overstate how grateful I am to everyone. In the spirit of passing on the love that has been shown to me, I pledge to donate all of today’s donations equally to National Court Reporters Foundation, Paying It Forward (Allison Hall), Protect Your Record Project, Project Steno, and Open Steno. Next year, by or before February 27th, I will also match the donation made to each of the three today up to $1,000 each. If you want to see me lose $5,000 next year, or if you want to see these wonderful organizations be collectively $10,000 richer next year, help me collect $5,000 today for these amazing endeavors. If 3% of the field were to donate $30, each organization would receive over $5,000 today and an additional $1,000 next year. This is the collective power of stenographers.
*Please note, I will have to deduct combined Stripe/WP fees of approximately 5%. About $200 was donated before I realized that, so I will eat the fee on $200. It would be too cost prohibitive to eat the fee on the thousands of dollars that may be raised from this post.
A little under $800 was donated. $160 has been sent to each organization. An additional $160 will be sent to each next year. Lower than I’d hoped, but not bad for an impromptu fundraiser! Thank you to all of you that made this one possible. Looking forward to going bigger.
This December I have been experiencing an onset of mental illness. I was unaware. I did some terrible things that I can’t take back. I was hospitalized and am now better than ever.
When my thinking finally became clear again, I realized that I had been given a second chance at life. No one was physically hurt, which is great, considering my court family just lost someone this year. I can use this experience to help others.
To anyone I hurt emotionally, lashed out at, or latched onto, I apologize. I did not know I was losing it. Now that I know such a thing is possible, it will never happen again; medical intervention was necessary.
The antitrust conspiracy post will be rewritten to be simple and constructive. Stenonymous will return to its original goal of uplifting the profession. I will take some months off.
A word of caution to those that were rejoicing over my suffering: What does not kill us makes us stronger, and I didn’t die.
A word of advice: If you notice behavioral changes or mood issues, go to the ER. It just might save your life.
For me personally, this is going to be a positive. We now know that even in the event of psychosis I’m nonviolent. Better still, I just created and managed the industry’s largest blog while mentally ill. Now that I am mentally prepared, my life is about to get a lot easier. Years ago, we got NCRA 2.0. Who knew that was possible with people too?
If you’d like a great song for this blog post, check out Poor Jack from Nightmare Before Christmas. It fits incredibly well.
*The initial version of this post was written in a vulgar, ranting, raving, and confusing manner due to a medical episode I was having. Sorry for how that was written. I have scrapped it. It held no creative or intellectual value that cannot be reproduced at a later date. Many of the people I named and cursed at are actually good people that I admire.
See the new version below:
The “conspiracy” is simple. It is very similar to what Purdue Pharma did to healthcare. Lies and misdirection, as well as possible government corruption. I should note that in our case, because the government has not yet investigated to my knowledge, it is hard to tell if we’re seeing tacit parallelism or a fully-planned plot. That said, numbers do not lie, and there are problems with the numbers.
Veritext, US Legal, STTI, and others publish misleading and demonstrably false info. There is likely a baseline assumption that it won’t matter in 10 or 20 years because AI will “take over.”
Our associations, either by design or habit, just keep staying the course. Old tricks don’t work in a new and modern world. I start to change minds with a $10,000 budget and become suspicious of the association management industry. Dave Wenhold, whose intelligence and charisma I openly admire, becomes suspicious to me. This is about where I start to deteriorate. How do I use my media to bring people to associations that shut down new ideas without debate; as NCRA did for Amendment 5 this year? How do I support associations that give responses so boneheaded a six year old could do better? Even my beloved NYSCRA seems intent on crushing new ideas quietly and behind closed doors.
Then, like with Purdue, there is potential government corruption. There is a concept called the revolving door, where someone on behalf of the company catches the ear of a government official and the government official just so happens to do what the company wants. Then the government official retires to a nice new job with the company. So far I’m told California Court Reporter Licensing Board officials have actually done this — which is incredibly suspicious. California may well be the state with the strictest regulations for court reporting. It refuses to regulate digital court reporting. Consumers should probably demand the complete dissolution of the board. It would be like heavily regulating snack foods but refusing to regulate pretzels.
Let’s not forget Arizona, where my public comment was completely ignored by Director Byers, even though I sent him an e-mail well before my personal issues began. Very convenient for AAERT and anyone who thinks courtrooms should be investing in recording equipment.
There are also issues here in New York. It is apparent that members of the public are being told no spots are open and the government is sitting on provisional applications.
I cannot say for sure what we are seeing. I do see a pattern of passive aggressiveness toward court reporters from corporations, associations, and government — a passive aggressiveness that peculiarly fades any time someone questions it.
The antitrust conspiracy may not be an actual conspiracy. But if I was designing a plot to exaggerate and exacerbate the stenographer shortage, it would look exactly like what we are experiencing today.
Last night at about 10:00 p.m., I received an e-mail from Richard Hunt of Barran Liebman LLP about Naegeli. It was a fairly standard legal threat, not that I know what those look like, since I’ve never received one before. If you’re short on time, skip their nonsense and read my reply.
Now, I understand that this kind of thing may have a chilling effect on the free speech I have worked so hard to promote in our industry. I must ask all of you not to be afraid, but to turn to your state and federal legislators and law enforcement. Take this opportunity to share with them what is happening. I will lead by example in defense of our collective futures. I will be brave as I am asking all of you to be.
I’ll assume you’re an honest lawyer roped into this circus by your corporate client. Welcome. Make sure you’re sitting for this one.
This is my show. Defamation is a false statement of fact published to a third party that causes damage. Naegeli’s reputation is so awful that I find it hard to believe there’s anything that could be said that would damage its reputation further. Some of the statements I make are factual, and truth is an affirmative defense to defamation. Beyond that, some of the statements I make are an opinion based on my expertise as a stenographic court reporter for the last 11 and a half years and creator of what is indisputably the largest blog in my industry. You do not have a cause of action and therefore it would be legally wrong for you to file a complaint against me.
You should peruse my blog. I’ve been reporting corporate corruption against much larger corporations than Naegeli. Veritext and US Legal Support appear to be involved in a plot to rig the court reporting and stenotype services industry against consumers/lawyers. What was done to the healthcare industry as portrayed in the series Dopesick about Purdue Pharma is more or less being done to my industry. The difference here is that what is occurring in my industry is what would have happened if one doctor rallied the others to fight the misleading advertising and dishonest behavior. Conceded that the series is a dramatization of the actual events, of course. I have a moral obligation to stop the lies and dishonesty rampant in my field because of the damage this plot will likely do to my profession, its students, minority speakers, and testimony transcript accuracy. Once the public takes note and begins alerting the DOJ, FBI, and FTC as I have, there is virtually no chance the plot will continue. Naegeli’s gouging was such a minor and unrelated part of that, that in my wildest dreams, I couldn’t have imagined this kind of foolish overreaction and strategic blunder. Thank you.
My field is beset by silence and fear. I aim to break this. To achieve this I have become a goal-oriented person. You see, now that Naegeli has threatened to sue through an actual law firm, it’s put itself in a much worse position than anyone could have conceived. Now Naegeli has two choices. It can fail to sue me, and show an entire field of nearly 30,000 court reporters that it is a scared barking dog, which will embolden them. The competition from all of them will become so fierce that it will run the company into the ground. Alternatively, Naegeli could sue. I am quite sure that I can find a valid counterclaim. We can lock each other in for a lawsuit and give this field the show it never knew it needed. It will be the single-largest destruction of capital the industry has ever seen and your client’s reputation will drop even more as court reporters across the nation realize that money could’ve gone into advertising to fix the stenographer shortage. Imagine the backlash. “Yes, I could’ve spent $400 an hour advertising this profession but instead I, Naegeli & Co., have decided the money is better spent stifling Christopher Day’s free speech.”
I know the latter seems like an attractive choice, but it will only expand my audience exponentially and possibly allow me to run daily ads decrying Naegeli’s hatred of free speech and the stenographic free press. I took a personality test recently, and it claimed I was a mediator. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I have come up with a third option. I can use my media personality to completely rehabilitate Naegeli’s reputation. We can sign a contract that Naegeli will use only stenographers and/or voice writers, and will shift their billing model to be the more open and honest “split of invoice” method. I’ll take $100,000 for up to two dozen press releases or media actions in 2022. Together, we will find a way to repair Naegeli’s image in the eyes of the public and court reporters across the nation. We can donate 5% of the contract to NCRF and 5% of the contract to Open Steno to show the field our resolve and unity.
I have about $1,200 to my name and am about $20,000 in debt. You see, the corporations in my field looted it so much by the time I got here that as a young man, I simply didn’t have a fair shot. I let you know that in order to explain that in the event you sue and somehow manage to bribe a judge and/or jury to see things your way, you will have succeeded in little more than obtaining a piece of paper called a judgment that says “you win, congrats.” Meanwhile, the work I am doing will ensure that not a single stenography grad ever has to suffer like that again. If you believe there is any universe where I will back down, there is an ancient stenographic proverb designed just for you.
A source that shall remain anonymous passed me information that NYPTI prosecutors were being given education about stenography and court reporting that doesn’t match up with reality. During the presentation, stenography was made to look as old and outdated as possible when in actuality it is top-of-the-line tech in speech-to-text transcription. This supports my belief that the stenographer shortage is being intentionally exaggerated and exacerbated.
By my estimates there are 20,000 freelancers and 28,000 court reporters total in this country. We do not receive much formal legal education beyond the terminology we might hear. This has left many of us confused on our legal rights. Even the agencies that hire us, schools that train us, and the members of the bench and bar we work with every day lack basic information about important concepts we are dealing with. This puts court reporters at a serious competitive disadvantage against anyone with the funds to hire a lawyer.
It’s time for change. If you are ready for that change, please take some time to answer this 8-question survey. I encourage you to share it with anyone you feel might answer it honestly. Every single honest answer will pave the way for taking this from concept to execution. This survey allows me to gauge interest and expand the project. I will release more information as soon as it is appropriate and safe to do so.
We must keep recruiting and sharing information. But I would like to remind everyone to take care of yourself this holiday season. If the stenographic newswire or some other issue is causing you to feel down, take care of yourself. Try to reach out to a support system. Humans are communal. You are not bad, wrong, or alone. You are human. You will be okay because all feelings change over time.
A very special thank you to every single one of my readers. Your readership has made this moment possible. Let me just note that Sound Professionals’ Chris Carfagno has let me know about their latest product announcement. I have always heard good things about SP; I have a great impression of Chris and have no problem recommending them. I will state that I do not believe I’ve personally used their products. When I used to use audio, I think I was using a mic sold by Stenograph at the time, which probably explains why I don’t use audio anymore. I have also started transitioning to Eclipse in honor of the Stenograph boycott. It feels great to be learning new skills and technology in my field and I would encourage every single reporter in the industry to give it a try. Eclipse provides robust training resources on top of its Anytime Support. I even had to call them recently (weekday, business hours), and they returned my call in under three minutes. Switching isn’t easy, but Eclipse has done all it can to make my transition pleasant. I have a feeling that once I am done, I will be able to honestly tell readers which software I prefer from a performance standpoint. Stay tuned.
PS. Stenograph reached out to the Texas Court Reporters Association board. My understanding is that there will be a future meeting in 2022 where members will be allowed to ask questions. This is why I called for the boycott. The more pressure we apply, the more urgent it is for them to curry favor with our associations and make us happy. It would make me personally happy if Stenograph acknowledged that digital court reporting will likely hurt minority speakers’ transcript accuracy. I give my word that if Stenograph makes such an acknowledgment, I will call off the boycott. Until then, let’s see how far those revenues can fall for 2022 and 2023 renewals as people continue canceling support. This profession will endure. Stenograph’s endurance relies upon its service to this profession.