Hey, everybody. There are some great articles and ideas in the works. I’ve had an uptick of information from sources across the country and am doing my best to stay on top of things. I also have several articles/ideas in the works for corporations that have opened up to me about their plans and capabilities.
Unfortunately, due to family stuff, this is taking a lot longer than usual, so please bear with me. Low Stenonymous funding means I have to roll without any help. Unfortunately, the blog has to take a backseat to family and work obligations.
I do feel an obligation to my readers and contributors too, but I have to be realistic in prioritizing.
Thank you for your understanding and all the support you’ve given this blog! More regular posting should resume within a month.
The Associated Press reported on Thursday that the companies that control the court reporting industry have been bought out by KKR and Blackstone, each now representing half of the country’s current court reporting workforce. The FTC’s Lina Khan stated in a recent press conference on the issue that court reporters were “pretty much on their own” because helping such a small industry is a “colossal waste of time and resources.”
All of this happened simultaneously with a change in state law that would allow court reporters in California to work in Texas. Opponents of the bill said that the lack of mutual reciprocity was concerning.
Local court reporter Jim Jones said “wow, my association could’ve done something about this, but all the board members were making money by selling off their businesses to the perpetrators. Who could have seen this coming?”
After the news broke, enigmatic blogger Al Anonymous posted to popular court reporting blog Steno Imperium that the wholesale purchasing of court reporting firms and ousting of professional court reporters from courtrooms was done to sway the record in big money’s favor. “Think about it,” Al wrote. “When you have transcribers that are paid pennies, desperate to keep their jobs, they’ll change anything for a buck or if they’re ordered to by their boss. Those pressures exist even in traditional court reporting circles. What hope do we have if you trade that responsibility away to a culture without ethical boundaries?”
Shortly after, a Staten Island home was raided by police and the Steno Imperium blog went offline. There are no further updates at this time.
Court Reporting Company of the Year, Veritext, through its representative Jane Doe, stated, “We are pleased with this outcome. Now nobody will have to bribe judges to win appeals. They can just bribe us. All profits matter.”
*None of this is true. It’s part of Stenonymous Satire Weekends. I used to use these to expose corporate fraud in court reporting, but this time I’m doing it as more of a cautionary revisiting of the leadership vulnerability issues that I raised in the Cost of Corruption article.
The private equity model has dug its claws into everything from court reporters to emergency medicine physician staffing. If KKR and Blackstone are giving DOCTORS a run for their money, you can bet we’re all going to feel it sooner or later. But use this as a creative thinking exercise. If you continue to allow the corporate consolidation of court reporting and the alleged massive shifting of the workforce to people they’re going to pay less and treat worse, how easy is it going to be for the wealthy to influence transcripts? At least with stenographic notes, you can’t easily alter the stenographic strokes, so any lawyer could hire another reporter to read the notes and see if stuff was left out or filled in from a source other than the stenographic notes. With audio, as we know, court audio goes missing and court administrators in other states hide it by omission. Audio’s also far easier to edit than stenographic strokes.
Documents purporting to be US Legal and Lex Reporting rate sheets were passed to me by a source recently.
To be honest, these rates seem very New-York-City competitive. There are some stenographers out there making $4.50 on the originals. I will say that as a young reporter I only got paid $1.00 for roughs, and with the amount of work that goes into those, it would put me off to learn the agency was making exactly what I was for essentially a finder’s fee. The bust I used to make was something like $75. The minimum fee was the bust fee. So there are definitely cost savings to be had for attorneys that go agency or reporter shopping.
But the surprising part of all this was my Stenonymous source stated that copy attorneys were charged the same.
Now, the breadth of my information gathering is limited, because I have a full-time job and this citizen journalist stuff is on the side. But it really may be true. Years ago, I staged a call-up to Diamond Reporting (New York City, later bought by Veritext), and they told my caller that they charged the same copy and original.
Not these specific companies listed above, but in general, I have always thought that companies play games with some invoices and the attorneys they don’t regularly do business with. Charge ultra high. No complaint? Payday. Complaint? Cut the bill in half and make out like a bandit while looking like a hero to the client. That said, it’s actually nice to see that not be the case here.
That’s all I have for this one. Feel free to pass it around.
A store owner was killed over a pride flag not long ago. When I was a young man and throughout a nice chunk of my life, society was fairly good as a whole about condemning violence. That was sometime after the government stopped producing plans to kill its own citizens. The political landscape has definitely shifted. “Both sides” of the political landscape have elements that regard “the other side” as evil, stupid, or even inhuman. I know because I’ve seen plenty of online evidence and have even made goofy videos trying to persuade young people to get away from thinking about violence as an answer to political problems. We are forgetting, or perhaps some have never acknowledged, that we are all Americans and that while we may vehemently disagree, and in some cases nastily disagree, there is a line, and that line is unlawful behavior.
It has me thinking about my own writing. A lot of my writing is politically left to the degree we must use such labels to describe things, very much like that pride flag is often viewed as being. The concept I created for Patriots Against Corporatism hasn’t taken off yet, but I know there are right-wing people that respect that kind of stuff. They understand that America won’t function without more of the economy going to hardworking people like them, including small business entrepreneurs. The unfortunate catch there is that I may someday have elements from “either” political persuasion angry with me, especially if my following grows.
If I am ever targeted for my writing I hope that people will not lay down quietly about it. You do not need to live in a society afraid to speak. Sometimes the only thing that will stave off the threat of authoritarians of whatever political cause systematically silencing you is gathering together and shouting in one collective bellow, as we have learned from the countless movements that came before.
Those that follow me, I’m eternally grateful for your support. It really made a difference in our field. It continues to do so every day. So if I ever do fall victim to something and am not able to tell you myself, just remember how powerful you really are.
And remember that corporations and governments run cyber ops to control you and how you think about things, including your fellow Americans. That person you’re fighting with online may not be anything more than a kid from a rival country meant to sow discord among the people on the American political spectrum, because if we are fighting with each other, we’re not talking about how to solve societal issues and grow more brilliant American minds, make America a better place to work and live so that the brightest minds from all over the world immigrate here, end corruption in government, and generally how to maintain our relatively wonderful standard of living. For the world governments, this makes America weak, and there are a lot of them that want us weak. For the corporations, our infighting stops us from realizing that some of the richest people on Earth are assholes that abuse that power and they really don’t care if you have a nice life, they care about propagandizing you so that you act in a way that 1) benefits them, such as voting for their guy or 2) combats others that would stand against them deteriorating your and your families’ quality of life, a la the the constant media barrage telling you to live in fear of “them,” the political, racial, sexual, systemic, or religious “other.” These are not nice “rich” people like doctors and lawyers, they are the people who make more money in one night of sleep than you will in your whole life, statistically. These are the people that study human behavior in order to manipulate it for money.
If the neurotypical world is one where the majority of people believe that getting one over on each other is a good way to run a society, then I am quite happy to be an autist and denounce that society. But I suspect that the truth is that the majority of you do not believe in such a world. This is not inherent human nature. We do not see it ubiquitously in every country, nor do we see it in every community in our country. I believe that you believe in helping others, making an honest buck, and that there are simply sometimes social and economic reasons that that takes a backseat. This is very different from people that have all their needs and desires met and simply want more because they can have more at the expense of all else. And if that’s someday at your expense, it’ll be people just like you that save you or let you drown. If that worries you, you only need to throw the smallest of pebbles into the lake to change your reflection.
Each of you has a gift that can help humanity. I urge you to share yours with the world in the same way I have shared my writing. It is not every person’s cup of tea. Your gift may not be either. My writing has not made me rich. Your gift may not make you rich. But I live a richer and more fulfilled life than the one I lived before. I share what I share in the hopes that you will too.
I wanted to point out, I’ve often used the BLS median as kind of a multiplying point to figure out about how much of the market we really are. That’s probably not been the best measure. The mean would probably be more accurate, and the mean incomes are higher than the median.
But this is kind of my style anyway, I put together ballpark figures and I get a feel for what’s more likely. It’s the same way I came to the shortage conclusion. 11,000 missing reporters in 2023 was just too steep to be true.
But yes, mean, median, different. Mean would be better. But even their mean doesn’t seem to account for the court reporters making $300,000 a year. This goes back to my general argument that larger companies simply want a larger slice of the pie.
Given the nature of the action, in my view, it would be wrong for Stenonymous to publish the full transcript. But I have personally reviewed portions of the transcript. The certification, errata, and all that ends at 149, then the word index begins, totaling up to the 181 pages. It kind of goes to what the court was saying in that class action link I just posted. Paraphrasing heavily: “It would not be deceptive business practice if a restaurant did not itemize every item in a cheeseburger.” Basically saying that the word index can be viewed as part of the entire transcript or product and therefore need not be itemized.
But it is really an add-on, isn’t it? My whole career as a freelancer came and went without ever being paid for a word index. Other court reporters report not being paid for their word indices. Word indices are not a required part of the transcript in jurisdictions I’ve read about. It’s a convenience feature. A convenience feature usually added by “the agency.” The agency that is supposed to be a separate and distinct entity without direction and control over “the freelancer.” The agency that is supposed to be a litigation support service and not a court reporting firm, but flip flops whenever it’s convenient for them in court and/or makes them more money. Yeah, that agency.
Certainly, the word index has some value. But is it quite the same value as a caption page that often needs to be filled in manually? Is it quite the same value as a transcribed page? Those can have a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio with time “typing” versus time “transcribing” (typing/writing : transcribing). Said another way, there’s a lot more time and effort going into each page of the rest of the transcript. Not so much with the word index. It’s literally what we accuse the digital reporters of doing, button pushing. In my guesstimate, it takes about as much time to generate an entire word index as it does to produce one page of a transcript. So back to the judge’s cheeseburger statement, it’s more like if the restaurant subcontracted out their cook, and the cook said, “yeah, I’ll make this hamburger for you.” The cook does the laborious work of cooking the hamburger, which in our completely screwed up analogy takes about 5 hours to make on a good day. The agency takes the hamburger, adds a slice of cheese, which takes it a minute or two (0.67% of the time it took to make the hamburger), and charges around 20% more for the now-completed cheeseburger — and that’s on top of their cut from the hamburger itself*.
*Which has me thinking, maybe I could be a judge. Sometimes I read these decisions on the internet and I think to myself, “wow, this can easily be argued both ways and the court just happened to agree with the wealthier side of the equation.”I could do that(joke).
The funny thing about this is court reporters were so paralyzed by fear that none of this would have ever broken if the larger corporations had just been honest. It wasn’t until they started surreptitiously siphoning stenographer work to digital court reporters that people started to feed me information and stand up against the gouging of attorneys/consumers.
If anybody from U.S. Legal Support is reading, your staff asked me not to contact you anymore, so I generally do not, but you’re always free to leave a comment explaining your position. I do not censor unless something is clearly spam, abusive, defamatory, or impersonating someone else. We’re playing an interesting game of incongruence where you all have a lot more money, but I have a growing movement of people — small business owners, court reporters, attorneys, and members of the public — that believe it really does matter if things are done legally and ethically. That’s not even counting the people that follow and support me out of their own self-interest. I’ve seen firsthand how our message resonates with real people. Accountability media matters™️.
God forbid the New York Times figures out that people love this stuff or blog supporters start passing posts to journalists. If you believe in what’s happening here but can’t contribute financially, please consider passing a tip to your favorite news outlet. It’s a free online action you can take to support the cause. My suggestion is to use the post about the court reporter / stenographer shortage fraud. The more people we have standing in unity and saying this is a problem, the less likely we will be ignored.
P.S. I have a lot of posts to write and publish over the coming week(s). Please forgive me if something you’ve sent or we’ve spoken about hasn’t been featured yet. Feel free to double check with me that it’s in the pipeline.
Many in my audience are small business owners. Some own court reporting businesses. Some own side businesses. Everybody needs some kind of marketing.
If a core part of your business is social media marketing, then I recommend shooting Liam Weckerle an email. He’s a young man that I had the privilege of working with on a project in the past, and I can honestly recommend him for his attention to detail and willingness to go as far as it takes to get the job done. Lweck9844@gmail.com!
I took some time to ask Liam a little more about his business creating these short-form videos. I’ll share what he shared with me below!
In short, he needs a goal, a target audience, and a budget. Here’s an example of his work (for food business).
Imagining your service or product being spotlighted? Write Liam today!
Anonymous: “Imagine Reporting in San Diego was recently acquired by Lexitas – one of the latest monopolization/consolidation moves here in CA, hence the Dallas address on the invoice. The result? They bumped up the prices. The actual per page rate comes to $9.44/pp for this 143 page transcript, after factoring in all the add-ons. I wonder how much $/pp they paid the reporter…”
I have to point back to my research about tacit parallelism. Even where competitors are not actively colluding, they see that they can jack up the prices because everybody is jacking up the prices. I don’t believe that Lexitas or Imagine was a part of the Speech-to-Text Institute or the market manipulation there.But we’re seeing how the continued consolidation of the field is leading toward very high prices for attorneys. It seems page rates are being kept artificially low and some of these companies are relying on the add-ons and surcharges to make a buck. It’s pretty smart, since it can almost double revenue.
Just to drive this home — and I get it, I’m in a different state — reporters in New York City are 30 years behind inflation. If their rates had kept up with inflation, the rate would be around $6.00 per page. That’s on our automatic O+2s . Now, to put this into perspective, reporters aren’t generally making $6.00, and though I’m overjoyed when people come out of the woodwork to say they make more than that, I hate to tell you that you’re in the deep minority. When I came out of school I was offered $2.80 (2010). Many of my classmates were offered $3.25 and that was considered a good rate. Last year I had at least one person report that they were still being offered $3.25. Some say they’ve gotten $4.00. Some say they’ve gotten $4.50. Nowhere near $6.00.
And again, with all the add-ons, we’re looking at a charge of $9.44 or $9.46, so it’s basically taking what reporters should be paid, adding 60%, and sending out a bill. That’s in the context of a profession where previously there were 70-30 splits in favor of reporters. Then we look at what reporters are being paid, and just to be nice, we’ll take the $4.50. $9.46 – $4.50. $4.96. That $4.96 is 110% of the $4.50. And now just to complete the thought, $9.46 – $3.25. $6.21. 191% of the $3.25 attorneys might pay if we just cut out the middleman — or at least the middlemen charging high.
The skeptic says: So what? You’re New York. This is California — or Texas — or wherever. To that I say if there was a genuine shortage on the scale that it was advertised as being, agencies would simply be pulling New Yorkers to go certify, license, and work. And this can be mathematically shown. If the rate for New Yorkers should be close to 6 and is actually 4.50 (we’ll cut out the 3.25s and 2.80s and pretend everyone’s getting a decent O+2). 6 – 4.50 = $1.50. We’re talking about a 33% raise for some of the best-paid people and more than doubling the income of kids who get out of school and accept $2.80 a page because they just don’t know any better. And that $6.00 is still a heck of a lot lower than the $9.44. Even if we went back to the 70-30 splits with $6.00 to the reporter, it’d be around $8.58 a page. This also doesn’t account for places where the cost of living is lower than New York City, which would effectively be an even higher raise. Again, these business folks are all about numbers and money. If there was a monumental shortage rather than a desire to depress court reporter incomes, they’d be easily pulling people in with raises or a lower cost of living — unless everywhere in the whole entire country is as underpaid as New York City, which seems unlikely. They were paying us 25 cents on copies while Ohio was getting 2 bucks.
So thank you to my Stenonymous source. You not only helped me show my audience the heavy cost of court reporting add-ons potentially doubling attorney bills, but also help bring out the fact that the shortage that was advertised (70% of the field vanishing by about 2033) is not the shortage we got (coverage issues in the California courts that refused to use money earmarked for enticing court reporters),
The rest is up to the people that share this article and keep attorneys and court reporters informed.
I believe this can be part of a larger series with help from readers like you. Any money sent to Stenonymous during the lifetime of this ad campaign (until September 11, 2023), will be designated toward developing and running more advertising to reduce the shortage. Stenonymous has put out tons of information with regard to advertising metrics and the fact that solvable localized shortages were painted as an unsolvable national problem. Up until now, a lot of my advertising was aimed at attorneys to educate them on the issues we’re facing in the field. But the objective of solving the localized shortages still remains. For an example of how this plays out in the real world, I know for a fact that right now the Bronx is hurting for court reporters more than any other borough in New York City. Meanwhile, at least one freelancer in the private sector reported they were told there were too many reporters and not enough work. So even in individual cities, we’re seeing uneven shortage impacts.
Please consider donating to Stenonymous today to end localized shortages. Based on this ad’s current stats, I expect it will cost $150 per 1,000 engagements, $30 per 1,000 impressions. With the help and support of people like you, I believe we can bring those numbers down to half of what they are today. To put these numbers into perspective, about $30,000 would get the ad in front of a million people, and about $150,000 would get a million people to like or share it if progress is linear. $30,000 is more or less the equivalent of every court reporter throwing down a dollar. We don’t need that kind of money to make an impact, but raising more money will make a bigger impact than the one I will make by myself. If you donate, please email in or comment below what geographical area(s) you feel need the most advertising, as it will help us improve audience targeting on future ads.
Stenonymous can be sent money through PayPal or Zelle (ChristopherDay227@gmail.com), Venmo @Stenonymous, the donation box at the front page of Stenonymous.com, or the special donation box I’m setting up below. Even if you cannot contribute any amount of money, please share this on social media so that it can get in front of the people that can.
Due to an oversight on my end about how Facebook presents information, I mistakenly believed the Cost Per Mille was lower than it currently is. I will have more accurate data and an explanation by the end of the campaign. The overall principle still stands that community support will make or break this campaign.