It points out many of the things I mentioned in my blog yesterday and asks Stenograph to give more control of the event to the stenographic community.
It’s a big question how Stenograph will respond, if at all, to the letter. But if you’d like to show support to the MCRA on this brave move, share this today, and consider a donation to the association!
The open letter was edited after the original post and the links have changed. Link 1. Link 2.
In an email received at about 3:11 p.m. today, Stenograph announced the date of its town hall meeting and distributed an invite link. Participants are asked to send their questions to email@example.com by May 30, 2023.
There are some problems with the way this is being done. First, Stenograph being in control of the questions means that some questions may be disregarded. If you send in questions, consider saving evidence that you sent them and then letting me know if any of your questions were ignored afterwards. We can at least create a record of what wasn’t asked if my paranoia over Stenograph’s control of the event turns out to be healthy skepticism. Overlapping with that concern, there are questions about whether any live questions will be taken or whether the town hall will be exclusively limited to questions sent to the email provided by May 30. I have to admit, I believe that Stenograph should take some questions beforehand because it’s a company and it’s hard to answer questions on the fly about a company with no prep as to what those questions will be. But I also believe a healthy town hall would have some live question component.
Another problem that arises is that at 6 pm EST, it’s 3 PM PST. Many stenographers will be working at the time of the event, and if it is not recorded and distributed, they will miss it. Participants could record themselves using Open Broadcast Software or their phones or whatever, but it’s an extra step many won’t take. And again, paranoia strikes. What if low attendance is used to support the shortage narrative pushed by Stenograph, Veritext, US Legal Support, and the Speech-to-Text Institute? In my heart, I hope the company wouldn’t do that, but I’ve learned to stop thinking with my heart and understand that people play games.
If there are questions you want to ask that you don’t feel comfortable sending to Stenograph yourself, please comment them here. I will send them and keep a record of what I send. I will not send anything overtly inappropriate.
I’ve said many times before that if Stenograph admits that the Speech-to-Text Institute was wrong about the stenographer shortage being impossible to solve, it will make court reporting history. That’s what I’ll be looking out for. I have other questions about the percentage of revenue that goes into their R&D budget and what percentage of that is specifically spent on stenographic technology, but other than that, I haven’t yet decided what to ask.
For what it’s worth, if anybody from Stenograph is reading, thanks for doing this, but these are honest concerns court reporters have.
Court reporters, if you fight, you will win. You wanted a town hall and you got one. Make the most of it and remember this moment the next time someone tells you something cannot be done.
I messed up the times in the original post. It’s 6 PM EST, 3 PM PST. May 31, 2023.
While scouring social media, I came across an interesting post by Nancy Silberger. It mentioned the Better Business Bureau reviews for ProctorU.
This is not entirely surprising. I think most people only complain to BBB when they feel mistreated by business. But some of the complaints were striking. I know the only time I used the BBB was when Naegeli threatened me. It wasn’t helpful, but it does create a record.
Anyway, people came forward to discuss their feelings and ideas regarding testing and ProctorU.
What Dineen had to say really resonated with me. I personally believe AudioSync has massively deteriorated the interrupting skills of court reporters. But at this point, we have to contend with the reality that it is widely used on the job and using it effectively is part of the job for most court reporters and scopists. Even limited use would probably upgrade our pass rate significantly.
Just for the sake of completeness, I glanced over the BBB reviews too. Better Business Bureau isn’t infallible, but It’s pretty horrifying stuff for tests far less technical than ours.
As I was preparing for this post, a reader sent me an old Speech-to-Text Institute article with Marybeth Everhart, Realtime Coach. With hindsight, I can say that this supports the assertion that we need change. The ProctorU problems aside for a moment, I’ve been looked down on at times because I won’t refer to digitals as button pushers or recorders. Well, someone from the platform we use for our testing was pretty openly digital friendly.
And, unfortunately, as we later learned, the Speech-to-Text Institute is a propaganda outfit and corporate construct meant to manipulate the court reporting & stenotype services market. So, not to say that RTC is guilty of the same fraud I’ve alleged against Veritext et al, but for a field that used to care very much about bias or the appearance of bias, it does feel like all the major players, including ones we rely on for passing our students, are pretty biased in favor of expanding digital reporting, a position that is kind of strange to have if stenography is the gold standard and we haven’t tried other methods of alleviating the shortage, like asking lawyers to schedule with us in advance instead of the day before.
Even worse, digital proponents attack our testing procedures from the other direction, with Stenograph President Anir Dutta having stated in a letter, “…the national and state recognized process to certify a machine shorthand professional is unnecessarily arduous and, in our informed assessment, is designed to keep the number of stenographers entering the market artificially low.” I missed that line when I first reported about it, but I do find it kind of funny that while I have basically accused the companies under the Speech-to-Text Institute umbrella of manipulating the market to increase the number of court reporters create a market glut, depressing reporter incomes, they turned around and alleged that someone designed the state and national testing process to artificially reduce the number of stenographers. Since the National Court Reporters Association is basically the national test process, I think it’s safe to assume what organization they’re throwing shade on here, and it makes me rethink Anir’s NCRA comments a little bit more than I was thinking about them after he apologized to me.
In the hopes of a better tomorrow, I’m amplifying this discussion. Perhaps our next step is to have a serious look into which online proctoring companies have the best reviews and consider asking NCRA to make the switch.