A member of our court reporting community was sent an e-mail soliciting work at $0.60 per audio minute. For contrast, I have heard of reporters working for $100 an audio hour or more, or the equivalent of $1.67 per audio minute, and that was over 10 years ago. It would be about $2.25 per audio minute today, or about $135 per hour, adjusted for inflation.
Many of us would take issue with that kind of an offer, but this stenographer took the opportunity to educate.
The company rep apologized and explained that she was not aware. But the stenographer in question kept educating and advocating. I will note that, based on my knowledge of the industry, I believe there’s a typo here, $35 per minute should likely be $35 per page. For anyone not in the field, typically 40 to 60 pages an hour can be expected, meaning 0.66 to 1 page per minute.
The corporate rep replied honestly. She had no idea about the earning potential of court reporters.
Our brave friend continued to educate on the state of the industry.
To which our company rep closed with:
There are a number of takeaways here. Taking everything at face value, we’re now opened to the possibility that at least some of these company reps are not adequately trained or briefed on the earning potential of court reporters. But it is interesting to note that a company representative is completely aware that AI is not adequate for transcription. It points to a world where we can be drivers of change by simply describing the truth.
It is very unfortunate that companies are diving into the space without an adequate plan to reimburse independently contracted transcribers. But if we can all respond with the above tact and facts when dealing with company reps and transcribers, we can create a shield of information where no one is unknowingly taken advantage of. Not only is speaking up the right thing to do; it will have the desirable effect of increasing job security for stenographic court reporters.
A big thank you for sharing these messages with all of us on Stenonymous.
A reader shared that if one is on the Massachusetts ACT list, they’re paid $3 per page, meaning $0.60 per minute would be a serious reduction in that rate. Even at a highly skilled level, one audio hour can equal one or two transcription hours, meaning that $0.60 a minute is the equivalent of $0.20 a minute or $12 an hour. Unskilled transcribers can take much longer, particularly if the audio quality is bad, meaning their true hourly rate is even lower.
Last week word spread that a ruling had been made that the Judicial Branch Certification Commission (JBCC) in Texas should investigate StoryCloud. From my outsider point of view StoryCloud was or is one of those companies obsessed with cutting corners and/or cutting the stenographer/court reporter out of the deal. That business model is flawed not only because stenography is the most technologically advanced method of taking and transcribing the spoken word, but also from a legal standpoint. In some states, pretending to be a court reporter is simply illegal.
A great big thank you to Jo Ann Byles Holmgren, who initiated the lawsuit that led to this moment. She tells it better than I ever could. In short, the JBCC refused to investigate alleged violations of law. A writ of mandamus was filed to make the government do its job. A judge ruled the JBCC should investigate. StoryCloud more or less deleted its website. Perhaps this will be a roadmap for California, where the California licensing board refuses to protect court reporting consumers and regulate digital court reporting.
I’ll be adding a transcript of the hearing as soon as it’s available.
Following the ruling, most of the StoryCloud site was trashed in favor of a little blurb.
StoryCloud’s demise is not the only good news out of Texas. Mark Kislingbury claimed the new world record at Shaunise Day’s Fearless Stenographers Conference with 370 words per minute (WPM) for one minute at 95.4% accuracy.
I am always saying that if stenographers fight, they will win. Look no further than Jo Ann Byles Holmgren telling the government they’re wrong and winning. Look no further than Shaunise Day’s masterfully done and widely-acclaimed conference — a feat rarely pulled off by an individual unless it’s an industry veteran like Marc Greenberg (StenoFest) or MaryAnn Payonk (Empowerment). Look no further than Mark Kislingbury’s own personal triumph, defeating his former world record of 360 WPM. True failure is making no attempt to meet your goals. Until one is a true failure, one has a real shot at success.
One of the core issues we face together in our industry is the reach of our media. For years, we allowed the big players to dominate the paid-for press release space. When journalists go to find information on our field, the mergers and announcements of those players would be just about all that was available. Our professional journal and association newsletters are very important, but communicating who we are and what we provide to the world is also important.
To this end, I’ve gotten very familiar with the EIN Presswire service. The service takes a press release in a standard format and republishes it to many sites across the internet, resulting in more potential exposure for your business, nonprofit, or event. The $100 price tag of EIN per release is pricy. I buy press releases in bulk, so I’m able to help reduce that cost to our community of stenographers and related services.
For $50, I can use my press releases to get your news out there. High expectations for the next quarter? Announce it. Congratulating one of your favorite independent contractors on an achievement? Let the world know. We have so much news in this industry that we could easily fill a newswire with our own media. If you would like to submit a press release to me, just write me at email@example.com.
How To Do It:
The EIN system is simple. Give me a press release title and a subtitle or summary along with the city, state, and country of your release. Give me the date you want the release to go out as well.
Next, I need the body of the press release. You may also add three links to the press release by telling me the keywords in the body text and where they should link.
Next up, I need the contact information for the press release submitter. This is who you want journalists to contact if they’re interested in learning more about your announcement. I will also need the Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other social media link you want in your press release. If you don’t want social media links, that’s fine too.
As for stock symbol, if you have one, let me know the exchange that your company is traded on. Most stenographic corporations are privately owned, so there would not be a stock symbol.
Also, pick a quote from your press release that you would like to stand out. Short and powerful quotes are very effective at grabbing readers’ attention.
Finally, you can give me up to five images you would like in your press release, one video, and one website embed. This can draw more traffic to your content and site, and should not be overlooked.
At that point, I can send a press release preview to you for approval. I’ll also select the industry channels that make the most sense for your content.
If you want me to do the work:
I understand that some feel uncomfortable creating their own content, and I’m happy to do the work for a fee, but in order to create content, we need to set a realistic budget. If you expect me to write your press release for you, expect to spend $300. If you want to create a video together, expect the cost to be more within the $500 range. Time and effort goes into my work, and while I can’t guarantee a journalist will pick up your story, I can guarantee that the story will be reprinted across many outlets and that you will get a full report of all the reprints.
I have worked on or helped distribute several press releases for Stenonymous, as well as various businesses and nonprofits. Here are some highlights:
There are a slew of New York State Court Reporters Association webinars coming up that you can register for here. I’d like to point out two of them in particular:
How to Stay Relevant in an Industry at Risk of Disruption by Dr. Erika Jacobi. I want to hone in on one line from the flyer, “empower reporters, captioners, and individual business owners to thrive despite adversity.” The more of us that learn to do this, the more of us that can then turn around and share that knowledge or even sell the knowledge through educational events. By attending, you’re basically becoming a part of the first wave of stenographers that will teach the next waves ways to think which will culminate in an ocean of us all armed with the knowledge not just to survive, but to prosper.
Speech Perception, from Spoken Word to Written Text by Culture Point. The data available today says that stenographers are the best there is, but that there is room for improvement. This is part of that improvement. Through academic understanding of linguistics, we can improve how we hear. I’ve spoken to a stenographer with linguistics training about this, and her thoughts were that these types of classes are very important. Again, the first wave of us that learns these concepts can teach the next waves and increase our own personal value and our skills. I know this because I was a ripple sharing what I learned and it landed me on TV. I was on NYSCRA’s board when the first discussions about this workshop were had, and I have a firm belief that the education will help stenographers, both newbies and masters.
NYSCRA has put a lot into this. A press release was drafted and republished to various sites across the web like Daily Ledger, American Tech Today, and The Business Gazette Online. We all have an individual choice to make. Do we take that effort and toss it away, and allow these opportunities to pass unnoticed, or do we take charge of our profession and turn the first wave of stenographers to learn these concepts into a mile-high tsunami?
Recent events have made it very clear that you, reader, are in charge of what happens next in our profession. I hope that you will join me on those webinars and that we will march into the future ready to help others thrive and close the narrow gap in our stenographic linguistics training. I know that together we can make our gold standard shine brighter.
One of the many ways we can market our profession is through props. It’s something nonprofits and for-profit businesses are very aware of. I’ve done it with my sad iron stenographer mug. But today I’ve got some news to cheer everybody up: We’ve got a fun and easy way to communicate our importance on our Zepos.
Consider this mug a conversation starter and get yours today. Purchases will also help me keep Stenonymous running strong!
Some have seen this video. I got around to it. I have honest reservations about giving someone like him more press and attention, but then, my audience outnumbers him by a lot, so if you all have the data, it’s a force multiplier and family he doesn’t have. You can tell Readback is terrified of us because they don’t have the guts to leave the comments on and get called out on their lies. Let’s take advantage of their fear.
He likens court reporting to medical transcription. I made a short TikTok on that. I’ve spoken to Mitch Li from Take Medicine Back. Emergency room physicians are being pushed out for nurse practitioners in the same way big money is trying to push us out for digital. Guess what? The doctors largely don’t like that their scribes were pushed out, and the quality of medical transcription has been suffering because of its lean to automation. As a matter of fact, as a young reporter, I was getting requests to get involved with medical transcription (MT). That was only ten years ago. Nowadays the Association for Health Documentation Integrity says there’s a transcriber shortage.
It’s so bad that they STILL want to attract court reporters to do medical transcription. So how good was automation for MT anyway?
Well, isn’t it interesting that jerks like no-steno man (NSM) created problems in an industry that they didn’t bother to stick around and solve? “Oh, people are dying from the reckless automation of something important? Exit stage left. Time to try court reporting!” Guess what? We’re not medical transcriptionists, and we’re not letting you destroy our industry without a fight, you jackalope.
His entire line about automating medical transcription and making it cheaper is fluff. What good is cheap, useless, garbage? And make no mistake that automatic speech recognition, natural language processing, artificial intelligence, or whatever fancy label we want to put on it, is just that. The objective science that exists today says that it’s 25 to 80% accurate from all the major players. When was the last time you had a 20% untran and called yourself “neartime?” This also kills his argument about the technology being revolutionary. He’s comparing our 99% real-world accuracy rating to AI’s 80-at-best average accuracy and calling it revolutionary. This is more like if Google maps led you the wrong way down a one-way street about 20% of the time. It’s not acceptable and we shouldn’t be forced to pretend that it is. If they’re not using full automation, they’re using human transcribers, and that means there are zero efficiency gains from a manpower perspective. This is a hide-the-ball trick of saying technology is better than it actually is to fool investors and consumers. It only fools people who have not seen the trick before.
Next strawman argument by the liar: Court reporting costs have gone up. In actuality, we’re working for less than we were 30 years ago adjusted for inflation. Let’s call this out for what it is, a ploy to get court reporters scared of demanding the rates and pay that they deserve. Less money in our wallets means less money for us to spend on our associations to fight for us. The push to get court reporters to accept less has been largely successful in the last decade, and it has been driven by low-intelligence businesspeople that look at the labor expense as something to be cut no matter who it hurts. There are over a million lawyers in the United States and about 30,000 of us. We’re a rare commodity and need to start acting like it — keeping pricing reasonable, but not abusively low.
Notably, NSM refers to the democratization of technology and talks a good game about how realtime is too expensive for the little guys to afford. Anir Dutta of Stenograph also referred to the democratization of technology in the Speech-to-Text Institute podcast. What does this tell us? This is a coordinated buzzword in whatever business circle they’re all playing in. They’re using democracy as transfer propaganda. Who doesn’t like the sound of democratization in a free society like the United States? This ignores that in actuality adopting his active reporting model would likely hurt democracy in the form of disproportionately hurting the quality of black and minority speakers’ records. We have put immense effort into ensuring everyone has an equal record. Are we willing, as a field, to allow technological snake oil to kill the equality we stand for every day in every proceeding?
The puffery in the advertising is on full display:
This looks intimidating to a stenographic court reporter that doesn’t grill it a bit. First, questioning our accuracy. How dare they? I just gave the science. They’re not guaranteed accuracy. Nobody can guarantee accuracy. What happens if a word is wrong? Does everyone get the service for free? That would be a guarantee. Tellingly, they make no such promise. Audio available? Stenographers have been using audio for years. It’s called asking nicely or getting a subpoena. Lawyers don’t want to re-listen to depositions anyway, that’s why they hire us. Exhibit handling, stenographers literally led the way and trained clients on that after COVID. The rest of it, hey, we can give all that away for free too, but we like our businesses to be profitable instead of losing $13 million a year like VIQ Solutions. We need profitable businesses so that we can continue to provide the same great service we have for over half a century. NSM’s investors must have their mouths agape. He’s not charging what the market can bear, and that’s a recipe for low returns and disaster in business. I’m pretty sure I learned that in business 101. What’s this guy’s excuse?
The low, flat rate that he talks about in the presentation isn’t really that low, which tells me that this process isn’t automated. Just to break it down, there are stenographers working for less than $4 per page in New York City right now. Assuming 60 pages an hour, that’s $480 for two hours. Lawyers can get the tried and tested stenography for a little bit more than the brand new maybe-this-works-maybe-it-doesn’t Active BS. This isn’t a sell, it’s an embarrassment.
Final point I’ll address is his mention about the shortage and how the stenotype is “hard on its operators.” We’ve been cremating our shortage despite some of the biggest names in the business, Veritext and US Legal Support, actively sabotaging us. Additionally, our technology is a lot easier on the hands than the Mechanical Turk game that Active and others are probably playing. Mechanical Turk lets services crowdsource transcribers. When people buy into active reporting, they’re likely buying into inefficiency and hurting workers.
Stenographers, I cannot stress this enough: Hold your ground. Our industry is worth $3 billion and we control most of that. The people that are trying to convince you to give up and run away are not doing so out of the kindness of their heart. These are liars, nothing more. Now that I’ve peeled back the curtain and exposed some of the flaws, I hope you will follow the Protect Your Record Project motto of “connect, educate, advocate.” I hope you will follow the STRONG motto of “we are strongest together.” I hope that if you found this blog post helpful, you will take the time to donate below.
I also hope that Active Readback will come on here and comment. We do not cower behind censorship like them. Perhaps that is all the world needs to see to know whose version of events is truest.
The more money I make from my media, the harder I can fight.
A good friend passed me this New York Times opinion article, “We Know the Real Cause of the Crisis in our Hospitals. It’s Greed.” In brief, nurses are being pushed out under the guise there’s a shortage. In truth, their working conditions are just horrible and they’re moving on for greener pastures. This blurb from the article says it all.
Funny enough, this is happening in emergency medicine too. Emergency physicians are being pushed out for nurse practitioners, as told to me by Dr. Mitch Li of Take Medicine Back. TBM’s rallying call? “Taking back contracts, livelihoods, and our values.” There are even two holding companies with investments in the emergency medicine staffing business helping drive out working physicians. Sound familiar?
In social work, I’m told by my mother, Dr. Dawn Picone, that at least in New York City, psychologists were pushed out for LCSWs and LCSWs are now being pushed out for BSWs. We often think of ourselves as unique. But knowing that other professions are under the same corporate corner-cutting attack leads me to a conclusion: We are not alone.
Why is this good news for the stenographic legion? It means that the playbook being used by the Speech-to-Text Institute camp and their new pet Stenograph isn’t new. Claim shortage, make the shortage seem much worse than it is, and get customers to accept lower quality under the false premise that there’s nothing else to be done. This a plan copied and pasted from other industries, meaning they don’t have the creativity or intelligence to deal with the massive counter-push of stenographers nationwide. We, on the other hand, emanate creativity. Faced with what we were falsely told was an insurmountable shortage, we took immediate steps to beat it. We created and continue to nurture a bonding, organization, and community that other professions are jealous of. I suspect we are on track to recruit enough court reporters to not only cover every deposition in this country, but also to retake our courts one by one. We truly are guardians of the record, and our guardianship extends well beyond what we’re paid to protect. The digitals are joining us and leaving their corporate masters in the dust. It’s a beautiful thing.
As a musing, I love StarCraft. At the end of the first chapter, the fictional megalomaniac, Arcturus Mengsk, gives one of the best speeches in video game history. I’d like to parody/steal the end of it: “And to all the enemies of stenography, seek not to bar our way, for we shall win through no matter the cost.”
On the issue of video gaming, I’ve reviewed the Readback video starring Bottles the Mole. I’ll be making a fuller post on that sometime within the next seven days, and explain why several things he says are wrong, stupid, or generally shortsighted like Bottles. Until then, enjoy Googling Bottles the Mole.
Stenograph has been in hot water because of its degradation of quality and service. This led to a boycott of the company by stenographers across the country, a boycott which continues to this day. As stated in my Oh My update, Stenograph’s push into automatic speech recognition is not being done properly. It’s being sold as a productivity boost, but available science says AI/ASR is a productivity killer. Anir Dutta, Stenograph’s embattled president, doesn’t care. He ignored a personal letter from me alerting him to these issues.
As if these issues were not enough, Stenograph promised to meet with Texas Court Reporters Association members and address their concerns. The company then retracted its agreement and set up its own meeting, likely to confuse consumers and attempt to manipulate us. TCRA addressed Stenograph’s behavior as follows:
Then, perhaps under the delusion that stenographers are stupid, Stenograph decided to hold its own meeting:
This is a bait and switch. This behavior is disgusting and in my opinion we shouldn’t condone it as a field. It’s very clear what’s happening. Stenograph does not have an answer for why it is requiring stenographers to get releases for data it wants to steal from us or the liability it wants to be put on us, as per its licensing agreement:
Since Stenograph doesn’t have an answer, it doesn’t want to be in a position where that’s revealed. Again, I know factually that there are great people that work for the company and great software trainers for the software. That does not excuse what they’re doing. They’re barreling into automatic speech recognition in a haphazard, might-makes-right, and manipulative way that should give us all pause. We are the profession of blatant honesty. You say it, we write it. Can we not agree that this is not a direction we want a company, one that is practically our namesake, to take?
I have a message for Anir Dutta and Stenograph: We may not be computer programmers or $10 million companies, but human intelligence is not linear, it’s on a bell curve. We are not “stupid scribes” for you to play word games with. Words are all we know. We listen to people for a living, and we know when we’re hearing lies. If you have deluded yourselves into believing that you are so far ahead of all of us on the curve that you can lie to us with impunity, then I offer you the same stenographic proverb I offered Naegeli. TKPWHRUBG.
I’m relocating! Fan mail and things of that nature can go to 2744 Hylan Blvd, Unit 502, Staten Island, New York 10306. This is also where blog donations by check can go for those of you that prefer not to use the Stenonymous.com homepage box.
Sometime next week I’ll do an article on how Stenograph attempted to bully the Texas Court Reporters Association. As most of you know, I am against their push into automatic speech recognition for many reasons. The science we have today says ASR is only 25 to 80% accurate, yet they’ve billed it as a potential 50% productivity boost. That’s not possible. Stenograph has also slipped something into its licensing agreement where court reporters have to get releases for people’s voices or data being collected or run through the program. It doesn’t take a lawyer to tell us this is wrong. This is remarkably different from the apparent ethos of Eclipse on this matter, where they’re certainly developing ASR for use in stenographic software, but as of yet not attempting to shunt liability onto stenographers, and not, as far as I can see, making bogus productivity boost claims.
If you have digital court reporter transcripts you’d like to share with Dr. Halcyon Lawrence, please send them to me at ChristopherDay227@gmail.com. Academics have now taken note of the opaque behavior of tech companies. In order for this to be further studied, and to protect the public, we must become serious about sharing our knowledge and experience with those, like Halycon, that seek truth and transparency. The freedom of speech afforded to us in the United States protects academic integrity, and academic integrity protects the scientific processes that make our society great. This social contract gives all of us a special power to influence the future and make the world a better place.