Veritext Seeking Videos to Promote Steno

Veritext announced that it is accepting videos promoting steno. Film a video of yourself with your machine and say “I am a court reporter.” Sample ideas are available.

Veritext calls for videos to promote steno

The “get started” button leads here.

I don’t want to be too disparaging. One of my primary gripes has been the very lopsided promotion of digital, and if they’re doing something positive for us, it should go forward. No doubt, good job, Veritext. Thanks for spending the time and money to do this. I mean that.

I must remind reporters, though, that this is a clear indication that the Speech-to-Text Institute, associated with Veritext’s Adam Friend, lied when it said the stenographer shortage was impossible to solve. If our shortage was impossible to solve, Veritext would have zero incentive to continue to attract anyone to the field. It would, in fact, be heartless to lure people into a dying field. This supports my claim that our field is not dying, and that any decline is reversible. The numbers support this to the extent they exist.

I am ecstatic that Veritext is doing something positive. It doesn’t really negate the fact that they have been advertising for digital reporters on LinkedIn for over a year that I’ve been monitoring it. That means every day spamming jobseekers with digital, digital, digital. So to make a video and release that and share it is nice, but it’s not quite the same impact on the market in my estimation. Maybe I will be wrong. Hopefully I will be wrong. Advertising stenography now gives us the people we’ll need later. Timing and enthusiasm matters. And the timing of this is a little odd. We’re being deleted in Indiana. Has Veritext made a comment to the court about that like many of us have?

If I were Veritext, I’d claim that this video initiative helped solve the shortage and throw Cudahy’s math under the bus. It’d be a smart move for them. They get to be the heroes and cast doubt on Stenonymous in one swift move.

I’ll be submitting a video. I encourage others to if they have the time. While I am suspicious of Veritext’s motives at the top of their corporate structure, most of the people that work below them are going to be decent people. When I submitted something to their reporter corner years ago, it got featured. This is to say I don’t believe videos will be misused in any way. I really believe they’ll do exactly what they’re proposing to do here, and I think it’ll be great.

I just hope there’s more, and that this is not a one-off before they return to burying us.

Videos: Corporate Fraudsters, Stenographers say “We’re Coming for Ya!”

“Anything more to say about this fraud and stuff that you’re trying to fight?” “We’re coming for ya!” Corporate fraud in the court reporter shortage continues… (Stenonymous)

On Sunday my best friend Joshua Edwards and I headed out to Washington Square Park to talk to the public a little bit about court reporting generally and the court reporting shortage fraud that is ongoing in our field. With help from several locals, we managed to secure footage of our time out and it’s my pleasure to share it now with court reporters across the country.

As I see it, there are two ways to combat shortage issues today. Either help bring attention to the blatant fraud ongoing or try to raise awareness about the profession at schools and other events. This was something of a hybrid where we made some noise about our issues and spent time educating the public on court reporting. I also used the event to solicit some donations.

Christopher Day (Stenonymous) talking to the public about court reporting and court reporter shortage fraud.
Christopher Day at Washington Square Park to discuss court reporting and court reporter shortage fraud.

Just to prove that I’m really serious about supporting the stenographic legion, I may or may not have stood inside the fountain.

Christopher Day at Washington Square Park to talk to a bunch of chalk smiley faces about court reporting.

I mean, I even talked to the Garibaldi statue about court reporting.

Christopher Day (Stenonymous) talks to the Garibaldi statue at Washington Square Park about court reporting.

I got to talk about the Racial Disparities in Automatic Speech Recognition study.

Christopher Day (Stenonymous) discussing the Racial Disparities in Automatic Speech Recognition study.

I got to discuss digital recording and the two-month backlog that I published about on Saturday.

Christopher Day discusses a 2-month delay to digitally recorded transcripts.

Joshua Edwards, RDR, CRR, CRC, also got in on the action, letting members of the public know about Stenonymous and court reporting.

Joshua Edwards discusses court reporting and stenography with members of the public.
Joshua Edwards discusses court reporting and stenography with members of the public.

I made sure to let the public know that jobseekers are being misled into digital court reporting too.

Christopher Day (Stenonymous) speaks about jobseekers being misled into digital court reporting.

“Certain forces are trying to get rid of the stenographer…” That’s what we got to tell people. And we made sure to get it on camera so that all of you can easily share it. We all see what’s happening in Indiana right now.

Christopher Day (Stenonymous) and Joshua Edwards reveal there are forces trying to get rid of stenographers. We met a man who had a deposition because he was hit by a bulldozer. Medical transcription is also discussed.

I’d like to ask individuals and institutions to consider sending some funding to Stenonymous. I know many of you are busy people that cannot afford to take the time to dive into every last bit of my writing, research, and documentation over the last half decade. But clearly something is very wrong. The largest companies in our industry do not care enough about their brand to (a) attempt to convince me I’m wrong or (b) slap me with some kind of legal notice. Multimillion dollar corporations. Does it really seem off base to suggest that there might be antitrust issues here when some of the largest competitors in the field have syndicated behind a shell nonprofit to pump the market with misinformation?

If I’m right, then we should all be pretty concerned about having a marketplace where the government is inert while the largest players illegally bully the smaller court reporting providers into digital, which they’ve conveniently set up to have stakes in/relationships with, in terms of training and equipment vending.

If I’m wrong, then this is a very cruel field, because not one of you has tried to tell me I am wrong or pointed me to research that beats mine.

And if I’m right, then your money is pretty well spent on me. With the support of court reporters like you, we blew through the false media narrative of an “impossible” shortage. With more support we could afford to hire more writers, investigators, content creators, or even legal advocates. Who would like a filmed protest outside Veritext? Who’d like to have a media footprint that rivals other industries? Who’d like to push this issue until it can no longer be ignored? I’m the guy for the job. Help me out and I’ll bring allies to this field one by one.

A member of the public poses with Christopher Day (Stenonymous) in solidarity against corporate fraud.

Even if you choose not to throw any support my way, let this stand as a reminder that where there is injustice people can resist in small ways that lead to something greater. The name of the game is connecting with people, because if my time in Washington Square Park told me anything, it’s that they’re on our side.

The Voiceless Victims of StoryCloud

Jamie S. Blair’s Monday post, “Cloud”-Based Malfeasance in the Digital Court Reporting Industry explored some of the human cost of digital reporting. When StoryCloud decided to wrap up its business earlier this year, there was no warning and no severance for its workers.

Ken Kalb from StoryCloud allegedly stated that investors had grown weary of yearly losses from StoryCloud, raising the possibility that it was a zombie corporation. Even if it was not a zombie corporation, Jamie Blair notes that he later got information from Stenonymous (and his friend Christopher Day!) about the writ in Texas that was filed and truth behind the StoryCloud debacle.

This all illustrates what I have been saying on social media for a while. Digital court reporters across the country are being misled to believe this is the future. Worse, when things collapsed, no attorney would help, and as Blair writes, “we were victims without bellwether trial voices.” And what happened after the collapse and digital reporters came on the market? Lowball offers.

Hopefully by sharing with and educating each other we can continue to reach more people before they face the kind of situation the employees of StoryCloud faced. For now, I’d like to thank Jamie for coming forward with the truth and give us some perspective of what it looked like on “the other side.”

TransAtlantic & Stenograph Partner

Had the pleasure of viewing this interview between Stenograph and TransAtlantic about their new partnership. TransAtlantic’s David Ross, Secretary/Treasurer of the Speech-to-Text Institute, mentions during the interview that a machine will “never, ever, ever” replace the reporter. I found the interview to be seeded with more generalities about the shortage. It came across to me as trying to sell the idea of shortage.

Mr. Ross did have a lot of positives to say about stenographers, “And we’re very proud of them and honored to have them and I just wish there were more.” But the direction of the company seems clear, it’s going to be about digital court reporter integration. He even mentions the possibility of stenographers switching over to “try something new.” Towards the close of the interview he notes we should never be threatened by technology and keep an open mind. But those of us that dispute the severity of shortage are open minded. Most of us had to be convinced by math and science that there was a problem with the numbers and narrative being distributed to the public. Why has there been a push to get stenographers to go digital if digital is so easy to recruit and train for?

It’s tough for me. I personally see many companies coming and saying they have a shortage, but I see little in the way of communication. They’re largely not on our Facebook groups, not using PRO Link, not using recruiters on LinkedIn, and not asking our associations for help. This is why I am generally suspicious of the narrative being sold at every turn: “The shortage is insurmountable, you must change, or else.” It’s fear appeal propaganda. I do it too, but for truth.

This comes after US Legal Support’s partnership with Stenograph in October.

Addendum:

Stenograph and Project Steno partnered soon after.

The Hilarity of Veritext’s Silence

2019: A VP of Veritext makes some post or writing explaining that digital court reporting would change the landscape of our field. Veritext allegedly fires her and states stenography is the lifeblood of our industry.

Clipped from Stenonymous links found here.

2020: Veritext issues a letter trying to emphasize the dire shortage stats, stats that I later poked holes in. Even in 2020, I knew. Real change from lifeblood, huh?

2021: A public awareness campaign is launched over the bad stats and dishonest behavior in our field. Thousands of people see it.

2022: I’m openly calling them fraudsters. If you Google Veritext fraud I come up. No more open letters for stenographers?

Christopher Day posting about Veritext on Facebook, forgets to mention Cover Crow.
Veritext not looking for stenographers on LinkedIn.

Veritext shares an interesting quirk with U.S. Legal’s Peter Giammanco. Both seem just fine bullying or gaslighting women and seem to shrivel up when challenged. The pro-steno things both companies do are appreciated, but it’s pretty clear that they’re hedging their bets in the steno v digital debate, and I’m done giving them the benefit of the doubt.

The question remains, what to do about all this? The government’s inert. A lot of the reporters working with big box can’t be seen opposing big box. I’ve simply run out of money for the social media advertising — thank you to those that continue to help. I do have plans to further the public awareness campaign and I look forward to sharing them soon.

What do you all think?

Are Transcription Companies Using Influencers to Build Workforce?

Migliore & Associates posted this influencer video. You could tell it would be good by what the firm had to say about the video.

Migliore & Associates: Your case shouldn’t be somebody’s side hustle. Hire a professional stenographic court reporter.

I’ve personally seen a couple of videos like it. The presenter starts “ready for another side hustle? This one’s for you if you are broke and lazy.” She proceeds to mention that you can transcribe audio and video into text with these websites.

Likely transcription influencer describes sites where people can find transcription work.

The video continues to make transcription seem simple by stating that you’re not actually doing any work. She mentions how you can go to an automatic speech recognition (ASR) site called SpeechNotes, speak the words, and have them transcribed. But the science we have so far points to ASR being better for whites than black speakers as well as the AAVE dialect. That’s a lot of unserved jobseekers. What she’s describing is essentially voice writing, but without a “stenomask” or Nuance’s software trained to your voice. She closes by saying, in part, that there’s “no reason” a person can’t make $2,000 to $3,000 a month.

There’s a lot to be said about this. First, it embodies and emboldens our argument about quality. Do lawyers want the accuracy of the record to become a side hustle? It also points to what a scam digital court reporting / recording really is, because even if companies are able to successfully train enough digital reporters / recorders to take the work, it’s clear that there’s a transcriber shortage.

Digital court reporting proponents want to move to a system of digital reporters and transcribers despite a transcriber shortage.

Probably from the terrible pay! $0.30 to $1.10 per audio minute according to the video. That’s $18 to $66 per hour. That doesn’t account for any time it takes to submit a job or edit voice transcription mistakes, which could be 20% or more of a transcription. That doesn’t include any proofreading time. With average transcription times ranging anywhere between an hour and six hours, depending on the methodology of transcription, we could be talking about $9 to $33 an hour. Less if we actually divide by six, $3 to $11 an hour. That $2,000 a month could require between 666 hours and 60 hours. At that kind of pay, transcribers would probably be better off trying to argue that they are misclassified employees — at least it would guarantee the ones in America minimum wage, which the independent contractor title does not. At that kind of pay, it means digital court reporting / recording won’t have enough transcribers to cover all the work it wants to take from stenography.

Likely transcription influencer points to the pay one can expect as a transcriber, omits the extra time it takes to transcribe certain matters.
Image of a transcriber reporting that a 1-hour deposition can take 6 hours to transcribe.

Transcription companies utilize influencers to bring in business. It’s not hard to imagine transcribers also being lured in under this model. Transcription fixture Rev is open about their influencer program to bring in business, which I respect.

Could Rev’s influencer program create content misleading to jobseekers?

This is an easy peek at how companies manipulate folks. Throw up an attractive model, make something seem great, get people to buy into the idea. Once they’re bought in, post-purchase rationalization and confirmation bias keep them bought in unless they have a horrifying epiphany or really bad experience.

There are people in the field speaking out against mistreatment, but progress is slow. Stenographers can take note that the cracks are forming in the narrative of the larger corporate players though. Is this the future? Yes? Then why are we paying people like it’s 1990? Is this equal to stenography? Yes? Why don’t you pay them like stenographers? No? Why are you selling it? What’s the turnover like with these people we pay peanuts to? High? Why are you wasting all that time and energy retraining people? Do you profit from it? Low turnover? Then where are all these people? We have to deal with a crushing reality: Most of the data that people would need to make good decisions is in private hands that profit from the data being unavailable.

Luckily we have our own influencers and their numbers are likely to grow once stenographic organizations and collectives start getting serious about reaching audiences. Can’t wait to see what the creative minds out there think up next.

Addendum:

TikTok user workathomewoman mentions in her video a 3 to 1 ratio being possible for an experienced transcriber.

NCRA Net Assets Dwarf Competitors, Digital Court Reporting Bad for Business

I’ve raised questions about the Speech-to-Text Institute’s data and some companies’ blind reliance on that data. Today I’ve got to raise the fact that, if we compare net assets on 2020 tax returns and information found on ProPublica for NCRA, STTI, AAERT, and NVRA, it seems like NCRA is the clear leader at over $6 million, and its nearest “competitor,” AAERT, had about $217k. STTI came in dead last, more than $100,000 in the red. This doesn’t even account for the myriad court reporting associations and nonprofits across the country and the money that goes into them.

It still remains a serious question why the public and court administrators would rely on the word of an organization that doesn’t seem to have the monetary support needed to address the court reporter shortage in California, let alone America. Think about it. If you want to raise a workforce of possibly 20,000 professionals, who do you turn to, the organization with $6 million or the organization that’s in the red and being kept afloat by some undiscovered means?

There also remains a question about the severity of the shortage. As told by the document linked above, it states that over 50% of California courts have reported they are unable to routinely cover non-mandated case types. California’s shortage was forecasted to be the worst in the country, about 20x worse than many other states. If around 50% of California courts are having trouble, it would follow that somewhere around 2.5% would be the average across the country. Devising relocation incentives could pull more people to California and solve the problem.

This has implications for the big business bosses and the small businesses they bully. They’re going to have to spend a whole lot of money to match stenographic initiatives. Eventually shareholders are going to ask why these businesses are swimming against the direction of the market. Why would you spend time and attention trying to cultivate a professional community in digital court reporting when one clearly exists in the stenographic community? Why would you aggravate the talent/labor until it starts discussing things like misclassification, pay, and working conditions?

Stenonymous reporting live from the dead internet.

NCRA 2020: $6,293,223 net assets.

AAERT 2020: $217,609 net assets.

NVRA 2020: $122,098 net assets.

STTI 2020: -$119,169 net assets.

Bulletin: Court Reporter Shortage or Fraud?

Law360: A Dire Court Reporter Shortage? Depends on Who You Ask.

Certain court reporting companies are exaggerating and exacerbating the stenographer shortage for the purpose of selling digital court reporting to lawyers/courts/consumers.

Veritext, US Legal Support, and Planet Depos have all publicly made statements about the unavailability or shortage of stenographers while putting most of their effort into expanding digital court reporting. Succinctly, utilizing their market share to obfuscate the availability of stenographers and artificially increase digital court reporter demand. It is unknown whether this is concerted or a form of tacit parallelism.

The resulting atmosphere is also misleading to those seeking a career in court reporting.

The nonprofit Protect Your Record Project was formed to educate consumers on the bait and switch tactics occurring in the court reporting industry.

In 2021, US Legal Rep Peter Giammanco wrote, “Does it really matter if done legally and ethically and both methods end with the same final transcript?” A consumer awareness campaign was subsequently launched. There are questions about whether digital recording is reliably the same as stenography. In one New York case, the court remarked that past holdings that recording was equivalent to stenography were belied by the record in that appeal.

Companies continue to profess shortage while placing the bulk of their effort into expanding the digital reporting market, effectively limiting consumer choice and ignoring consumer preference for stenography. The 2013-2014 Court Reporting Industry Outlook is used to add credibility to these claims, but that forecast is nearly a decade old and does not account for recruitment initiatives such as National Court Reporters A to Z, Project Steno, and Open Steno.

Attorneys, courts, and support staff can attempt to find stenographers or stenographer-run businesses through their state court reporting association or NCRA Pro Link.

The FTC has stated it will crack down on companies taking advantage of gig workers. It is unknown how this will affect court reporting, a field that is approximately 70% independent contractors according to available data. It is also unknown how rampant misclassification may be in the field.

Stenonymous (Christopher Day) is dedicated to informing the court reporting and legal community and has faced legal threat for accurate reporting in the past.

Does this look like they’re looking for stenographers?

Members of the community that wish to support advertising for this bulletin may send money through the donation box at Stenonymous.com.

FTC to Crack Down on Companies Taking Advantage of Gig Workers

The FTC seems very conscious of gig workers, a label that freelance court reporters almost certainly fall into. Our industry was doing gig work before it was popular.

While nothing in the statement linked above specifically mentions our industry, it does show that they have a very good understanding of how markets like ours operate. It talks about the concentration of markets. In ours, this is similar to how the private equity brigade is quietly buying everybody out so that it’s an open secret they own dozens of smaller firms and are using that power to turn around and dictate rates to court reporters. This becomes illegal if and when they start agreeing with each other to fix prices on us, at least as can be inferred from this bulletin.

The FTC is more or less coming out for the workers here. That’s the “freelancers” that might be subject to the illegal conduct described below.

Court reporting companies should take note. This reads to me like a warning shot. “Clean up your markets and treat your people well, or the government gets involved.”

We made a lot of noise at the FTC back in January. While I can’t guarantee that this action is related to the concerns raised by us and other antitrust activists, I’ve got a feeling our industry is on their radar despite its size.

This also makes the deceptive actions of companies like Veritext risky. How long before consumers are aware that the company has used its market power to limit consumer choice? Can the company guarantee that not one consumer has been denied a stenographer under the guise of shortage? And if the company can, then it calls into question shortage claims, because the statistics say 20% of the jobs should be going uncovered. If I had some advice for the private equity brigade, it would be to stop squeezing the people that perform the work. It’s not a good look for you. It’s only going to shake consumer confidence when they find out that instead of helping to grow and develop the existing processes, you sought to make money off of worker turnover — virtually guaranteeing a workforce of amateurs, exactly what every lawyer asks for at their legal proceeding! Even if there isn’t some kind of suit and direct losses, the loss in reputation will be phenomenal, and in this business, reputation is everything.

For now, this is a solid case of “let’s see what happens.”

Veritext Partners with John Jay College on Digital Court Reporting

I’m informed that John Jay is now partnered with Veritext.

Of course, I object to this for many reasons. I still believe that stenography will lead to better accuracy outcomes, particularly for minority speakers. In the Testifying While Black study, stenographers were only 80% accurate taking down African American Vernacular English. Laypeople were 40% accurate (pilot study 1). Since emphasis in the above examples is on short-duration training, which accuracy level do we expect from digital reporting?

If Veritext wasn’t threatening the futures of our students with its lies and misinformation, I’d admire the company for its brilliance. It’s set up to earn money from digital, at least according to Twitter.

“They require you to buy their equipment…”

Of course, we still have the fact that we are honest, hard-working people on our side. We still constitute the majority of workers in this field. Our collective voices can still win this. We have a choice to remain silent and resign the future to the agendas of others or resist and lead this field into its next iteration.

Link 1, Link 2, Link 3

Thank you to my readers for informing me of this development. Without you, what am I?

If you have ever doubted that we are under attack as a profession and that the incomes and outcomes of our students are at risk, here is your sign. It is time to be bold. It is time to stand up for the profession that has given us so much. Share this with your fellow colleagues so that they know what’s happening and can begin to talk about solutions.