Likely due to member pressure for a more transparent National Court Reporters Association and internet backlash, the NCRA’s holding a meeting on August 29th. Interested members can attend by using the Learning Center link.
I do point to the little jab at social media negativity at the bottom though. I would agree that it’s unfortunate that we have to start trashing the organization for it to pay attention, but here we are. Please don’t treat us like we’re the problem. We’re a symptom of something past administrations were ignorant about or willfully ignored. Again, that is not Kristin Anderson’s fault. Stenonymous sources report high hopes for this presidency. I have high hopes too. But please understand it’s simple math, the more deaf the organization, the less likely we’ll be shamed into silence because of our ostensibly improper “negativity.”
I also genuinely agree with the part about respecting the space. Don’t disrespect people at their own meetings. Though I won’t be in attendance, I’m happy to publish members’ statements about it. In my view, meetings like this are a time to open dialogue and connection. Try your best at that. You can always media bash later if something is really eating at you. After all, you have the stenographic free press on your side.
In a world where regular journalists are afraid to cover actual news, I suspect citizen journalists are going to fill the gaps. Don’t let anyone mislead you into believing our field’s news is not important. Court officials in some parts of the country have said outright that we’re integral to democracy. The largest threat to guardians of the record and the accuracy of court records was a corporate play that the government and pretty much anybody with power to help sat back and watched happen.
Don’t let anyone fool you into believing we do not need a media arm for this profession. Have you ever noticed that anything that wants to remain relevant has a media arm? The various sports, Congress, movies & Hollywood, music, video gaming, celebrities, milk. For years court reporter culture was about being quiet about who we are and what we make because people were scared the public would turn around and do away with us. Then the science came out that we were better than alternatives and still we can’t be bothered to muster up the courage to advertise this nationwide and bring back demand for stenographic jobs. There’s something very wrong there.
If you want to support budding free press for the court reporting industry, consider donating $5 today on the front page of Stenonymous.com for the 5+ years I’ve been publishing for our community. If you’re enjoying Stenonymous, you are not alone.
I did reach out to the police chief there. Though other journalists from the r/journalism subreddit told me it was a pretty standard police response.
Generally I don’t bring non-court reporting stuff to this blog, but quite frankly throughout these last many years I’ve learned how underpaid journalists are. There are only maybe 50,000 of them according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the occupation is facing a 9% decline this decade. That pretty much means that 1 in 10 journalists is going to be losing their job this decade as the population continues to grow. There will be more and more news with less and less coverage. If you’ve ever wondered why not a single journalist seems interested in the court reporter shortage fraud, it might be because they’re overworked, underpaid, and willing to lap up whatever crap the companies in our field say. But the situation as a whole gives me a natural bias toward supporting journalists.
Of course, I leave my mind open to the possibility that journalists can use their position to facilitate crime, but given the absence of a probable cause affidavit, it’s looking less likely now. I’ll create an addendum if I learn more.
This is a concern. If everyone from small-town governments to the Feds can just come claim journalists’ stuff for “investigation,” then what good is our constitution, really? “We can violate you as much as we want, and you might win in court later, but in the interim, your mom’s dead and your life’s upended.” There were also journalists targeted during 2020, according to one article.
The satire I wrote on this issue may just come to life someday. To the extent I’m a citizen journalist that writes against powerful people, I may one day see unjust retribution. If this style of censorship comes to your municipality, please stand up against it. If the citizens don’t demand free speech, those who uphold the law have shown they don’t mind trampling it.
And when your news is only coming from government-approved sources, are you really free?
In a May 5, 2023 article by Tracey Read, issues with recording were addressed. Interestingly to me, there was a blurb in there about our shortage.
You might look at that and say, “so what?”
Remember those Speech-to-Text Institute folks that I call frauds? Well, let’s just take a look at this screenshot from what I just linked.
On May 6, 2023, I reached out to NCRA to find out if this article was accurate, and I will publish the response, if any, in an addendum at the bottom of this post. If there’s no addendum, assume no response yet. I’d say check back in a week. As of now, all I’ve been told is “let us check and see where this might have come from, if anywhere, Christopher. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.”
Hopefully this makes it pretty clear why I’ve been so stuck on this issue. A shortage of 11,345 is a lot different than a shortage of 5,500, and now we have in print two very different numbers for 2023.
It seems pretty clear to me that our shortage is less severe than was forecasted, which means that it is more manageable than we have been told for about 5 years, which means that the big boxes in the Speech-to-Text Institute Bloc, having as much market share and working with as many reporters as they do, knew for a fact that the shortage was not as bad as forecasted, and perpetuated the lie anyway.
It’s bittersweet for me. I have been writing about the possibility of false claims being used to demoralize stenographers for almost half a decade, maybe longer. Many who have examined my writing and documentation over the years agree that there is something suspicious going on in stenography land. But many don’t have the time to investigate years worth of chronological discoveries and analyses. And quite frankly, after my medical issues in late 2021, it was easier for some to dismiss me entirely than to believe that such misconduct was occurring in our field.
But this should give stenographers a lot of hope. The shortage is less severe than forecasted. The NCRA is indisputably the strongest court reporting association and in the best position to address the court reporter shortage to the extent that it does exist. And as word spreads that the situation is not hopeless, as so many shills would have had my colleagues believe, we have a chance at drawing in investors to create new and better schools, and expand and improve existing programs in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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:
For those of you that have seen Social Dilemma, you know we live in a world that is largely curated by algorithms that are constantly assessing our likes and interests. Social media has developed into an engagement machine. The side effect of such a thing is that the algorithms will start to hide things your friends post on Facebook without you doing anything. Some of you are perpetually hidden from me and I am likely perpetually hidden from some of you. So when I share something, only the people that interact with me constantly see it.
Recently I posted that journalists may be reporting black people’s stories wrong. It was an easy dig at the inadequate reporting done on the Testifying While Black study. When you look at the big picture, journalism sucks right now, and right now is when we need to get the word out that stenographic court reporters are needed. If there was another way to get their attention, I’d take it, but I’ve been playing diplomat for two years, and we are running out of time. Perfect example? Last year I agreed to speak with Frank Runyeon. I said if he’d ever like to write anything on court reporting, he could consider me a resource. Sure, he said, just write him in 6 to 8 months. When I did, he didn’t bother to respond. I’m pretty sure there was an Alice Cooper song for this.
Our shortage is mathematically simple. Years ago I had the privilege of hearing Mirabai Knight speak about it and I completely agreed with her. There are a limited number of people that will be good at steno and want to do stenography for a living. We can’t really affect that number much. What we can impact heavily is the number of people that hear about stenography. That’s one of the reasons Open Steno was born. That’s one of the reasons this blog was born. We can no longer sit back and trust that it’ll all work out. The people that want to replace you with inadequate technology aren’t leaving this up to chance. Any time they can put their thumb on the scale, they do, and when they lose, they whine loudly.
So, without reservation, I choose to put my thumb on the scale and occasionally use the same tools weaponized against us. If clickbait journalism is the way of the future, then let it work for us. I set up an ad campaign to get my article in front of journalists and bloggers, but like I said on my Facebook page, when the money’s dried up, that’s the end of that.
If you’d like to join me on this, I’d ask you to head over to social media and share my Facebook post, the Stenonymous post, or the original blog post with the hashtags #journalism and #clickbaitJournalism. You can share as is, say something horrible about it, or say something nice. If you feel comfortable doing so, please set the privacy settings to public on the post where you share it. When the ad money’s gone, the hashtags will live on. There’s evidence that failing to utilize stenographers will adversely impact people that don’t speak a certain way. This one’s for them.
Journalists, we need to talk about court reporting.
Court reporting? What’s that? Court reporting traditionally refers to stenographic reporting, where somebody is taking down verbatim notes on a stenotype. We do this in legal proceedings as well as broadcast captioning, and believe it or not, our keyboard design, invented in 1911, is the best technology in voice recognition and taking down the spoken word today. Sounds incredible, right? But look at the airplane. It started out in 1903 looking something like this:
We all know what happened. The design got better and today we have airliners that can fly hundreds of people at once. Same with the camera of the 1800s that became the compact and ubiquitous technology we have today in so many devices. Very much the same happened with our stenotype. In fact, I have a handy guide here. Feel free to use that middle image in any article you want.
We started off with old timey machines where you tap the key and it punches the ink into the paper. We evolved into an era of Dictaphones and floppy disks where we’d narrate our notes to be typed up by somebody else. These days we’re packing laptops attached to minicomputers. We’re always asked “why don’t you just record it?” Truth is we’ve had that capability for a really long time. We go beyond that and have the ability to transcribe what we’ve “recorded” in record times.
We have a real perception problem in our field. There’s this ongoing push from tech sellers to come in and say our technology is old and that automation is on the way. The problem? Tech journalists, publications, or analysts often eat it up and publish it right away. I always point to this October 2020 article as a great example. It literally depicts an old-fashioned stenographer phasing out into computer code under the headline “Will court reporting undergo a pandemic shift?” It goes on to publish some quotes from Verbit and Veritext that point to things changing/evolving/shifting. The messaging is really clear. “We have the technology. Why do we need court reporters?” They term court reporter criticism as “resistance.”
A lie is being sold. This isn’t something that takes heavy investigation to figure out. When asked about the field in that article, Veritext’s CTO was quoted as saying “there will be no choice but to move forward with well-proven audio and transcription technologies and services to meet the need, and we expect to see rapid adoption there.” Meanwhile, when asked for a quote for Stenonymous, Veritext said with regard to technology “…it will not take the place of the stenographer…” They’re not alone. Tom Livne of Verbit has been quoted saying our world is not yet digitized when I just showed you that it is digitized and it has been for decades. In series A funding for Verbit, claims of 99 percent accuracy were thrown around. In series B funding, it was said that technology would not replace the human. All these automation proponents are pretty quick to dismiss automation. Could it be that automation of speech transcription is just not that simple?
It would be fair enough if it was just my word against theirs. But there are outside observers that have looked at the situation and concluded all the same things. In a May 2020 article from Scientific American, journalist Wade Roush noted that speech recognition simply was not perfect and might never be. He pointed to Microsoft’s claim in 2016 of 96 percent accuracy, better than human transcribers, and noted there have been few improvements since. In the Stanford study “Racial disparities in automated speech recognition” it was noted that automatic speech recognition was 80 percent accurate on white speakers, 65 percent accurate on black speakers, and “worse” on the AAVE dialect. “Worse” meant 25 to 50 percent accurate. So here we are taking stenographic reporter accuracy, certified with 5 percent total errors or fewer and comparing it to a word error rate between 20 percent and 75 percent.
But do we really need accurate court transcripts and good captions for captioning consumers? Nobody cares who this hurts as long as it makes investors happy, right? Sadly, there’s not much evidence to show that it’ll even do that. Much of the financial data for court reporting is hidden through private companies or paywall research data. When I examined VIQ Solutions, a company that recently acquired Net Transcripts and is ostensibly part of the “record and transcribe” crowd, I pointed out there’s plenty of revenue there, but net losses. In news regarding Verbit’s acquisition of VITAC, it was stated that revenue was in the millions and cash flow was positive, which means it’s likely profits are low or non-existent. At the risk of sounding like a cynic, I think it’s very clear, if there was profit and a decent rate of return they would be unreserved in telling us that. Like other AI ventures, there’s probably just a slow burn of money. So every time a writer jumps aboard the “technology” train without consulting anybody that actually works in the field or doing a little research, it’s burying the truth a little deeper under this false perception and really hurting a vibrant, viable field that really needs people. We’re not so different. The tech sellers are coming for your job too, and it’s just as hilarious and embarrassing.
The other issue we have is that we know you can figure this stuff out. When our job is up for grabs, there’s a kind of jubilant repetition of the word “disruption.” Meanwhile, when it’s a job that has some sense of importance or power, like a judge, journalists begin explaining things. Take this article on Chinese holographic AI judges, where the author makes sure to point out there are differences in American and Chinese law that may make this more plausible, as well as explaining that the “AI” is only as good as its dataset. This is a big problem, because the companies invested in “AI” have zero accountability. If someone brings up issues with a technology’s output being racist or sexist, they are summarily fired and their opinion swept under the rug. In my field, at the very least, every member of the public is entitled to make a complaint about a court reporter that violates our ethical codes. That’s on top of any legal remedies that may be available or justified in the event a court reporter acts irresponsibly! If you can’t get it right when you report on it, these companies are not going to correct you when you’re wrong in their favor.
All we are asking for is some fairness in the way our field is reported on in the news. I’ve often joked that advocating for stenographic court reporting is a lot like the children’s story Horton Hears A Who. We’re here but we’re unseen and unheard. We’re in danger of being boiled by big money and tall tales. Those of us that speak up can face a lot of ridicule or be cut short. Take my appearance on VICE News about the Testifying While Black study. Here’s an important topic that deserves headlines, namely, addressing disparate outcomes based on the dialect that someone speaks. I was filmed for about two hours, and Taylor Jones and his people were, as I understand it, filmed close to nine hours. Nobody expected a ten-hour special, but this topic got fifteen minutes. Court reporters took some serious heat in the news because we scored 80 percent accuracy in African American Vernacular English dialect. Every single news source I’ve seen has missed or excluded pilot study 1, where regular people scored 40 percent, and pilot study 2, where lawyers scored 60 percent. VICE cut me talking about the pilot studies and how people who really care about record accuracy need to join our field. You have a story here where court reporters are twice as good as the average person at hearing and transcribing this AAVE dialect that we get no training in, and that got warped into many variations of “court reporters don’t understand black people.” That’s a concept mired in ignorance. The story itself acknowledges not all black people speak AAVE, and yet the headline and lede rips on us despite the fact that we’re the most likely ones in the room to understand AAVE. I cannot imagine such an irresponsible word game. It’s almost like publishing an article with the headline “Journalists May Be Reporting Black People’s Stories Wrong” just because they might ostensibly fit into the category of “regular people.” But I can’t imagine that anyone would ever lump groups of people together and make broad, false headlines just for clicks. Oh, wait —
Even in a pretty amazing article about social justice where I got to offer some input, the accuracy of us versus others ended up not making the cut. I like the author a lot, but it’s pretty clear that somewhere along the way a decision was made to exclude the possibility that we’re hearing people better than anyone else in the room. Not much different from when Max Curry was quoted as saying digital reporting was too risky, but there was hardly any explanation as to why, despite a field of nearly 30,000 people and data that suggests recording proceedings achieves no real cost reduction and no efficiency gains. See what I’m saying? Sometimes it’s worse than simply not publishing anything from us. Sometimes it’s cherry picking what we say to make it look like both sides are represented when they simply aren’t or that a topic was explained when it simply wasn’t.
I know that this perceived unfairness is a result of many factors and that some are outside your control. The drive to get people to read strongly encourages clickbait journalism. Editors and outlets can decide to cut journalists’ work if it doesn’t adhere to a particular narrative or standard. The fact that court reporting and machine shorthand stenography is a fairly niche skill adds to the dilemma. Industry outsiders are not going to know there are national, state, and nonprofit databases to find court reporters for interviews and demonstrations. There are a myriad of issues that coalesce to create the situation I’m describing. But we really need some attention on these issues. We create the legal record for so many lawsuits and criminal prosecutions. We broadcast (good) captions so that the deaf can have access. The inadequacy of alternatives cannot be understated. But the average reporter age is 55 now, and to continue our good work we’ll need the media to be unafraid of publishing the truth. Help us attract people who will carry on this service for generations. We need the media to stop republishing the shortage forecast from 8 years ago and point people towards all the resources that we have built since then to help people find this career, such as Open Steno, Project Steno, and NCRA A to Z.