Depp v Heard Steno Discussion

So the Depp v Heard trial has been dominating headlines for a while. It wasn’t good enough for stenography industry news until it started popping up on stenographer social media. Questions started to surface about a video that allegedly showed Judy Bellinger, a stenographer covering the trial, hugging Johnny Depp at an after party. There was skepticism on the part of many stenographers, and it was eventually revealed that the moment captured on camera actually occurred when Judy went to get her equipment.

An outrage story turned into a feel-good one, at least until Judy was quoted as saying some jurors were dozing off.

Image may be stolen from the Speak Up For The Record group.

Once again, stenographer social media was alight with a mix of support and outrage. For some of us, having somebody tell it like it is is cathartic. Many take issue with a court reporter commenting so publicly on specific identifiable proceedings she reported.

Now, I’m an advocate for the integrity of our profession. My personal stance is that I’ll agree with just about anyone that believes we shouldn’t be commenting much on our cases. But I have to give substantial credit, Bellinger’s managed to get more press coverage for the word stenographer than I have, and I’ve put considerable effort in.

One thing I spotted on social media? Stenographer stress. I’d like to offer some new perspectives to diminish that stress. This is a chance for all of us to go back to our mentees and professional circles and have a discussion about best practices. It’s ultimately about growth. I know many of us feel that one bad incident or “misspeaking” can reflect poorly on us all. But I’ve come to a realization that few professions have that sort of thinking, and the ones that do, such as law enforcement, have it thrust on them by media, they don’t agree and say “ah, yes, a cop did an arguably questionable thing, so we’re all questionable!” We need to let go of that mindset of absolutism for our own sanity and advancement.

As for advancement, I would propose steering the discussions toward what we tell our students. As of writing, I would propose the following:

  • On the initial video that showed the hug. Let our students know that there are cameras just about everywhere and that guarding against the appearance of impropriety is important. This is not to say that Judy Bellinger did anything wrong, but we still have a valid discussion in that it is a tricky thing to guard against the “appearance” of something because everyone has a slightly different bar for “appearance.” For example, my only training on guarding against the appearance of impropriety, which I had over half a decade ago, involved second guessing even shaking a party’s hand in court. There are also state and regional attitudes to consider.
  • On the quote about jurors dozing off, I have to say that my personal stance is to generally avoid commenting on matters I’ve taken, especially if they are identifiable. This is not to say I believe court reporters should never have or even express an opinion. Again, this is not to say Judy Bellinger did anything wrong. But there are ways to make comments about sleeping jurors without making comments about sleeping jurors. “You know, I’ve been doing this for X years, and I notice that sometimes jurors don’t appear to be paying full attention.” “What about in this case?” “I decline to comment on this case.” I’d propose going ahead and having a discussion with students about talking to the media.
  • On the right v wrong argument. No matter where you sit on the spectrum of any argument or debate, there’s a “reality wins” component. For an idea of how this works, we can examine my blogging. I’ve made the case many times that the pay in New York is atrocious to the point of being “wrong.” Some court reporting companies do not care and continue to pay stenographers less than $3.50 per page. The reality of the situation changes dependent upon how successful I am at applying social and/or economic pressure and not how “right” I am. Similarly, in an analysis of whether Judy Bellinger did anything wrong, being right means very little. The real challenge is in creating, communicating, and seeing through the adoption of better ways to handle similar situations. Training our students to be solution-oriented people and avoid the black-and-white, good-versus-evil thinking that grips many of us, including myself from time to time, will create better outcomes.

I have no idea what might arise as a result of the media coverage. Should new developments arise, I’ll post an addendum. Please feel free to comment below even if you disagree with my assessment! I’ve never censored a non-spam comment and don’t intend to start!

Want a Press Release? Write Me Today!

You can also email Chris@Stenonymous.com

Much to the chagrin of the fluff brigade in our industry, I identified that a lot of our problems stem from marketing and publishing. We are trained to be quiet observers. Unfortunately, as a profession, we got too quiet. Some people don’t even think stenographers exist.

But unlike some companies that insist on publishing press releases with little substance, I see great potential in our field. Imagine if every association ran one press release a quarter or if every stenographic business ran a press release once a year. Our internet presence would skyrocket. Just to give an idea of the kind of numbers involved, I could quit my job, become an advocate full time, and donate a significant percentage of profits to steno nonprofits and initiatives. We’d be running something like 12 press releases a day. Our field could be 1% of the newswire’s daily traffic. I don’t expect that kind of success, but I’m putting it all out there because I’ve run the numbers. We are powerful. Shortage wouldn’t last long.

Unlike others that use flowery words to obfuscate the service you’re purchasing, I’ll come right out and tell you that a press release in this modern world is a relatively simple affair. You hire a Presswire-type service and that service reprints your article to its affiliated sites and blasts it to journalists in its reach. The service I use costs about $100 a release. By buying in bulk. I can bring what I pay down to about $33. This does not guarantee that people or journalists will read your release, but it does increase your internet footprint substantially. If you hire me, we can add up to three pictures and one video to any press release, as well as embed your website into the release itself.

As for pricing, if you already have what you’d like to publish together, I’d be happy to offer input, do some light editing, and help publish it at the $100 price. On the higher end of the scale, if you want me to help produce media related to the release, such as a video, we would have to discuss expectations and fit the service to your budget.

Why me? I’ve got experience.

Even if you think my experience isn’t worth a dime, I’ve got honesty on my side. You know there will be zero nasty surprises. You will get a distribution report shortly after your press release showing you all the affiliate sites and channels targeted. You will get somebody who cares a whole lot about this field putting his all into the project. I cannot guarantee success, but I can guarantee that I will put all of the skills I have that have driven up the readership of this blog to work for you and our industry.

Addendum:

12/10/21. Future readers may be charged a higher price, especially for press releases with a video. After this post, I learned that these types of services can be more valuable.

Stenonymous on Facebook

There’s no way around it, stenographers love Facebook. I’ve decided to open up a Facebook discussion group and see where it goes. I know what you’re thinking. Another group? Is this really necessary? Nope! But I thought it’d be an interesting thing to start a discussion group with more or less the same rules by which I govern the comments on this site: Be kind, don’t spam, talk steno. A lot of groups have a mission. I would say mine is to allow people to discuss things more or less freely. I may not be as techie or cool as Plover, but I cover a wider range of topics, so I have one redeeming quality.

Criticism of me and my work is good. Just don’t do it in a hateful, spammy way, and we will get along.

Be Smart With Social Media

Social media is a powerful tool. Like any tool, it needs to be handled properly. We have had unions, associations, and individual reporters growing their online presence and using it to get details and ideas out to fellow stenographers. All that said, whether you’re posting a joke or creating a professional networking masterpiece, it’s time for some advice on social media.

First, realize that people will see what you post. You’ve got to be pretty comfortable with anyone and everyone seeing it, from your best friend to your worst enemy. What you do on social media is largely not private, no matter the group, setting, or structure. As a new person, this can be intimidating and dissuade you from participating in discussions. We’ll get into why that’s a bad idea, but first let’s run over some quick tips to make your use of social media enjoyable.

    If you are freelancing, posting directly about your agency can bite. In every group, there is a person, persons, or Parsons that will leak your post to your agency to curry favor or because your post offends their sensibilities. If you have a delicate piece of information that you want published, seek out a confidant or method to anonymously publish the information. If it’s newsworthy or going to help stenographers, then it’s worth protecting yourself first.
    If you are freelancing, posting about setting rates or conspiring to fix rates can get you in legal trouble. It’s called price fixing, and it’s a concern because we are not considered workers or employees, but independent contractors on the same level of business as agencies. We all know that the power and reach we have as individuals is different. That doesn’t change antitrust law.
    If you’re working as an employee or even freelancing, posting about a job can hurt you badly. We are supposed to be neutral, and in some states there are ethical rules we can break if we are not careful. There is a line between talking about a political idea or law and talking about an actual case that you reported on. My advice? Don’t cross the line. Imagine screen shots of what you say being printed in news.
    Be kind. The family members or friends of whoever you talk about may be watching. Easy example, I once posted about a stenographer losing their job. Someone who was close to that person reminded us then and there, we all struggle in life, don’t rush to judgment.
    Test your own beliefs. You will see crazy claims out there on the Internet. Rarely should you dismiss what people say out of hand or make final conclusions. Perfect example, I saw a transcript I thought was page padding. I came to learn that that was that state’s mandated page layout. What you think is not always what is true.
    Controls can help. Social media is a tool. Privacy settings can screen out some people from seeing stuff. You can choose who to follow, who to block, and all sorts of other content preferences. Spend just one afternoon reviewing your settings and make sure you’re getting the most relevant info in your feed.

So now we get to the logical end: This stuff is stressful. Why don’t I just delete my social media? You can. There is no law against that. But social media is this amazing tool for staying current and tuned into what the field is doing. We get the great marketplace of ideas, dispatches from agencies, and food for our own thoughts. Life is stressful, but very few of us run off into the wild to live off the grid. Why? Because the benefits of society are greater than the simplicity we’d otherwise have. Similarly, the benefits of social media are greater than the peace gained by never engaging. That said, engage smartly so that your tool never gets used as a weapon against you.

Getting Involved: As Simple As A Like

Got an anonymous e-mail February 16. As best I can interpret it, it’s a little poke to introduce NCRA’s wide range of social media options. If there was supposed to be an attachment, it didn’t send, and I’m sorry. So, I’ll link it all and then we’ll talk about it a little more. NCRA keeps a page about its social media outreach here. They have a page for captioners. They have a page for CART providers. They’ve got a spot for freelance reporters. Legal videographers have a group. Official reporters get a warm welcome too. There’s a scopist and proofreader group. There’s a place devoted to reporting technology, AKA “the technology share.” Finally, there’s a Realtime TRAIN page. States it’s for nonmember and realtime users. Seems related to the TRAIN initiative to get people realtime and marketable.

Now I’ll come to a point about why all this matters. Support comes in different shapes and sizes. Ideas evolve in different ways. When we are all connected, sharing, and spreading information, it becomes easier to organize, learn, and engage in our respective markets. California reporters, as an example, are going to have a somewhat different experience and insight than New York reporters because we are on opposite ends of the country with different laws, licensing requirements, and professional organizations. That said, the NCRA can be a bonding place for all of us in the different areas of the field, and a way for us to get information out faster and with a lot more fanfare. While it is important for people to get involved in whatever way they can, whether that be volunteering, brainstorming, compiling information, or developing free resources for people to learn about steno, there’s a lot to be said about simply tuning in and staying a part of the network.

For example, imagine Reporter A and Reporter B. Reporter A is busy and has a hectic job, but liked NCRA’s facebook page, so NCRA’s stuff pops up in A’s feed. A sees they could use someone to write a JCR article about A’s busy and hectic job, and now A has the power to fill in that need. Reporter B has the same busy and hectic job, but B isn’t connected, never sees it, never hears about it, and never shares the tips and tricks to being good at B’s busy and hectic job.

If we’re linked in, we all have the ability to contribute. Whether or not we choose to contribute is our own business. Simply having the capability to join in a moment or movement is worthwhile and empowering. Tell everyone you know, getting involved can be as simple as a like.