Does Anyone Feel Bad For Stenograph?

Picture this. You are among the leaders of “sten-tech.” Widely acclaimed. Admired in many circles. Supported by hundreds or thousands of stenographers by way of support contracts for the hardware and software you make.

Some of the largest companies in the court reporting industry decide digital is the future. They ostensibly create a shell organization to propagandize the field, claim the stenographer shortage is impossible to solve, and highlight digital reporting as the solution. Anticipating the direction of the market, you join. Unknown whether you joined with or without knowledge of the fraud, but whatever.

Some guy with a blog is writing some stuff about inequality and the shortage stats being misleading. Who really knows? Digital is the future. Ahead to the future!

Ah, but wait, that guy with the blog was onto something and other respectable members of the profession are now starting to say the Ducker Report really isn’t reliable in modern times.

Oh, crap. Well, if people figure out the guy with the blog was right about that, they might start to wonder what else he was right about. They might even realize you’re on the board of the organization that was trying to get rid of them. Time to make a blog about how much you support people!

Stenograph’s message to stenographers in a December 2022 post.

There are a few ways to view Stenograph’s message. You can either see it as the markup is way above 1000% and therefore they were making way more money off of us than a lot of us ever really cared to think about, you can see it as they sacrificed or maybe even took a loss for customers, or you can just assume they’re lying. I won’t tell readers what to believe this time. I honestly don’t know.

I do know that if Stenograph wants to make it right with stenographers, there’s an easy way. Break rank with the companies trying to strangle the market, disavow STTI’s ludicrous claims that the stenographer shortage is impossible to solve, and detach from the STTI Bloc. NCRA Strong left the door wide open. If Stenograph can’t do that, then can it really say that Stenograph remains committed to the future of stenography? It’s literally intermingled with an organization that tried to bury stenography under a wave of shortage media. We may have big hearts and short memories, but anybody that was paying attention 2020 to 2021 is just going to feel insulted or gaslighted.

Stenograph could make history in our field by withdrawing its support from the STTI Bloc and denouncing the lies STTI told about our profession. Not only is it the right thing to do, it’s arguably the smart thing to do. Despite the media blackout, the illegal collusion of big box companies to manipulate a market, and the complete collapse of support from what I thought was our largest manufacturer, we’re winning. With minimal funding and relatively little institutional support, we’re winning. Even though most of us have to advocate in addition to and after our full-time jobs, we’re winning. We know we’re winning because if our numbers were so catastrophic that we could not bounce back, Stenograph wouldn’t spend any time trying to appease or impress stenographers. If Stenograph was suckered in by the bad stats and misinformation, a lot of us were, stenographers will forgive it. If it continues to dance around the issues and pretend we are stupid, don’t feel too bad about what happens next.

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.

Stenograph’s Digital Court Reporting Academy and MAXScribe

MAXScribe and the Digital Court Reporting Academy were both brought to my attention. Before I launch into my usual full defense of stenography, I’ll put it out there that I think I understand Stenograph from a business perspective. My assumption is that they see the retirement cliff combined with big money’s interest in expanding digital, and they are doing what they see as the most profitable move, diversifying into a product line that they expect will be growing (digital) rather than shrinking (ostensibly stenography). From a purely business mindset, I think all of us get it. But I’ve been down on Stenograph these last few months and remain so.

My criticism comes from a place of circumstance. We let Stenograph into our schools and gave them access to our students. We encouraged each other to get and keep support contracts over the years, though admittedly I was never in with that crowd. The bottom line is that we built Stenograph with our wallets and brand dedication. We need to grapple with the obvious truth, Stenograph does not have the same dedication to its customers, the stenographic trainers, or anyone else. It’s going to sell to whoever will buy.

By itself, that might be annoying, but there is another reason I find fault with what they’re doing. We have some data that suggests stenography is better for equality. If we look back at the Testifying While Black study, stenographers scored something like 80% on African American Vernacular English — a shock at the time it happened. The pilot studies of that study tested laypeople and lawyers, and those people scored around 40% and 60%. The hard truth is that stenographers may, on average, be understanding more of what’s said by speakers of that dialect in the courtroom or deposition than anybody else. Couple that with the Racial Disparities in Automatic Speech Recognition study, where automatic speech recognition by major companies scored as low as 25% on the same dialect. Simply put, stenographers are better for accuracy on the dialect studied. I’d bet results would be similar for a number of dialects and accents, though funding for further studies seems elusive. By taking this hard push towards digital, companies, including Stenograph, are basically saying “we do not care about people.” Anir Dutta and others have used the words “democratization of technology.” Perhaps this really is the democratization of technology and we have simply “voted” that AAVE speakers and anyone else that would be better served by stenography or voice writing does not deserve that service. Good thing nobody’s told the press. Seems like the kind of thing the public might object to. “Court case? Congratulations, if you don’t speak in the way the powers that be deem appropriate, your transcript’s accuracy may be lower.”

Even putting aside all that science stuff, Stenograph’s claims are questionable. Take a look.

Excerpt from Stenograph explaining MAXScribe.

It states the number of pages produced per hour can be boosted up to 50%. If there was such a product, wouldn’t it have been marketable to stenographers? If it’s not marketable to stenographers, then that likely means stenographers already produce pages faster. If stenographers already produce pages faster, why is Stenograph not trying to improve our methods and processes? It doesn’t make much sense unless one locks oneself into the bubble of “big money wants digital, and we want big money.”

Excerpt about MAXScribe by Stenograph

Maybe it’s time for us to get into the business of helping out digital court reporters. Dear DCRs, anyone that says they can double your earnings without giving you a real good idea of how that happens is lying to you. Ask questions.

Then there’s the Digital Court Reporting Academy.

Digital Court Reporting Academy by Stenograph

The effort put into enticing digital court reporters is obvious. But I suspect that Stenograph has missed the mark here. Digital court reporters are likely to face the same income disparities stenographers are currently facing, and they’ll make cuts largely the same way stenographers have because they’re people too. The problem remains this wage or income issue. Cash-strapped “contractors” cut corners and court reporting and transcription companies are forcing as many expenses onto the contractor as possible. That means Stenograph is trying to run from a world where stenographers are avoiding purchases because the money isn’t there to a world where digitals will avoid purchases because the money isn’t there.

Though perhaps I have a naive view of the world. I have assumed that the working reporter is the customer. But perhaps they are all really after the “potential working reporters” or students. If you sell 80 student stenotypes for $1,500, it’s a lot more money than selling 5 professional stenotypes to graduates at $5,000. That same logic likely carries to digital. I expect there will be incredibly high turnover based on communications I’ve gotten from past and present digital reporters about their treatment. Stenograph may be financially incentivized to support that turnover because every person that tries digital and doesn’t like it would be a potential customer.

Big money wants digital. It wants digital so bad that lies about the NCRA were plastered to the internet before NCRA apparently got them taken down, students were being misled into digital, questionable claims have been made to get attorneys onto digital reporting, and a piece to discredit me was apparently commissioned and poorly executed. These are just some of the things we look at in horror and wonder how we could find ourselves in such a lopsided competition where actors on the digital side of the equation get to lie and obfuscate while we get cudgeled by our licensing authorities and consumers are left to fend for themselves. Stenograph’s not responsible for any of that, but by continuing to alienate existing customers and continuing to chase big money over morals, Stenograph has set itself up to hemorrhage stenographic customers, and if growth of digital is stunted by stenographers spreading the word that there’s a better career in stenography, the company may well end up the sten-tech industry’s biggest loser.

Why Stenographic Court Reporting Is Superior to Digital

There are two prevailing schools of thought when it comes to the gold standard of machine shorthand stenography in United States legal proceedings. There are those that truly believe in the standard. There are those that give it lip service, only ever talking about stenography when pressed or pressured. Of course, there’s a third school of thought in the people that can’t or won’t spend much time thinking about why we still use our chorded stenotype keyboard design over a century after its development. For the third schoolers, we use QWERTY layouts despite that design being over a hundred years old too. It’s easy to imagine why: 1. There’s a market for it. 2. No technology has come along that is more intuitive and better.

I recently had an experience where I had to pick something off of an audio recording painstakingly in transcription mode. It gave me a lot of insight into where stenography’s superiority comes from. It’s in the room control. Some people are always going to be able to speak faster than we can “write” or type. You throw a stenographer into a situation where they have no room control and the participants are speaking above the stenographer’s skill level, and what do you get? You basically get digital court reporting / recording. The stenographic notes are a useless game of fill in the blank.

For the last twelve years that I’ve been in the industry, companies have been pushing reporters to interrupt less. I get it. Just like anybody else, lawyers don’t like to be interrupted. The loudest complaints were probably from the ones that are most self-important. The companies likely sought to end complaints by telling stenographers to let the audio catch it. But every time we do that, we risk record degradation “Didn’t understand that when they said it, don’t understand it no matter how many times I replay it.” It also increases the amount of time we have to spend on the matter due to re-listening to testimony rather than having it clearly in our notes. Since many depositions go unread until there’s a motion to be filed or trial’s coming up, the number of complaints related to poor transcript quality will likely always be lower than the number of “your reporter interrupted me” complaints. This skews the world the non-reporter owned agency lives in. Make the customer happy and things will work out. Just hope they don’t need whatever was inaudible or unintelligible to make their case.

That’s a major problem for digital, and I am not the first one to write something like this thanks to Jean Whalen. You have audio monitors that may or may not know anything about legal transcription listening for issues that they anticipate the transcriber will have. By removing the ability of the person responsible for the transcript to interrupt, you increase the chance of serious errors. Throw away all my prior calculations. The answer is really that simple.

From a productivity standpoint, room control makes a big difference. I’ve timed myself no audio versus heavy audio use, and I personally can be an astounding 12x slower putting together a transcript when heavy audio use is involved. This is why collectives like Ana Fatima Costa’s Speak Up For The Record group are so vital. In some jurisdictions, there is no mandatory license. There is no legal standard. Our newbies and veterans alike are connected to best practices through the stories and experiences we share amongst ourselves and the encouragement we give each other to be better. Let that be my share: We will not be attracting anyone to this field if they’re peeling things off audio in the name of “our client doesn’t like to be interrupted.”

The Lip Service School

More mainstream legal news has been picking up on the fact that there’s an ongoing debate. I’d like to share some highlights from the article “Glitches Still Persist In Digital Court Reporting Tech” by Steven Lerner, Law360 Pulse.

  1. “…90 hours of testimony digitally recorded in a trial in the Northern Mariana Islands in 2008 resulted in poor audio quality and transcripts that were deemed unreliable and inaccurate.” It’s worth mentioning, but since it was so many years ago, it’s a minor point.
  2. Planet Depos told Law360 Pulse that the problem with a 285-page transcript in Maryland was not the technology, but rather the setting of a public hearing where they were unable to control audio quality, overlapping speakers, and random unidentified speakers scattered across a large room. This goes directly to my points about room control. If we are not serious about speaking up when the record is in danger, we are not serious about record accuracy. Customer education is going to be this decade’s biggest challenge.
  3. Brian Jasper, an attorney at Thomas Law Offices PLLC told Law360 Pulse “the technology was a problem, and it interrupted the deposition. I don’t scrutinize the depositions for perfection, but as an attorney, I have much more confidence in a stenographer because they are taking it down in real time.” This speaks to my point on room control. We generally know when we’re not getting it.
  4. The article talks about the Stanford study where voice recognition by Apple, Google, Microsoft, IBM, and Amazon was tested. Error rates for black men were over 40%. I’m happy that this is getting more attention, because the adoption of automatic speech recognition (ASR) into legal transcription can really hurt equality and quality in general.
  5. Stenograph, through Anir Dutta, claimed the average wait times for customers is seven minutes. This conflicts with reports at the end of last year that wait times for some were over a half an hour. Anir Dutta is quoted as saying “if that means that that customer is going to go on Facebook and make it so that everybody thinks that our average hold times are tremendously high, I think it’s unfair and frankly malicious.”
  6. Lisa Migliore Black is quoted. “After 25 or more years of always keeping my Stenograph support contract up to date so that I would have the most current software advances, I let my support contract expire in January of 2022 due to long hold times with technical support and their failure to resolve the problems I was experiencing over the course of several months.” “My perception as a customer is that Stenograph is pulling too many available resources to develop the ASR side of their business.” I have to say I’m with Lisa. after over a decade of using CaseCAT, I’m very slowly teaching myself Eclipse, because being married to Stenograph just comes off as risky to me. The company seems obsessed with being at the helm of an evolution in court reporting that may never actually happen.
  7. Dutta stated 80% of the company’s investment is still in stenography and that it is a “false narrative” that going into digital court reporting is shifting its focus. He’s quoted saying “If Apple started making iPhones, does it mean that they make substandard laptops?” Again, this goes against what has been documented prior, a drop in customer service.
  8. Asked about the Stanford study, Dutta stated “People can quote studies from three years ago….” “…technology moves a million miles every three months.” This is demonstrably false. There’s a patent from 2000 showing 90% automatic speech recognition (ASR) accuracy was thought to be possible. The 2020 Stanford study showed accuracy lower than 80%. Is there anyone on Earth that believes 90% to 80% over the course of two decades is technology moving a million miles every thee months? ASR has improved. But it largely depends on who’s speaking and how good the audio is. I also find it humorous that Dutta takes exception to a 2020 study being cited when the entire basis for digital court reporting infiltration is Jim Cudahy, Speech-to-Text Institute, and a 2013-2014 Court Reporting Industry Outlook. Odd that an entire industry should shift focus for something that was done almost a decade ago and never adjusted for but should pay no mind to current events because “tEcHnOloGy.”

It’s a very interesting time to be in court reporting because nobody knows what happens next. Do the shot callers realize they’re wasting a lot of money trying to create a market for digital court reporting and start investing in the training of stenographers that will make them consistent profits? Will there be a breakthrough technology that renders stenography obsolete? Will our shortage get worse? Will our adoption of remote technologies compensate for the uneven distribution of court reporters across the country?

The data we’ve got doesn’t point to replacement. Until there’s a magic box that does everything, humans will be required to control the room, and it never gets more efficient than someone turning the speech into text right then and there with 95% or more accuracy. I’ll speculate that technology like CoverCrow will become more polished, mainstream, and accepted in helping with stenographer shortage woes. Agencies say they’re having coverage issues, and from what I understand, CoverCrow aims to work collaboratively with companies rather than cutting them from the equation.

As it stands, stenographers have a huge say in what happens next. Why?

  1. There’s a market for it. 2. No technology has come along that’s more intuitive and better.

Stenograph’s Disrespect of Stenographers Continues with Texas

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:

Stenograph claims its plan is to meet with TCRA members.
Stenograph apparently pulls out because one member they don’t like might be in attendance.
Sonia G. Trevino, TCRA President.

Then, perhaps under the delusion that stenographers are stupid, Stenograph decided to hold its own meeting:

Stenograph attempts to create its own meeting in place of the Texas Court Reporters Association town hall.

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:

“You understand you are responsible for obtaining consents and authorizations for data we may or may not be using.” – Stenograph (parody)
“We may be using your data to build our digital reporting products, but you’re not entitled to anything from it, which we’ve just unilaterally decided.” – Stenograph (parody)

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.

Pre-Launch: Stenonymous’s Project Phoenix

By my estimates there are 20,000 freelancers and 28,000 court reporters total in this country. We do not receive much formal legal education beyond the terminology we might hear. This has left many of us confused on our legal rights. Even the agencies that hire us, schools that train us, and the members of the bench and bar we work with every day lack basic information about important concepts we are dealing with. This puts court reporters at a serious competitive disadvantage against anyone with the funds to hire a lawyer.

It’s time for change. If you are ready for that change, please take some time to answer this 8-question survey. I encourage you to share it with anyone you feel might answer it honestly. Every single honest answer will pave the way for taking this from concept to execution. This survey allows me to gauge interest and expand the project. I will release more information as soon as it is appropriate and safe to do so.

We must keep recruiting and sharing information. But I would like to remind everyone to take care of yourself this holiday season. If the stenographic newswire or some other issue is causing you to feel down, take care of yourself. Try to reach out to a support system. Humans are communal. You are not bad, wrong, or alone. You are human. You will be okay because all feelings change over time.

A very special thank you to every single one of my readers. Your readership has made this moment possible. Let me just note that Sound Professionals’ Chris Carfagno has let me know about their latest product announcement. I have always heard good things about SP; I have a great impression of Chris and have no problem recommending them. I will state that I do not believe I’ve personally used their products. When I used to use audio, I think I was using a mic sold by Stenograph at the time, which probably explains why I don’t use audio anymore. I have also started transitioning to Eclipse in honor of the Stenograph boycott. It feels great to be learning new skills and technology in my field and I would encourage every single reporter in the industry to give it a try. Eclipse provides robust training resources on top of its Anytime Support. I even had to call them recently (weekday, business hours), and they returned my call in under three minutes. Switching isn’t easy, but Eclipse has done all it can to make my transition pleasant. I have a feeling that once I am done, I will be able to honestly tell readers which software I prefer from a performance standpoint. Stay tuned.

PS. Stenograph reached out to the Texas Court Reporters Association board. My understanding is that there will be a future meeting in 2022 where members will be allowed to ask questions. This is why I called for the boycott. The more pressure we apply, the more urgent it is for them to curry favor with our associations and make us happy. It would make me personally happy if Stenograph acknowledged that digital court reporting will likely hurt minority speakers’ transcript accuracy. I give my word that if Stenograph makes such an acknowledgment, I will call off the boycott. Until then, let’s see how far those revenues can fall for 2022 and 2023 renewals as people continue canceling support. This profession will endure. Stenograph’s endurance relies upon its service to this profession.

Day 1 of Stenograph Boycott, Company Releases Pro-Steno Teaser

My Facebook page has become the steno channel. If it’s good for the working reporter, it’s on my page.

And though it may be difficult to read, I do try to keep it entertaining.

Christopher Day calls for Stenograph boycott, November 2021

For anyone that doubts calling out the bad customer service and horrible PR blunders is having an impact, you can stop doubting now. For the first time since March, Stenograph threw up a pro-stenographer image on its Instagram.

Stenograph Instagram, 11/17/21

Truth be told, I still view this sort of thing as corporate appeasement. They hope you will forget that they are screwing the students you mentor and continue to purchase their products and services. It’s a great sign that the Stenograph company wants to appease stenographers, because it means that we represent a large enough part of their customer base that pulling out would hurt. Withdrawing our support would matter. If more reporters heed my words and pull out fast and hard, we’ll be able to end this a lot sooner.

But seeing that image got me curious. I rolled through the Instagram to see the last time a comparable image was posted. There are some nice pictures advertising Q&A by Cyndi Lynch (who is awesome) and some marketing stuff, but nothing nice like this. While that’s a somewhat subjective measure, you can go through all the images yourself and see that the company hasn’t featured a person paired with a stenotype since about March.

The top left is November 2021, the bottom right is March 2021, Stenograph’s Instagram.

I will be covering the STTI podcast with Anir Dutta, Stenograph’s president, soon. In the meantime, if you’re completely confused, just see what I wrote to a student asking about my shenanigans on Reddit.

Follow me and our field gets results. Stenograph is eager to jump into a technology that will disproportionately hurt minority speakers. We are in a unique position to stop that.

Is Stenograph Sabotaging Stenographer Software Support?

It was reported to me that a call to Stenograph’s support yesterday took an entire 30 minutes of wait time. At the end of that 30 minutes, the call disconnected. The stenographer called back and was then forced to sit on the phone waiting about another 15 minutes. 45 minutes from call to resolution for someone that paid $139 for help with upgrading their software, on top of the support contract, which cost about $700 a year! I was just kidding about it being reported to me, I was physically present when it happened.

And this is not an isolated incident. It’s been an ongoing problem for months — Stenograph’s shoddy service, that is.

This is on top of reports that Luminex II is cracking in the same spot on the shell for multiple reporters. Maybe we should all start comparing notes and seeing if we are being sold defective products.

The problem is so bad that it simply cannot be hidden.

“I haven’t called today, but the last few weeks I had to call several times, and I have to wait a long time. Twice I just hung up and figured it out for myself.” -Stenograph Customer*
“Happened to me last week. It was actually worse than the IRS, and that’s saying something.” – Stenograph Customer*
“They’ve always been that way. Eclipse blows them away.” – Stenograph Customer*
“Switch to Eclipse and it won’t be a problem lol” – Stenograph Customer*

It wasn’t all bad news though. They pull through for some of the people some of the time.

But they don’t fool all of the people all of the time. Stenograph is taking our money for support and then keeping us waiting on queues like we’re an inconvenience. They’re relying on our politeness and silence. Let me be the one to break the silence: This is wrong. We were propagandized for years to tell us that we needed support, and now the quality of that support is declining while Stenograph tries to build and sell its ASR business off our backs and with our money.

I suppose it ultimately doesn’t matter if Stenograph is sabotaging us. It leaves us to seek solutions to the problems we’re perceiving. Stenograph owners, the science shows ASR is a snake oil market. Make me a fair offer on the company, see if I can crowdfund the purchase. Much better than a boycott — we can get those trainers raking in the dough and make your employees happy too! Mr. Dutta can move on to some industry that doesn’t have a man with a blog. We all win. ChristopherDay227@gmail.com.

The alternative is to boycott Stenograph and buy it when it’s up for bankruptcy. It’s just business.

*There is no evidence that any of the comments were from Stenograph customers.

BlueLedge Connected with Veritext and Stenograph

BlueLedge is the digital reporting training company that apparently dissolved two years ago in Florida that I suspect is behind CourtReporterEDU. BlueLedge, as far as I can tell, continued to operate after its voluntary dissolution in 2019, because in August 2020, it entered a strategic partnership with Ed 2 Go.

Many reporters reached out to let me know that Veritext used or uses BlueLedge, but I didn’t have time to look into it. Finally, someone sent me the Google search. Step A, if you want to complete Veritext’s digital court reporter partner program, is to register with and complete the BlueLedge program.

This, by itself, isn’t much of a problem. But it strengthens the argument that the court reporting shortage is being exaggerated and exacerbated by Veritext. If the company was genuinely interested in recruiting stenographers, it might have constructed such a detailed pipeline for the education of stenographers. Instead, the company routinely tells stenographers what they want to hear and pours its resources into expanding its digital business despite the potential harm to minority speakers. One reporter brought up to me that Veritext has some involvement with a school in Maryland. I have even reported on its scholarship activities. I’m happy about those pro-steno activities. But at a time when 50% of our field, according to Ducker, is in California, Texas, Illinois, and New York, and while Veritext is working with BlueLedge, a company that has hooked its claws into national recruitment using Ed 2 Go, it remains clear where Veritext’s priorities are — expanding digital recruitment not as a supplement to our shortage, but at the direct expense of stenographic court reporters.

Telling consumers/attorneys that no stenographer is available while taking steps to alienate practicing reporters and undermining our industry’s intense recruitment efforts is just wrong. It’s like Burger King lighting cattle fields on fire and yelling about a beef patty shortage. The only difference is we would all immediately identify the arson as criminal, whereas here, if you hide the dishonest, anticompetitive, and potentially criminal behavior behind layers of dissolved companies and corporate paperwork, you get people defending the bad behavior. What would we do without Veritext? Probably be a lot better off!

Less importantly, Stenograph was getting cozy with BlueLedge as early as August 2021.

So let me add that to Stenograph’s PR problem. We need to boycott the company until it sells for stenography and voice writing only. We want no more expansion of digital court reporting. Keep hard on that line and it will happen. Consider Stenograph an arms dealer. It thinks it will sit there and sell to both sides. Except, in this very particular case, our field of stenographers has far more customers and most of our money is earned as opposed to being “borrowed” from investors. We are in a much stronger position financially even if we believe digital reporting has more actual dollars down on it. A lot of people in our field became CaseCAT trainers. They’re killing your industry and income to build digital. I want to grow stenography so you have more business. So even the CaseCAT trainers have a reason to stand up in defiance here, let alone the rest of us.

Succinctly, the money being sunk into digital reporting is money that investors will be expecting back. When it does not make the returns promised, and we have good reason to suspect it won’t because of companies like VIQ Solutions giving us a window into digital reporting financials ($10 million in losses June 2021), the faucet will turn off. All the companies relying on investor cash flow instead of company profit will start to decline. It is in our best interest as a profession to take the power of our good money away from it. The digital money will dry up on its own. If Stenograph is smart, it will cave to our demands. If it is not smart, we can crowdfund, buy it when it goes bankrupt, and put its employees back to work for us like I’m sure many of them want to be. We can even divvy up what Dutta’s salary would’ve been and give them a raise.

Stenograph, at this point, is relying on our nostalgia of it being “our company” and assuming we will not turn our backs on it. I’ve got some nostalgia of my own. There’s a scene in the original StarCraft that sums up my feelings well. Acting predictably is our enemy. We predictably divide and conquer ourselves time and again. Stand together on this one and watch things roll our way. It’s really that simple.

“An illusion? Are you afraid to face me, Templar?”
“So long as you continue to be so predictable, O Queen, I need not face you at all. You are your own worst enemy.”

This continues to be a profound moment in our field where we must choose between loyalty to each other and loyalty to companies whispering “trust us, trust us” while they systematically work to reduce our numbers and undermine our judicial system for profit. Not the hardest decision in history.

US Legal Terrified of Stenonymous, Donates $50k to Project Steno

In an effort to obfuscate its fraud and deceit, US Legal donated $50,000 to Project Steno on Friday.

Much like with Stenograph, I applaud donations to pro steno causes. But let me just say that it is an incredible coincidence that all of the entities undermining stenographers have ditched NCRF and NCRA for Project Steno. The only people that might benefit from NCRA being weaker? Digital reporting CEOs.

At this juncture, I don’t have any information that Project Steno is doing anything bad. It’s my assumption that it’s being used. The appeasement of stenographers has been a corporate tactic for a while. Given how US Legal and Stenograph both donate to Project Steno whenever there’s any modicum of political pressure applied to them, I think it’s safe to say that that’s what these “big ticket” donations are.

Just to put into perspective what stenographers are generally asked to give, NCRF asks its angels to donate about $1,000. If you make $100,000 that’s 1% of your income. If you make $200,000 that’s 0.5% of your income. US Legal is estimated by Owler to make about $100 million. 50,000 is about 0.05% of its income if Owler is accurate. To put this into better perspective, this would be like celebrating me donating $50.

So unless we are ready to celebrate me donating $50 on the same level as that $50,000 donation, we shouldn’t be celebrating US Legal. Remember that US Legal is the company that bought and destroyed StenoTrain and has advertised for a digital reporter on LinkedIn every day since I accused it of fraud, including the day of its donation. This is the company that, on multiple occasions, attempted to frame the stenographer shortage as impossible to solve despite clear evidence and math saying that it could be solved. The donation is a hedge or hedging strategy. When they fail to eradicate stenography, they hope they will get to turn around and point to their Project Steno donations to “prove” their good will towards the profession. They’re probably even relying on me doing what I usually do, backing off, and saying “wait, let’s see.”

Let me surprise everybody. Keep the pressure on hard! I repeat my words yesterday. If your profession was going extinct, they wouldn’t give a damn about you. You hold all the cards. Keep pointing out to attorneys that they are being defrauded. You can use materials by NCRA STRONG and Protect Your Record Project to do it. Digital proponents really whine when we use the STRONG stuff.

“Waaah, the stenographers we were trying to lie out of existence didn’t lie down and die like we told them to.”

Keep starving the company pushing so hard to starve you and your families. The company does not deserve your mercy or the benefit of your doubt. The company’s Chief Strategy Officer had no problem bullying the women in our field or others. The company had no problem underpaying stenographers. The company had no problem charging unreasonable rates for services. We need to have no problem burying the company under the weight of its own dishonest, incompetent, and arguably illegal behavior.

I must urge colleagues not to relent. Every time you share my video or research and every conversation you have about it leads to a world where US Legal can no longer ignore its bad behavior. From potential collusion to operating in a state where it has been inactive for two decades, US Legal has a lot to answer for.

Seriously, it’s been inactive in New York for 20 years. I’m still trying to figure out if it’s even allowed to do business here while in inactive status.

Screenshot taken 11/5/21