Turning Omissions Into Opportunity

We’re in an interesting time. Pretty much anywhere you look there are job postings for digital reporters, articles with headlines talking about our replacement, articles with headlines talking about our angst. Over time, brilliant articles from people like Eric Allen, Ana Fatima Costa, Angie Starbuck (bar version), and Stanley Sakai start to get buried or appear dated when, in actuality, not much has changed at all. They’re super relevant and on point. Unfortunately, at least for the time being, we’re going to have to use our professional sense, think critically, and keep spreading the truth about ourselves and the tech we use.

One way to do that critical thinking is to look squarely at what is presented and notice what goes unmentioned. For example, look back at my first link. Searching for digital reporting work, ambiguous “freelance” postings come up, meaning stenographer jobs are actually branded as “digital” jobs. District courts seeking a stenographer? Labeled as a digital job. News reporters to report news about court? Labeled as a digital job. No wonder there’s a shortage, we’re just labeling everything the same way and expecting people who haven’t spent four decades in this business to figure it out. In this particular instance, Zip Recruiter proudly told me there were about 20 digital court reporter jobs in New York, but in actuality about 90 percent were mislabeled.

Another way to do it is to look at contradictions in a general narrative. For example, we say steno is integrity. So there was an article from Lisa Dees that shot back and said, basically, any method can have integrity. Can’t argue there. Integrity is kind of an individual thing. But to get to the conclusion these things are equal, you have to ignore a lot of stuff that anyone who’s been working in the field a while knows. Stenography has a longer history and a stronger culture. With AAERT pulling in maybe 20 percent of what NCRA does on the regular, who has more money going into ethics education? Most likely stenographers. When you multiply the number of people that have to work on a transcript, you’re multiplying the risk of one of those people not having integrity. We’re also ignoring how digital proponents like US Legal have no problem going into a courtroom and arguing that they shouldn’t be regulated like court reporters because they don’t supply court reporting services. Even further down the road of integrity, we know from other digital proponents that stenography is the gold standard (thanks, Stenograph) and that the master plan for digital proponents is to use a workforce that is not highly trained. I will totally concede that these things are all from “different” sources, but they all point to each other as de facto experts in the field and sit on each other’s boards and panels. It’s very clear there’s mutual interest. So, again, look at the contradictions. “The integrity of every method is equal, but stenography is the gold standard, but we are going to use a workforce with less training.” What?

Let’s get to how to talk about this stuff, and for that, I’m going to leave an example here. I do follow the court reporting stuff that gets published by Legaltech News. There’s one news reporter, Victoria Hudgins, who has touched on steno and court reporting a few times. I feel her information is coming mostly from the digital proponents, so in an effort to provide more information, I wrote:

“Hi Ms. Hudgins. My name’s Christopher Day. I’m a stenographer in New York. I follow with great interest and admiration most of your articles related to court reporting in Legal Tech News [sic]. But I am writing today to let you know that many of the things being represented to you by these companies appear false or misleading. In the August 24 article about Stenograph’s logo, the Stenograph offices that you were given are, as best I can tell, a stock photo. In the September 11 article about court reporter angst, Livne, says our field has not been digitized, but that’s simply not true. Court reporter equipment has been digital for decades. The stenotype picture you got from Mr. Rando is quite an old model and most of us do not use those anymore. I’m happy to send you a picture of a newer model, or share evidence for any of my statements in this communication.

Our position is being misrepresented very much. We are not worried so much about the technology, we are more worried that people will believe the technology is ready for prime time and replace us with it without realizing that it is not. Livne kind of admitted this himself. In his series A funding, he or Verbit stated that the tech was 99 percent accurate. In the series B funding he said Verbit would not get rid of the human element. These two statements don’t seem very compatible.

How come when these companies are selling their ASR, it’s “99 percent” or “ready to disrupt the market,” but when Stanford studied ASR it was, at best, 80 percent accurate?

Ultimately, if the ASR isn’t up to the task, these are transcription companies. They know that if they continue to use the buzzwords, you’ll continue to publish them, and that will draw them more investors.

I am happy to be a resource on stenographic court reporting technology, its efficiency, and at least a few of the things that have been done to address the shortage. Please feel free to reach out.”

To be very fair, because of the limitations of the website submission form, she didn’t get any of the links. But, you know, I think this stands as a decent example of how to address news people when they pick up stories about us. They just don’t know. They only know what they’re told or how things look. There will be some responsibility on our part to share our years of experience and knowledge if we want fair representation in media. It’s the Pygmalion effect at work. Expectations can impact reality. That’s why these narratives exist, and that is why a countering narrative is so important. Think about it. When digital first came it was all about how it was allegedly cheaper. When that turned out not to be true, it became a call for stenographers to just see the writing on the wall and acknowledge there is a shortage and that there is nothing we can do about it. Now that’s turning out not to be true, we’re doing a lot about it, and all we have left is to let those outside the industry know the truth.

Addendum:

A reader reminded me that Eric Allen’s article is now in archive. The text may be found here. For context purposes, it came amid a series of articles by Steve Townsend, and is an excellent example of what I’m talking about in terms of getting the truth out there.

StenoKey, Stenographic Education Innovation?

On June 19, I had the privilege of getting to talk with Katiana Walton from StenoKey. I’ve mentioned her program from time to time right alongside things like NCRA’s A to Z, Project Steno, and Open Steno as major positives for this field, but I never had a good grasp of what StenoKey was about. The discussion we had changed all that, and now I get to give readers a synopsis of all the good StenoKey is looking to do for our field and our students.

StenoKey is looking to have a science-based approach to learning. There are many reasons students struggle in stenographic programs, and the way they learn might just be one of them. As it was explained to me, Ms. Walton could’ve opened a traditional school in Florida right now, but because she’s looking to innovate, she must prove to the State of Florida that her method works in order to have a school. That’s where this pilot program comes in.

Centered on Magnum theory, StenoKey utilizes Realtime Coach to grade students instantly. Instead of a traditional model where students learn theory and then move into speed, StenoKey seeks to introduce speed right from the beginning. Students are expected to reach introductory levels of speed in each chapter, as high as 60 to 120 words per minute, before moving on to the next chapter. Briefs relevant to each chapter are also incorporated so that students have an early understanding of the concept of briefing.

Through practice logs, Ms. Walton is able to gauge each student’s level of engagement. This way, students that practice often but have difficulty progressing can receive relevant advice on what to practice to. Students that are not practicing can see in writing that they’re not practicing enough to make meaningful progress. In addition, students have designated times to call in, ask questions about things they’ve encountered during a lesson or take, and receive guidance or support. In the words of Ms. Walton, it “helps build community.”

Similar to our brick-and-mortar institutions, StenoKey seeks to get students to stop looking at the stenotype keys. As early as week two, students are encouraged to stop looking down. The program, by design, acknowledges that five-minute takes may be harder for people who are just starting out. Each chapter has a syllabic 120 WPM test. At chapters 11 to 20, that test is a 2 minute, 140 WPM test. By chapter 41, students are expected to be taking five-minute takes at up to 180 WPM.

The overall goal is not just to reach a working speed of 225, but to have students working towards RMR-like speeds of up to 240 to 260 WPM. Numbers, long the bane of learning reporters, are baked into the program from chapter 12 onward. As it is not yet a school, the program does not offer “academics,” but it does offer one grammar rule every chapter to keep students’ transcription sharp. In addition, it gets into the finer points of realtime writing by explaining conflicts. Magnum theory is conflict free, but the lessons go further by teaching learners about “inconsequential conflicts,” or conflicts that can be spotted and corrected easily during editing on a regular deposition or job.

Asked about superstars in the program, one learner was said to have made it through chapter 12 in six hours. Ms. Walton’s nieces, 12 and 14, also attend the program, and have completed 9 chapters. Part of the success of the program seems attributable to in-depth error analysis. Students are encouraged to identify and analyze their mistakes, either in how they practice or how they write, and fix it. Students are also encouraged to read each other’s notes because sometimes students have an easier time pointing out and learning from others’ mistakes than their own. Asked about the biggest challenge of running such a program, Ms. Walton admitted that not every individual commits to the program. Some just don’t put forward as much effort as they expressed they would during their introduction interview.

StenoKey is looking at helping people with all different learning styles. For visual learners, each chapter has two videos,  a professional video and a “Katiana Teaches” video. The videos work together to give students an in-depth understanding of each chapter. Student feedback from each chapter also goes into tweaking the program to be more successful. Not just for students, StenoKey also has had two working reporters join the program in order to improve their realtime writing. In that sense, StenoKey can also be viewed as a Realtime Development Program. “Magnum Steno is not hard to understand. It’s very systematic” says Walton. She explained that writers do not have to change their whole theory to adopt some Magnum and shorten their writing. “Look for what is holding you back in your writing. There are realtime reporters in every theory out there, and with the right mindset, you can be better.”

One might look at such an idea and wonder if there’s a way to get involved. To that end, Ms. Walton says she’s looking into the possibility of bringing on assistants for administering StenoKey and getting more people engaged with it. She may also be seeking a programmer to develop readback tools or materials.

At that point, Katiana had to go and counsel her program’s attendees. Before we hung up, I was able to get that the pilot program is currently $200 a month and always online. Currently, she’s looking at the possibility of having a longer, more valuable subscription model, and weighing options out. Overall, I think that the idea of fully integrating speed and theory is a valuable one. If students are able to hit working speeds faster than in the past, our shortage becomes a bad memory for the next three decades and beyond. I would urge associations and schools to keep an eye on developments here. If the results start coming in that this is a better method, it may be worth putting some money down on the expansion or adoption of this type of educational innovation. From a distance, I’ve read a little about Walton’s Lady Steno Speed Clinic. I’ve seen the testimonials. I know her heart’s in the right place when it comes to this field. I hope we’ll see similar success and glowing reviews for StenoKey!

June Jettisons 2020 (Jobs Post)

Time to jettison whatever’s not working for us and have a look at the jobs posted around the internet for June 2020. Having a hard time this year? Consider finding a mentor! There are many mentoring programs available, and even Facebook groups conducting mentoring sessions. There are lots of general job listings to wade through at both NCRA and USCRA. NCRA’s also looking for a content specialist!

In the New York area, we still have the New York grand jury reporter posting up. The DCAS test schedule for reporter/stenographers has not yet been updated. The State’s Verbatim Reporter 1 position remains posted, though it’s a little unclear to me on whether they’re actually hiring. The statewide court reporter provisional posting remains posted by our state court system. Michael DeVito’s contact information is at the bottom of the application. If you are looking to become a court reporter for our courts in New York State, you should contact him. I had one very brief e-mail exchange with him months ago, and it left me with a great impression. Every prospective reporter hire with questions should make an effort to contact him. Court reporter is one of maybe six titles that have been posted throughout the pandemic, and in my view, it outlines the need for stenographic court reporters, even if there are not immediate hirings. There has been no civil service test posting, but it’s worth checking the exams page every month if court is the dream job! In our federal courts, the Southern District has a posting up. The federal judiciary jobs page shows New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, and South Carolina all have spots for stenographic reporters.

Many have asked about CART. I have a lack of familiarity with CART, but I do know there’s a CART provider directory. Many are current or past practitioners. Many are out there and willing to answer questions when asked. Let’s put it this way, if you knock on 100 doors, at least a few are going to open. The world is at your fingertips in exploring this wonderful side to reporting and stenography.

Every month I bring jobs posts. I can’t give people the jobs. I can’t post all the jobs. But if one person walks away with an idea, or a place to search, or a plan to move forward in their career, it’s worth it! I encourage people to continue sharing and promoting all the different ways to find work.

 

Expedite Legal, Enhancing Coverage Nationwide?

Everyone is moving faster than ever into new solutions to problems. Adaptation of technology has spiked like never before. There are many hyped technologies out there that promise the world and don’t deliver. Then there are real companies with a tangible product. After taking the time out to review Expedite’s public-facing materials and after having a brief exchange with Expedite’s CEO, Eve Barrett, I am convinced that Expedite is among the companies out there that has a real product. In this case, it’s also a unique product.

We can think of Expedite as the Uber for legal service professionals. It’s helping link providers, namely court reporters and interpreters, with customers, namely courts, lawyers, agencies. I learned that the product is set up to be flexible. People can register as both a customer and a provider. This means that traditional reporting agencies can make use of Expedite to get coverage or get work. This means that independent court reporters can use it the exact same way.

A post I came across on Expedite’s blog, the Docket, sums business up well. Be willing to stick your neck out a little bit. In my view, there is great importance attached to being a skeptic, but we cannot allow our skepticism to hamper our willingness to try new things. I had touched briefly on Expedite’s model in my shortage solutions series. There was some honest skepticism there. But in normal times, we were experiencing a shortage of reporters partially as a result of the disjointed state of the market. There is no central marketplace to just log in and find a reporter. It’s not like the stock market where you can get immediate data on every business out there. There are a lot of tools out there for finding reporters or finding work. Why not add Expedite to your arsenal?

In my exchange with Ms. Barrett, she pointed me right to the Provider FAQ, blog, and vlog. I saw there’s a provider referral program. If a provider refers a provider and both get verified, there’s a bonus. I asked about whether the same was available for providers that refer customers to the program. It was confirmed that anyone can refer anyone, and the bonus shows up in the next job taken with Expedite. This is a smart way to get people using a nationwide app, and I think a robust referral program is a smart move.

The website and app are both available for customers. The app is available on Apple Store and Google Play. The overall message is one of courage and commitment to us. We’ve all been to the recent educational webinars. Presenters have talked about letting go of fear, adapting, making changes to enhance our businesses. I think Expedite is a major enhancement to many reporting businesses.  I asked pretty bluntly if there’s anything she’d tell reporters in the industry, or even people outside the industry. I’ll end with part of the response I got, as it says all it needs to say about the power of the individual. “My goal with Expedite was to help save the profession by alleviating the critical shortage. I also wanted to create a new business model for court reporters whereby they could work more efficiently, keep a higher percentage, receive payment faster, and market their services on a free platform. I’m just one reporter trying to solve the problems that have plagued our industry for decades.”

How Organizations & Associations Work

Our lives are built on perception. The perception that someone must do more, or that someone does too much, or that someone is doing something wrongly or rightly can be very powerful. Perceptions can change outcomes. We see it in social movements. We see it in the Pygmalion effect. Think of the power of your own opinion. If you do not like a store, you do not shop there, and that store effectively loses the money it would have made off of you. Some voice that opinion, some vote silently with their wallet, and others buy away. All of these contribute to the reality of that store’s situation. While you read, continue to keep in mind the power of your opinion.

When I was younger, I viewed associations, unions, and groups of people, collectives, as inherently powerful. In that perception, I also expected them to be wise and knowing. “They should be able to fix this. They should be able to fix that. They should know what to do.” Perhaps others believe as I once did, that the association and members work together to create things. Perhaps some believe the members support a group and therefore the group should be able to do everything by itself. There is probably not a simple graphic to perfectly illustrate how everything works. Again, though, there is one overarching truth, the power of your opinion.

Think of something in your life that you wanted and you now have. Did it magically appear in your lap? It’s likely that there were steps you had to take to get what you wanted. It’s likely that there were “vehicles” you drove to get there. Maybe the “vehicle” to something you bought with money was a good job. Maybe the “vehicle” you drove to a good relationship was a dating service, or a night at a bar, or walking down the street in a squid hat. Maybe the “vehicle” you drove to being a successful person was forming good habits, strengthening weaknesses, or playing off strengths. In the context of this discussion, associations, unions, and organizations are all vehicles to get where we want to go.

One jab that large organizations and corporations get is their usually slower reaction. This has to do with organizational structure. When a group is formed with one decision maker or very few decision makers, that group can respond to things at the will of that sole decision maker. A great example is this blog. Not a single person needs to be consulted before something is posted. However, in order to ensure that budgets are spent wisely, many organizations are built up from a board structure. The nonprofit “sector” runs heavily off of volunteer boards. A board of directors is typically a group of people that oversee the management of the entity. Think of them as the manager’s boss. In the case of our stenographic associations, these tend to be professionals from our stenographic community. Larger associations can afford to pay a management team under the board’s direction to deal with legal obligations, filings, and member questions. Even in larger organizations, the team may be very large, with an executive director and many people under him or her, or it may be a very small one-warrior management team. Smaller organizations may have a board that has to devote their own time to doing these things and act as both board and management. Ultimately, think of a board of directors as a group of people coming together to vote on the best way to direct an organization and its funding.

How do you fit in? Maybe you’re not a board member. Maybe you have no desire to be a board member. Maybe you’re “just” a member. You don’t control management, so where does a guy like me come off telling you your opinion has power?  In the association and union structure of an organization, the members give the board and management power and resources to act. Very often there is a constitution and/or bylaws that dictate how someone can run for a board position, how someone can propose an amendment to the constitution and bylaws, or how someone can participate with management and the board as a volunteer. Any member can contribute a great deal to the organization as a whole. If members dislike the way something is being run in an association structure, they have the power to replace the board by running against them. If members do not feel the mission of an organization is being accurately carried out by management, they have the power to submit changes. Association management generally has a duty to follow the law of their country and the bylaws of an organization. This all amounts to a great deal of power being given to members of large organizations. The importance of the association structure is in its ability to be “owned” by the members. Again, for example, let’s say that you log onto the Stenonymous Facebook group and you want to post an article about birds. Let’s say I say “I would prefer not to have posts like this on my group.” There’s no mechanism for you to take over and make it okay to post about birds. In an association structure, if the members want posts about birds, there’s a mechanism to override management and post about birds.

How can one enhance their pull as a member? In many organizational structures, there are groups of volunteer members dedicated to a task handed down by the board and/or management. These are often called committees and/or subcommittees. Committees do not have a direct vote in what the association does or what the board decides, but they are charged with giving input and/or creating things that can be used by the association for its mission. Committee work also helps teach members to work together constructively in a team so that if they ever do decide to run for board membership, they are used to working cohesively with others that may have very different opinions on the “right thing to do.”

Now we get down to the greatest power members have. We are the boots on the ground. We see what is occurring in our workplaces, out in the streets, and on our social media. I’ve been a proud union member of two different unions in the last 5 years. Occasionally, when I hear or see something strange, I’ll let a union person know, or I’ll ask a union person a question. Why? It’s not about getting people in trouble. It’s not about being more friendly with my union leader. It’s not about being a busybody or a know-it-all. It’s not about scoring points at the workplace. It’s about realizing that these management and director teams are human beings. They are not omnipotent giant floating brains.  Often, they have not heard about what we are sharing with them, or they have not thought about it in the way we have presented. Imagine you are now John or Jane Doe, CEO of Your Corporation. Your boots on the ground are your employees and your customers. If someone’s lying about your company behind your back, do you expect your boots on the ground to mention it to you? We are a community. Like any community, we each have great power in protecting and growing the community.

Over the last decade, I have seen something startling in the way that we view our leaders, and sometimes how our leaders view us. For a time, I know people in power were dismissive.  I have friends and colleagues whose concerns and opinions fell on deaf ears, whether that was management or board members. Those friends and colleagues voted with their wallet and they backed away from the association structure. Those deaf ears are long gone or have gone on to support associations that work against our community’s best interest, and yet still there is a pervasive attitude of “what have you done for me lately?” There is a disowning of the community’s triumphs when they come from people who aren’t in our tribe. There is a strong push towards factionalism. This divides our house. This forces us to spend time and energy fighting each other. With the inherent power of members of a community described, and the reasons for an association structure described, it’s my hope that we’ll spend less time beating up on our allies and their organizational structures. There has been a great push to platform each other in recent months. This pandemic showed us that unity is achievable. So if there’s somebody out there that doesn’t get it; if there’s someone that has no clue how powerful they are or why certain things operate the way they do, it’s up to us all to let them know, and in that order. You got this, now go get it.

Stenopalooza was POWerful

It’s going to be old news to all who were able to attend, but yesterday’s Stenopalooza was great. I can only speak to the courses I was able to attend, but I noticed something very special about all of the presentations. All of them blended together with nice and overarching or connected themes of releasing fear, making smart and data-driven decisions, adapting, and learning new skills. The videos of these are going to be available to people that registered, as far as I understand, and it’s impossible to touch on every topic we hit during the 8 hours of coursework, but maybe putting this out there will encourage people who didn’t register this time around to give the next webinar or CEU session a try. At the very least, take a glance at the topics and see if they’re relevant to you.

The day started off with Max Curry, NCRA’s president. He talked about letting go of fear and making smart choices. He discussed introversion, his push to overcome introversion for his professional life and career, and how that positively impacted his life. This hits home for a lot of us. There are a lot of introverts in this field. We don’t like public speaking. We don’t like marketing. We just want to do our jobs and go home. Through Max’s story, we can understand that letting go of fear and pushing past those limitations can broaden our skill base and make us better workers and leaders.  Next, I attended President-Elect Christine Phipps’s “Turning Coronavirus From Pandemic to Opportunity and Marketing Through Adversity.” Almost seamlessly, this presentation built on a theme of making smart choices. The central theme was seeing this as a time to pivot and become the person and resource your clients go to for information and service.

Then we got to the NCRA Strong POW session. I’ve been a volunteer with NCRA’s Strong committee for months now. The work that they put in prior to my joining was extraordinary. Sue Terry, immediate past president of the NCRA, introduced the Strong committee and talked a little about the work we’ve been doing. She encouraged members to research and ask questions about some of the terms and things they’d be hearing during the session. I got to have a conversation with audio forensic expert Edward Primeau. We got to briefly touch on some very important topics, like how having an objective person in the room  helps add integrity to the process of making a record, and how valuable his services are in authenticating audio. At the end of my presentation, I asked whether members would have the courage to ask questions they needed the answers to, and the stage was set for stellar presentations from Cathy Penniston & Alan Peacock, who dove into how people could educate themselves on advocacy materials and products that are found all throughout NCRA’s site, including the Strong resource library. Kristin Anderson & Rich Germosen talked about advocacy efforts they’ve made in official and freelance positions, and gave examples of grassroots advocacy. They made clear and reinforced Cathy & Alan’s theme that everyone can step up and be an advocate. Rich said something that resonated with me on a personal level, “I’m not much of a talker,” when it comes to clients. That reinforces one thing. It doesn’t matter where your strengths are, anyone can make a huge difference. There was a STRONG finish by Strong Chair Phyllis Craver-Lykken, Elizabeth Harvey, and Dineen Squillante. They discussed finding an audience, making connections, and again, gave real-world examples for attendees. We put together a social discussion group on Facebook, Steno Strong, for people to hop online and talk to us. Just do us a big favor and answer the admission questions. It’s just a way of determining who really wants to be in the group and who got caught in a mass invite.

We moved into State of the Industry by NCRA Executive Director Dave Wenhold, Max Curry, and Christine Phipps. Common themes were diversification of work and being able to pivot business and plan for times of stress. The Paycheck Protection Program was discussed alongside the fact that some associations, including our NCRA, have contracts for conventions that require them to attempt to go forward in good faith despite the current COVID-19 outbreak. Dave made it very clear that members should stay tuned for more news about the 2020 convention.  Next up, Alan Peacock & Heidi Thomas jumped in with a fantastic CART / Captioning Intro for the Court Reporter presentation. They discussed mainly broadcast captioning, the need to get the correct words and meaning out to the end user, the people who need the access captioners are providing, and even provided attendees with a list of offensive words that captioners do not want coming out on the screen by accident! I do a good amount of mentoring, and from time to time, my mentees seek information on captioning. All I can say to “old” and “new” reporters is you want to get on webinars like the ones that Heidi & Alan put together, because it’s going to help you, or it’s going to help you help somebody else.

The rest of the afternoon and evening kept up the energy. There was a presentation by NCRA Board Member and past NYSCRA president Meredith Bonn on the Power of the Positive Attitude. Meredith talked a little about how our frame of mind can change outcomes, increase productivity, and proceeded to give attendees a whole host of ways to get themselves thinking positively. Everyone in attendance got suggestions on music, videos, and activities to keep themselves positive and motivated. Motivated by Meredith’s presentation, coursetakers then got to join Lights, Camera, Zoom with Debbie Dibble, Lynette Mueller, and Sue Terry. People got to learn about optimizing their internet connection, fine-tuning their settings for streaming and remote work, and captioning without an encoder. Denise Hinxman and Kelly Linkowski finished our day with Captioning Facebook Live. They talked about bringing our services online to people who may not traditionally use it, like churches or Facebook users. They dove into using OBS Open Broadcast Software to help stream and connect people to captioning and access.

At that point, my computer decided to take itself offline, so I completely missed the Stenopalooza remote social. Maybe it’s best we don’t write about what happens at stenographer socials.

I could never do justice to the hours of work and dedication of every presenter. I’ve given a short summary here just to get people thinking about the next time they have a chance to sign up for continuing education workshops or see a class they’re on the fence about taking. I would say go for it. This was a huge confidence booster for me as member, seeing how NCRA staff put together this session, connecting volunteer and presenters with members and nonmembers that signed up for the betterment of our whole profession. The one recurring theme is that our future is largely in our hands, and by remaining positive, educating ourselves, and educating the public, we all have powers to be agents of change and pillars of community. This event truly brought out the grassroots nature of advocacy as a whole and association volunteers. The more I learn about association structure and nonprofit entity organization, the more I realize just how tricky the whole thing is, and just how talented the people who get involved in nonprofits or advocacy efforts are. I have to say I’m grateful to reporters who are able to open their schedules for advocacy and their wallets for contributions. It’s no easy task, especially at a time when many are hurting financially. Thanks to all of you for encouraging so many reporters to jump in and contribute however they can. Coming off the Stenopalooza high, I know we all can make a difference.

April Applications 2020 (Jobs Post)

Obviously, this goes up during the COVID-19 outbreak, and many of my colleagues or their families are impacted health-wise or economically. It’s serious stuff. Some of us have lost people or been in danger of losing people. This is a time when mostly everything has slowed down, and for many it may not feel like there is an end in sight. That said, I assure you there is an end in sight, and when this is all over, we’re going to need to pick up the pieces, move forward, and help each other move forward.

There’s a lot of fear and a disruption in our normal lives. So to keep with some semblance of normality, I’m going to move forward with a jobs post. Keep in mind that with this outbreak, many places are running on a skeleton crew, so they may not be actually hiring right now, but when things start to speed up again, stenographic reporters are needed all over the city, state, and country. They’re needed outside the country too, but I’ll let the experts handle that. Remember that if you’re a student or a newer reporter, there are also programs out there designed to find you a mentor. Mentors are no doubt having difficulties too, but they may be able to offer advice or ideas nonetheless.

Running along, NCRA has a good number of job listings up for reporters. They’re also looking for a certification & testing program manager. I know here in New York we have some reporters who are extremely gifted and passionate about certification and testing, so if that’s something you think you’d put down the machine for, take a look. Looking at the federal judiciary jobs page, there are openings in New York, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Iowa, Missouri, Massachusetts, West Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Federal courts all over the country want stenographic court reporters.

The NYS statewide provisional court reporter application remains open to anyone with the guts to step up and give reporting for the state judiciary a chance. The courts in this state need people that care about the record and want to do a good job. If you’re looking for a steady job with paid time off, this is a first foot in the door while we wait for the civil service exam together. Before this outbreak and mess, I had a brief e-mail exchange with Michael DeVito, whose contact information is on the bottom of that application. Paraphrasing what he said, any employment prospects are encouraged to contact him. You have someone in the system to reach out to in addition to the unions that represent New York City court reporters and senior court reporters.

Last, but certainly not least, the Bronx DA has a posted position for grand jury stenographer. The DCAS Reporter/Stenographer test remains postponed.

Try to remain positive. I know there has been a marked drop in freelance work.  You are not alone. At the beginning of this, several of NYSCRA’s officers and board members, Joshua Edwards, Diane Salters, Karen Santucci, and Dominick Tursi, got together to show our community an example of a remote deposition. The full video is available. Many members asked additional questions, which I tried to address via this video, and wrote some more information in the description box. If you’re a NYSCRA member or a potential member, don’t be afraid to send e-mails to board members. We can’t wave a magic wand and make everything better, but we can try to use the association’s resources that we all pay into in a responsible way. Remember that you are integral to those resources, and that even if you can’t get a membership right now, you can still throw in support later when work starts booming again. And we are not alone. Many state associations, and the NCRA, have been promoting ways to get reporters back to earning a living for themselves and their family. Many reporters have independently taken the time to host webinars or put up videos to help each other. Many CAT trainers are scheduling remote appointments to help people with their software. As an example, I personally follow Dineen Squillante and Anthony Frisolone. Some help is free, some help is for fee, and the bottom line is that we’re going to get through this together.

 

 

Magnificent March 2020

Every month on Stenonymous, we bring you job opportunities. This month we’re going to do something different and take all the job opportunities away. Just kidding. Before I start giving boring sermons about the importance of mentoring, let’s start with an announcement I saw from court reporter and Vice President of Local 1070, Renee Belmar. I reached out to her, and she had one message she wanted me to add, “Let them know we need reporters.” If you ever had doubts about signing up for the next civil service test, it’s time to cast them aside! We need you.

Moving along, an anonymous source reported the following in early February: Kings County grand jury tested on February 4, 2020. The participants were made to write the test on the Kings County DA’s equipment and struggled with it. Queens GJ will be seeking reporters soon or is currently. Special Narcotics may be doing testing later this year. Keep going, jobseekers! If you don’t get it one time, you’ve got it the next. Progress is slow. Success is cumulative. On the flip side, I get what you’re going for, KCDA, but maybe having people write on their own writers for the test would lead to slightly better results. It can be really hard to take down stuff on a machine that’s new to you or in a different position than usual. For example, I did an interview recently where they had my machine propped up on boxes, and it was a bit different to write that way.

Please note that NCRA keeps a job board. It’s far better than my monthlies and might just give you a gateway to your dream job. If you want a break from steno life and want to jump into advocating for sten, check out career opportunities at NCRA.

With that, and more in line with our regularly scheduled programming, DANY, KCDA, Richmond, and Special Narcotics have no official postings. Bronx’s District Attorney has still got a posting up for a grand jury reporter. Queens DA’s website is still under construction, so jobseekers might want to call into the grand jury bureau or HR and see if any openings are expected soon. To my knowledge, there is no citywide DCAS test before April 2020.

The statewide provisional posting for court reporter is still active. If you are somebody who is preparing for the civil service test, the provisional opening is a great way to start your career with the state system. Don’t be fooled by the fact that they’re talking about opening testing or filing in Fall 2020, whether it’s posted to the exams page 2020 or 2021, it’s coming, and you can get ahead of the game by practicing now.

Please know there are openings for federal court in the Eastern District of New York and Southern District of New York, including a whole bunch of other states. This is a great time to be a stenographer seeking work. You’ve got the skill, now you’ve just got to reach out and grab the work.

As always, feel free to like, comment with more jobs, or even promote your agency below. Keep posting jobs to social media. Helping people find the work is one of the ways to beat shortage. We can only do that together.

Addendum:

The Eastern District posting closed on February 28th. I write many posts a few days ahead of time and use an automated scheduler to post them. Great example of why it’s best for people looking for work to keep these links and check often.

Trust Issues, Brought To You By Veritext

There was a pretty serious open letter posted by Veritext this month. It basically goes into their stance on digital reporting. I try to be fair in all things, but looking at Veritext’s history, and the general direction of the field, I don’t really find the letter reliable. I’ve reported on the good that Veritext has done with offering scholarships, and I hope that continues. I hope it doesn’t turn out like US Legal and Stenotrain, where it was apparently bought, paraded around for a bit, and mothballed.

Given all I know, I can only assume that there are people at the company with different directions or management styles. Beginning of last year, Veritext stood proud for steno and wouldn’t cross the picket lines in California. That was followed by the revelation that they were coaching clients to amend their deposition notices to allow for digital reporters. Almost immediately after that, their then VP of Sales wrote a very pro digital article that got shared wildly on social media before its deletion, and Veritext response was, more or less, that it was done by a “former employee.” I think it’s infinitely more likely that the culture at Veritext at the time was looking at digital. Realizing that they can’t compete with tens of thousands of stenographers, they backed down.

I view Veritext through a lens of cynicism for all the above reasons. For a long time in this field it was rumored that digitals were being sent instead of reporters by various companies, and that was often denied. Then we started to have hard evidence of it, and the message pivoted to the shortage and how companies can do nothing about it, they just have to use digital. When grassroots groups of stenographers can start putting together things I could only dream of, and they can do that ostensibly faster than the million-dollar companies, there’s a willpower problem, not a resources problem.

Let’s push into the specifics of the Veritext letter for why it screams BS to me. When someone wants something from you, they play good cop, bad cop. The good cop starts out in the Veritext letter by saying how committed to court reporters they are and going on about how they provide more work to stenographers than blah, blah, blah. It’s very disarming language. The letter then pivots to the bad cop. Remember, stenographers, we have a shortage problem in the thousands! Disarmed, you, the reader, is then hit over the head with some purported factoids to fill you with a sense of hopelessness.

As best I can tell, most of what they state is extrapolated from the Ducker Report from 2013 or 2014 data. They don’t cite any sources at all, so the accuracy of the bad cop statements is tough to gauge. Yes, stenographers are looking at a bit of a battle. Over the next 13 years, a large percentage of this field will retire. Yes, there was a forecasted supply problem for court reporting. But let’s set the record straight. By far, the largest supply gap was California, which is also a state where the stenographers are best positioned to deal with the heavy burden of recruiting new talent. There are several reporting associations and independents who are going to fight the good fight to close the gap. Additionally, Ducker came before we had Project Steno, Open Steno was far smaller, NCRA’s A to Z didn’t exist yet, Katiana Walton’s Steno Key wasn’t being tried yet. Ducker was a good warning bell, and we listened.

This idea that our schools closing is a problem is laughable. I think it opens up the possibility for entrepreneurs to jump in and start schools or present new ideas. I also think it’s really shortsighted and maybe willfully ignorant to talk about steno schools without again mentioning that AAERT only has 4 or 5 approved schools. Said another way, if we want to only look at approved schools, we have six times the chance at filling the reporter shortage. Any gamblers in the audience? If your payout was roughly the same, would you bet on something that has a 1 out of 7 chance of winning or a 6 out of 7 chance of winning? Bet sten, people. Stenographers, be encouraged to recruit people and tell them about our work, that is how this field will survive and thrive. What we do today will change the outcome 13 years from today. Our action or inaction writes this story.

I have no idea if Veritext reads my work, but if I could give them one piece of advice it would be to stop waffling around this issue, look at the numbers as they are and not as they want them to be, and see that as long as stenographers don’t completely drop the ball our prevalence and resurgence is borderline inexorable. Take advantage of that. If you’re seen to be a company that is actually on our side and not just hedging, you’ve got thousands who probably wouldn’t mind taking their work through you. If you keep down this road of dishonesty and lack of commitment, you’ve got tens of thousands of heavy hitter competitors. Stop trying to convince us with “there’s nothing we can do” while throwing resources into building digital reporting. Nobody’s fooled. Even your most loyal stenographer resources don’t buy that there’s nothing you can do. The famous cliche is the people you step on going up the ladder are the same faces you see when you take a fall. Anything less than commitment to the stenographic court reporting community is going to lead to a fall, we won’t catch you, and it’ll cost the shareholders big time.

Addendum:

This site and its public face as of March 2020 are a good indicator of why stenographers have a hard time trusting. We can get all the open letters in the world about loving stenography, but in the end we really need companies to put down those resources they’re throwing out the window for digital into our field.

Eastern District NY Hiring! 2/13/20

I usually do my job posts in the beginning of the month, but sometimes jobs come along and it’d be a tragedy not to share. I’m told that Eastern District will be hiring. That’s federal court in New York. I know a few past, current, and probably future district court reporters, and let’s just say they’re good people and it’s a good place to work. Especially in the future, when you’re there!

For this one, you’ll need an RPR and you’ll need to reach out to Anthony Frisolone. I do not know if this posting is going up on the federal judiciary jobs page, so don’t wait, write Anthony today!