Stenograph’s Phoenix Won’t Rise From the Ashes

There are two ways to handle the November 4 STTI podcast with Anir Dutta, president of Stenograph. I can go point-by-point and try to poke at every little gripe I have, or I can go “big picture,” give people a rough outline, and let people decide for themselves. But first, let me just point out how obvious it is that STTI is a digital court reporting marketing tool. It’s November 2021, they’ve been around for two years, and they have one podcast. Now let’s compare that to a real field. Anna Mar’s Steno Talk first launched in March and is already on Season 2. Shaunise Day’s Confessions of a Stenographer also has done about 30x the content in the time it’s taken STTI to do one. It seems very strange that the “declining, shifting” industry has so much more content. Maybe there’s a lot more to talk about in an actual industry with actual news.

Now let’s do some big picture work. Artificial intelligence, AI, in its current form, is easy to understand. In brief, programmers use a recipe or instructions called an algorithm to tell a computer what to do. The computer is then fed lots of data. In automatic speech recognition, this data might be people speaking paired with accurate or semi-accurate transcriptions. Simply put, the algorithm tells the computer to go through the data and make future decisions based on patterns. Luckily for us stenographers, real life does not adhere to perfect patterns. Investors and companies that trust computers to make them money off of AI have a big chance of failure. Gartner predicted that 85% of AI business solutions would fail by 2022. We now have a real-life example of this. Zillow was using algorithms to predict the housing market. The value (market capitalization) of Zillow’s shares just plummeted $35 billion. Automatic speech recognition, ASR, which is AI for “hearing” and “transcribing” speech, has much larger companies than Zillow working on it. IBM is one of those companies, and for comparison, their market capitalization is, as of writing, about $103 billion. In a 2020 study of IBM, Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, companies with a combined market capitalization (value) of $8.873 trillion, the ASR was 25% to 80% accurate depending on who was speaking. My argument? If these behemoths haven’t figured this out, nobody else is close.

What is Stenograph’s answer to that? They mention in the podcast that they created the engine that their automatic speech recognition is running off of. This is meant to assure the listener that though there is clear science and data that suggests there’s no chance in hell Stenograph’s automatic speech recognition is better than anyone else’s, you should just try it, because there’s no risk to you — you only pay for it if you use it. They know that if they can get you to try it, some of you will experience post-purchase rationalization and keep using it even if it’s not very good. We, as consumers, need to be honest with ourselves. ASR is open source. Anyone can play around with it for free, customize it, and sell their version of it. Whatever Stenograph’s amazing programmers have cooked up is much more likely to be a tweaking or reworking of what is already available than a bona fide original work.

The podcast supports my assertion. It’s heavily laden with corporate propaganda techniques. Some common propaganda examples used generally in tech sales:

  1. Fear appeals: Keep up with the technology or get left behind! Buy! Buy! Buy! OR ELSE.
  2. Bandwagon: If you’re not paying for support, you’re not supporting the profession. EVERYONE must have this.
  3. Name-calling: You don’t like TECHNOLOGY? Luddite! YOUR PROFESSION WILL GO THE WAY OF THE HORSE AND BUGGY, HAHAHA.
  4. Card stacking: Our product is new, and wonderful, and we’ve put a lot of time and effort into it. But we are going to forget to mention that it would hurt minority speakers and allow large private equity companies to offshore your jobs with impunity.
  5. Glittering generalities: Think buzzwords. Increase in productivity. Custom-built engine. If you don’t know exactly what something means, the salesperson does not want you to question it.
  6. Transference: This takes someone’s good feelings about something and tries to transfer it to the company or product. Anir did this during the podcast when he said in the future technology will be “democratized.” We live in a republic that loves the concept of democracy. This is so powerful that when I heard Anir say it, I felt good. Good feelings make it harder to remember the bad things people do to us. It’s not really that different from any abusive relationship, it’s just a business relationship.
  7. Ad nauseam: Repeat the same message over and over. If no one stands in your way, it becomes truth. For example, did you know technology is getting better every day? I guess someone forgot to tell that to whatever technology powers Stenograph customer service. Or perhaps technology is not getting better every day and that is a story we are sold ad nauseam.

I do not believe these things to be inherently evil or wrong. A sale is a sale. But when salespeople are used as instruments of ignorance, the wielder has gone too far.

On the topic of tools, some have pointed to our field’s adoption of audio sync and how that was widely hated and is now ubiquitous. Let me go on record and say audio sync hurt our field. Agencies started telling my generation of reporters “don’t interrupt, just let the audio catch it.” We trained an entire generation to sit there like potted plants while testimony was lost. No wonder so many from my generation left the field. They never developed the crucial skill of communicating our need to get every word. Dealing with the very simple skill of asking for a repeat became a harrowing and dreadful experience. More than that, audio sync kills productivity. In a dense layout, my transcription time is somewhere in the ballpark of 20 pages an hour. I used to use audio sync, and on a bad day, my transcription time was probably half that. I doubled my productivity by completely rejecting the “new” technology. I don’t disparage people that use audio sync, it’s a tool in our arsenal. Almost every reporter I know uses it to some degree. But beyond our post-purchase rationalization of “it is a wonderful tool for us,” I have not seen empirical evidence or reliable data that suggests it improved productivity or profit. It made us feel better because we could let some stuff go, and now it’s being weaponized to say “see, that worked out okay! This will too!”

On or about November 2, 2021, I wrote to Anir Dutta via snail mail. A copy will be downloadable below. I was very honest about my intentions. Stenograph had a chance to stop the boycott and didn’t even try.

Maybe its trainers should sue the company for the lost income experienced during the boycott. There’s federal law against false advertising in 15 USC Section 1125. Seems to me that by continuing to press the ASR to consumers against available data and evidence, Stenograph has set itself and its independent trainers up for a massive loss. Stenograph is also potentially cutting into the earnings of its customers by pushing its ASR as a productivity booster when it may very well turn out to be a productivity killer. So if the company continues down this path and finds itself facing lawsuits, you read it here first.

Just to drive home my point about tech sales, I created a computer program that produces thousands of transcript pages a minute. The program code and a sample transcript are available for download.

Then I announced to the world that my brand new program could do transcripts faster than every stenographer in the country. None of you can disprove that. It’s true.

Tell your clients $1 per transcript. This is the situation we are all living together. Caveat emptor.

Black Friday Sale — Verbit News for Free

Thanks to a posting by Cassandra Caldarella from Cover Crow, I stumbled across a November 23 article by Verbit. They’ve got another round of funding (series E), and the valuation is upward of a billion dollars. But before my general critique and news, let me just share that I shared all we’ve uncovered with the author of that November 23 article, Rhys Dipshan. Verbit claims it serves the court reporting industry.

“Verbit Secures $250 Million Series E Funding With Plans for Europe Expansion” 11/23/21

I object. In reality, the court reporting industry largely rejects Verbit. It’s only die-hard digital proponents like Kentuckiana and shops mired in controversy like US Legal Support that continue to support Verbit’s revenue stream, ostensibly through business-to-business transactions. The mainstay of the workforce, stenographic court reporters, have largely rejected use of Verbit because automatic speech recognition in its current form disproportionately harms minority speakers while we stand for an accurate record no matter who is speaking.

There’s a hint that Verbit may not be in a rush to go public.

This is likely a ruse. There isn’t a real reason to delay going public. If it was a good company with solid financials, an underwriter would jump on it, buy the shares, and sell them to the market. Verbit, despite all its investor money, may not be as healthy or strong as it attempts to portray in the media. This is similar to VIQ Solutions, the digital recording company with the transcription subsidiaries that lost $13 million this year.

Let’s not forget that in July, Verbit was floating the idea of going public in 2022. I laughed at it and gave some predictions. Now the company does seem to be pedaling back some on that front.

And we’re just getting started. We know that Verbit’s technology isn’t very good because it’s previously admitted it takes 8 hours to be ADA compliant. But now that they have millions of dollars, perhaps that will be used to massively expand their programming team and make a massive technological leap that has somehow been undiscovered by IBM, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, and Google.

NOPE. They’re expanding sales and marketing.

A “plan” for a feature does not constitute a feature. It’s an easy way to generate buzz without doing anything.

This gives us, the court reporters, two nuggets of information. 1. The idea that technology is always improving is illusionary — if a breakthrough technology was almost ready to disrupt us, they’d be putting the finishing touches on that, not hiring people to sell what they’ve already got.

2. My idea to make me the “universal salesman” for stenography is exactly what these businesspeople are doing and we should totally copy it. Count all the times Livne has been in the news or media since 2020. He’s never had anything particularly important to say, but he gets in there because he’s in control of a lot of investor money. At least at some media outlets, it is not ideas or truth that control, it is wealth and power. Special thanks to my donors over the last few days — and a very special $1,000 donor — you have all allowed me to run another advertising campaign, starting in a few hours.

Finally, Verbit gives us an idea of our own collective power by referencing the $4 billion addressable market. We know the median pay for us is somewhere around $61,000 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If we believe BLS and assume there are 21,000 of us, that’s $1.281 billion. I’ve argued that BLS statistics are inaccurate and it seems more likely there’s about 28,000 of us. That’s $1.7 billion. If we trust Tom Livne that there is a $4 billion market, we control roughly half of it — roughly half the market is going directly to stenographers in the form of income. Verbit, on the other hand, has previously stated its revenue is in the millions. $1.7 billion (stenographers) versus “in the millions” Verbit. Why does Verbit get more attention? Because the money and power is centralized.

But why trust Tom Livne? The market research reports I’ve perused, and particularly a 2021 report by Anything Research, put our market at more like $3 billion.

2021 Premium Report on Court Reporting & Stenotype Services, by Anything Research.

So while our market is likely to grow, it seems well behind previous five-year forecast of $3.157 billion provided by Kentley Insights in 2019 — though we will see where we are in 2024 or 2025.

A $3 billion market where ostensibly 57% goes directly to stenographers. Court reporters, do you see now why everyone is so interested in telling you that your job is defunct? Your existence is holding companies and CEOs back from having a larger slice of the pie — a $1.7 billion slice — and if doing away with you means minority speakers might go to jail on a botched transcript or captioning consumers might be in physical danger, who cares? You should just give up and let it happen.

Alternatively, realize that you are just as smart as the businesspeople and start acting like it. They’re riding off of your ignorance. They’re riding off of your unwillingness to look at the numbers and see what they say. Everything seems so scary and uncertain when others write about these issues. But the issues are not so hard to understand when Christopher Day writes about them. That’s because my goal is your enlightenment. The goal of salespeople is to keep you from questioning the purchase.

2021 Holiday Offer for Digital Court Reporters

Quick recap on the issues. Businesses are pushing an automatic speech recognition and digital court reporting solution to the stenographer shortage. All available data says that’s an inadequate solution that will hurt minority speakers. Available data also suggests our shortage has been exaggerated and exacerbated by greedy people. Not one person in the last two months has refuted this in any meaningful way, and I haven’t been shy about letting the world know.

More than that, digital court reporting is likely to be leveraged or at least on borrowed time. Its biggest funders are all private equity owners, and the strategy there is buy, hold, flip. More on private equity next month. For now, know that every court reporter in the country might be more solvent than the big dogs. They’re not interested in holding these companies for 20 or 30 years like some of us and will lose interest as soon as one is a financial loser. If the gamble to exploit digital court reporters fails, our stenography students probably won’t have to deal with this ever again. Digital proponents simply will never again have the funding or support they do today. Digital will only get to fool investors the way they have been fooled once in a lifetime.

And beyond that, the stenographic legion is uncovering massive fraud, deception against students, irresponsible gouging, irresponsible handling of proceeding audio, and violation of procedural rules. We are unquestionably growing faster than all prior estimates despite being hamstrung by the Bureau of Labor Statistics publishing inaccurate data and digital court reporting propaganda so good it had started to infiltrate our stenographic associations.

The current strategy of digital court reporting proponents is to pretend that I don’t exist. That’s not working very well for them. 1% of this field reads my blog every day and spreads it to the rest.

I have a new strategy. Digital reporters can all come work for me.

The ship’s sinking. Over the next decade this little cottage industry where DR rotates CEOs between digital recording companies and milks court systems and taxpayers on equipment contracts is going to dry up. Some people might even go to jail. Who knows? Who cares? I care about as much as digital proponents cared about me when I was a young court reporter struggling to survive.

In fact, I care as much about digital court reporting’s future as Jane Sackheim of Diamond Reporting in New York cares about court reporters. Here’s a hint, she doesn’t care. On October 24, I urged her to do the right thing. I was met with silence. Though our justice system reveres silence, we all know in our hearts that it is the language of oppression. It is the language of denial and kicking the can down the road.

At least she saw it and ignored it. How many of you have endured suffering unseen?

Now I urge all of you to do the right thing. If you’re on the digital side, come be a guest writer or content creator for me while I build this stenographic media empire. I’ll let you keep 75% of the donations that come in tagged for you. My audience is particularly interested in the seedy side. We want to know the horror stories and the situations you’re thrown into with no training. This audience, my audience, cares about you. As I grow, you grow. Might even pay your way through steno school.

To my allies, I extend the same offer, but your cut can be 99%. I’m growing a movement. Money is a means to an end and not an objective. I’m not kidding. Eat what you kill and benefit from my growing platform.

Easiest way to win is to get the other side not to fight. Offer is open until I beat my holiday blues. Write me at Contact@Stenonymous.com. We’ll get you hooked up as a contributor. You saw my message to Jane. I know that if I fail, many people will be in the terrible place I was in. Consequently, I have decided that I am not failing.

Thank you, donors. To anyone that has not donated:

When people donate to me, they do it with the understanding that I will use the money and power to support the profession in some way. As I grow, so will my support for the small businesses, schools, and the working people of my profession. There’s a ballpark of 30,000 reporters in this field and a median income somewhere above 50,000, a paltry sum of $1.5 billion. If we were to collectively donate about 1% of one year’s income ($500) to a relatively altruistic person, preferably named Christopher Day, that’s $15 million. $15 million placed into an investment, or multiple, with just a 2% return is $300,000 a year. Even if we cut that in half for taxes, that’s enough money to hire a full-time advocate for $100,000 a year and maintain a dedicated advertising/philanthropy budget of $50,000 a year. Even if I fall remarkably short of that goal and all my math is horribly wrong, a million dollars would be enough to advocate full-time for 10 years.

Just for a rough outline of what a full-time stenographic advocate for working people could work on:

-Keeping digital from literally subsuming our industry using their private equity money.

-Ending the shortage. The press alone from an industry making one dude rich so he could go fight for them would attract investors, students, and businesspeople to the field.

-Figure out the insurance problem. Freelancers pay too much for too little.

-Devise group support programs for students and reporters in need. Think about all the students over the years that have had to give up because the financial aid runs dry or all the professionals that have had an equipment failure and needed a loaner. We’re a rich field and can probably solve these things without raking people for hundreds of dollars every year. Let’s start acting like it.

-Devise nonprofit organizations or low-margin for profits to keep the profession’s tech running. Basically divest us from Stenograph. Imagine if a nonprofit could ascertain the bare minimum cost of creating a good stenotype and sell it at cost. We’d solve the captioner shortage real quick and become real champions for accessibility.

-Run for political office. There are laws on the books in many cities, states, and federally meant to deal with many issues in our field and others. The problem we face seems to be that the system is set up to automatically reject singular complaints. There are two ways around that. Either all of you can start writing complaints all the time on every issue, or you can stick a bulldog like me in the fragile political system and see what happens. Writing letters costs an indeterminate amount of time and money. Giving me a platform costs less than $500 but relies on other people to contribute. A government official that works for the people may sound crazy, but I think it would be a big hit. Our shortage would be over pretty quick too thanks to the media attention.

“Dear Mr. Day, we received your complaint but enforcing the law just isn’t that important to the Attorney General of the State of New York.” #NYcares

-Devise a system for intaking and tracking issues in the field. Right now we have an issue, like, say the NCRA testing stuff, it bubbles into outrage, and once the outrage is over the issue is quietly dropped and people go back to business as usual. Transparency and solutions will be the name of the game. Outrage will be a tool used as needed.

-Devise a system for tracking and assisting state and national associations/nonprofits in need. State bill or rule change threatening jobs? Here’s your lobbyist fund. Let’s get serious about that. Veritext and US Legal are. Are you? Let’s give our VOLUNTEER association board members a fighting chance.

-Expand stenotype services into other industries and make them available to the general public. There appears to be a human need to be heard and we are very, very good at hearing people. This also might lead to the USA exporting stenotype services and creating theories in other languages.

This is the future I’m fighting for. Less money coming out of your wallet, more money going into it. And make no mistake that I am ready for a fight. When Naegeli threatened to sue, I stood up for reporters and refused to take down evidence of their gouging. When a corporate rep bullied one of us in an email, I put him on blast. I have two limitations, time and money, and my fellow reporters have the power to erase those limitations.

For years you’ve been told why things can’t be done. You’ve been told things can’t change. Give me a shot and I will change things for the better. That’s my promise. I have given you solid math for why I believe this to be possible. For those of you I’ve already won over, please consider sharing this with your colleagues. As has been said by other reporters, the association model of decentralizing everything and relying on volunteers is nice in theory. It’s not working for us today. It is time to try centralizing our power so that the associations that have advocated for us over the last hundred years survive the next ten and that our quality of life is improved.

Happy Thanksgiving™️.

Open Steno’s Unprecedented Growth Continues

The Open Steno community formed years ago. It gave us Plover, a free stenographic translation software, as well as several other projects, such as the StenoMod. In the words of Mirabai Knight, Open Steno’s founder, “steno is going strong…” The community also gave us Steno Arcade, a computer game dedicated to stenography.

The Plover Discord has reportedly reached over 4,000 members, or about 13% of our industry’s size. The steno video creator Aerick has over 1,000 subscribers on YouTube as of writing. The Uni Kickstarter has raised $50,000, more than double its $20,000 goal. If companies like Stenograph are unwilling to support our profession, professionals might consider joining forces with and funding Open Steno’s creators. Their ability to do more with less has been well documented over the last decade.

As more professionals join the Discord chatroom and community, and assist those teaching themselves, I expect the number of people entering our professional track from Open Steno and other self-paced initiatives to skyrocket. This use of non-traditional self-learners is exactly how computer programmers have addressed much larger shortage concerns. In our field this also means there’s a large pool of recruits unaccounted for by organizations like STTI and US Legal.

Readers that wish to donate to the Open Steno general fund and Mirabai Knight may do so here. Together, we will continue a nationwide recruitment surge, mentor and nourish our self-taught and traditional students and graduates, and pave the way to a future for stenographic court reporters.

OpenSteno.org

Stenonymous Promotes Naegeli’s Lawsuit Threat on Twitter — Naegeli Backs Off Threat

On Friday I made a post about how Naegeli charged about $11.50 per page on a copy sale. This is related to an original-copy cost shifting scheme that is common in our field. Within hours of the post, Naegeli gave me an ultimatum to take down the post. If I did not take down the post by 9 PST today, they stated their attorneys would be filing an action against me. So I did what any reasonable person would do and advertised what they did on Twitter.

About 8,000 people saw it.

About 100 people liked it. And I tagged the man responsible for the Young Turks network, Cenk Uygur.

I also wrote the Better Business Bureau since Richard Teraci no longer wants me to contact him directly. Luckily, Richard was dumb enough to respond to BBB, so I learned Naegeli has no intention of suing me.

“I am a coward that threatens news bloggers.” — Richard Teraci, Naegeli USA 11/22/21 (parody)

Reporters, you now see for yourselves that bullies will use all at their disposal to shut you down. If you hold firm, the bully will resort to whining. The bully’s power is derived from your self-imposed silence and restraint. The bully’s power is derived from the complicity and complacency of victims and bystanders. If we believe Richard, king of the bullies, he spoke to the other bullies, and they said STAY AWAY because the more people that find out about what is being done to court reporters, the more likely people will put a stop to it.

Don’t believe so? Just see what the general public thinks. See one man’s response to my Twitter question.

Stenographers, you are not alone. If you would take the time to send this article you’ve just read to your local news, it would go a long way to ensuring our message is heard and that the consumers being misled are given a fighting chance. Thank you.

Rumors that LiveLitigation is Linked to vTestify False, says President

I’ve been sent message by Craig Saunders, President of LiveLitigation. Some of vTestify’s materials allegedly have the name LiveDeposition on it, which was the old the name of LiveLitigation. The two are not related. vTestify is a competitor of LiveLitigation. The company has released a statement on the issue.

“We would like to clarify that we are LiveLitigation. We are not associated in any way with Live Deposition.” – Live Litigation.

I’m told by Mr. Saunders that LiveLitigation has spent a lot of money in the last twelve years to ensure their realtime tool works well with all reporter software. An offer for unlimited and free local streams has been extended to court reporters until the end of the year.

vTestify was the outfit that previously featured a calculator on its site claiming it could save attorneys thousands of dollars per deposition. Subsequently it fell into more of a “platform” than a court reporting competitor, and partnered with Esquire and Verbit. The divide between businesses that stand by the stenographic reporter and businesses that don’t seem to care about the harm digital reporting is likely to do to minority speakers continues to grow.

Addendum:

After this article was released a reader pointed out vTestify’s strategic partnership with Stenograph a few weeks before the Stenograph boycott.

Naegeli Threatens Legal Filing Against Stenonymous

I had a lot of fun writing the Naegeli article. When I was done with it, I let them know it was live.

In my defense, it was 7:30 EST.

Naegeli apparently doesn’t agree with what I’ve written. Richard Teraci told me the company’s attorneys would be filing suit against me if it is not removed by Monday, November 22, 2021 at 9 PST. My response can be read below. I also accidentally BCC’d a number of news organizations and field contacts so that if Naegeli fails to take legal action everyone sees it’s a barking dog with no teeth.

“Can’t wait. Supreme Court, Richmond County, New York State.” — Christopher Day 11/19/21 writing to Naegeli USA.

Unfortunately, Richard didn’t appear to appreciate my response much.

“You are not to contact me ever again. All communication from this point forward will be through our attorneys.” — Richard Teraci, Naegeli USA

Some companies seek to keep court reporters silent. Fear is a tool used to maintain silence. Either the company will fail to sue me and show you all there is nothing to be afraid of, or they will sue, lose, and show you all there is nothing to be afraid of. Either way, reporters across the nation will get to see this for what it is, a baseless attack on our right to free speech. More as this story develops.

If this is the most entertaining thing you’ve read yet today, please consider donating.

PayPal: ChristopherDay227@gmail.com

Venmo: Christopher-Day-141

Zelle: ChristopherDay227@gmail.com or 917 685 3010.

Naegeli Charged $11.50 Per Page on a Copy Sale

As explained in August, many court reporting firms attempt to beat the competition through what can be described as cost shifting. The CR firms charge really low on the original transcripts that their clients buy and charge astronomical prices on copy sales in order to make up for the loss. This has a net effect of making it harder for small businesses to compete. As far as I understand, this occurs in many markets in the United States and is not rare, but the news media and government pay little attention to our $3 billion industry, allowing rampant abuse and fraud against our consumers, attorneys across America. Perhaps I should be grateful. The complete failure of the media to provide anything but thinly-veiled marketing for digital court reporting has opened up a special niche for me.

When a source passed me this letter from the late Richard R. Johnson, Esq., I was delighted. It was yet another tangible piece of evidence that the abuse we have, as a field, long suspected was occurring, was actually occurring. After all, we cannot solve problems in our industry without discussing them. For reference, the proceeding occurred in May 2017. The letter was written in June 2019.

Mr. Johnson uses that word “unreasonable.” For many court reporters, that term unreasonable rings a bell, US Legal Support was accused of the same. And we do not have to take his word for it, we have also been provided with a copy of the bill Naegeli sent.

What’s more, my source tells me that the deposition was taken by a digital court reporter named April J. Austin. I hope Austin finds stenography for all the reasons I’ve covered in past articles. I am further informed that Washington is a mandatory CCR state, RCW 18.145.010, which means that the use of digital court reporters is likely illegal. I know what my audience is thinking. “Isn’t that what got StoryCloud in trouble?” Yep. Here are some documents related to that fiasco. For more on the practice of court reporting in Washington State, see RCW 18.145.020.

I asked Naegeli to comment. Naegeli’s Richard Teraci tried to tell me that the reason the copy was so high was because it was an expedite. He also asked me to please remove it from my blog.

A source close to the issue stated that the matter was ultimately concluded by Mr. Johnson consulting a court reporter in Washington State on what a reasonable fee would be for the copy. Mr. Johnson allegedly forwarded that amount to Naegeli and that was the end of the matter. The source also stated that normal copy fees at that time were under $3.25 per page in Washington and that currently a normal copy fee is under $3.50, though some agencies do charge “considerably” more, up to $3.80 per page.

Even without Naegeli’s cooperation, we do have some idea of that Washington market. We also know what Naegeli is looking to pay transcribers on digital matters, so we can work out about what it might have cost Naegeli to produce the transcript. Just for a recap, Naegeli wants to pay transcribers $1.75 per page. That’s about $105 for a 60-page transcript. Succinctly, on a copy sale, it appears that Naegeli intended to charge about 7x what it would have cost to produce the original. For people that don’t understand the way this business works, in conventional court reporting, the original has always been a higher cost than the copy, and the split between court reporters and firms in markets where court reporters aren’t 30 years behind inflation is a lot closer to 50/50 than giving the transcriber a pathetic 15%. This also assumes that the transcriber was given a percentage of the copy money, which is an assumption so generous Robin Hood would probably cringe. Transcribers typically aren’t given anything and may even live offshore.

If those market comparisons are unclear, let’s try some more comparisons. Let’s compare Washington State to New York. In New York, the freelance stenographic reporters routinely make somewhere in the ballpark of 25 cents on a copy. The officials make somewhere in the ballpark of a dollar. As of writing, the cost of living in New York City is about 33% higher than Seattle, so you would expect the New York prices to be somewhere in the ballpark of 33% higher. Again, New York court reporting rates are 30 years behind inflation, meaning New York’s prices should be about double what they are. That would be in the ballpark of $0.50 a copy for freelancers and $2.00 a copy for officials. Assuming a traditional 50/50 split, a reasonable copy could be said to be in the realm of $4.00 per page. The bill from Naegeli is about 3x what is reasonable on a copy and about 7x what it would’ve cost to produce. Even if we buy what Mr. Teraci says about it being an expedite, expedites are usually in the realm of 50% higher price, not triple.

There is also an elephant in the room. The copy sale does not stand alone, it stands alongside whatever Naegeli made on the original. Handing out generous assumptions to prove a point, assume the original was one third of the copy sale. That would be $15.30 per page. If that’s reasonable, then every stenographer in New York City should move to Washington, because our reporters routinely get a comparable amount of work done for $4.50 a page or less. Assuming an expedite, under $6.00 a page. I cannot make it clearer that court reporters can compete with these “large” agencies and probably make more money doing so. The simple truth is every reporter produces most of the work and has none of the overhead. That’s like Walmart treating its workers poorly if every single employee had the ability to compete with Walmart. Agencies have a value, as I will cover in a future post, but their value to us is diminished when they’re not selling steno.

All of these comparisons, of course, are assuming parity with stenographic court reporting. Digital court reporting is not as efficient as stenography, and therefore in any real-world evaluation, that fact must be taken into account. Stenographer rates are being charged for what is an inherently inferior service. Put it this way, digital reporting is so bad that it has to defraud people interested in court reporting to get them to go digital.

May this set the stage for us to discuss price structure as a field. While there are certainly antitrust concerns when court reporters discuss pricing due to our heavy use of independent contractors, it seems reasonable to ask ourselves if this is a fair way for consumers to be treated or business to be conducted. It also seems fair for our trade associations to begin collecting and dispersing historic, regional rate data so that our students can never be taken advantage of again in the way that my generation was.

“…unlikely to raise competitive issues.”

For what it’s worth, Kentucky is leading the charge there.

“The Kentucky Court Reporters Association board has created a salary survey for the benefit of correcting misinformation that is being disseminated.”

Legality aside, imagine if you were the Johnson firm. Is it fair to be locked into a copy sale from a service that can just charge whatever it wants, see if you pay it, and then cut the bill down to a third of what it was if you complain? Reminds me a lot of the way medical billing is today. Think of how happy receiving surprise medical bills makes you. Now, just think, that’s what’s happening every time a law office gets a bill for $11.50 on something where the actual value is about $4.00.

Reporters need to start competing. Digital isn’t cheaper than you and the rapacious behavior of companies like Naegeli is destroying your profession. Our collective job security relies on broadcasting that fact.

Addendum:

I have been informed by its owner that Cover Crow will soon release tools to track and release rate data. This may be an opportunity for associations to get a head start on collection of data from multiple sources.

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.

NCRA Joins Battle, Calls Out Potentially Illegal Conduct

NCRA has not thrown its weight behind the allegations I made with regard to US Legal, Veritext, STTI, and an apparent scheme to exaggerate and exacerbate our stenographer / court reporter shortage in order to sell attorneys the inferior digital court reporting service. But the National Court Reporters Association has taken a very powerful step by admitting that some vendors in our industry are violating the procedural rules of some states.

Getting attorneys to stop stipulating away their consumer choice away is an outstanding move™️, and one that everyone can take part in by spreading this image. If we do not support our national association now, there may very well not be one to support in ten years. If you’re on the fence about renewing, this would be a reason to give it one more year and see what the president does.

Thank you, President Dibble and all the staff at the NCRA for not laying down on these important issues facing our field. If we can get jurisdictions to begin enforcing procedural rules, it is progress on the road of protecting consumers and the legal record.