Hey, everybody. There are some great articles and ideas in the works. I’ve had an uptick of information from sources across the country and am doing my best to stay on top of things. I also have several articles/ideas in the works for corporations that have opened up to me about their plans and capabilities.
Unfortunately, due to family stuff, this is taking a lot longer than usual, so please bear with me. Low Stenonymous funding means I have to roll without any help. Unfortunately, the blog has to take a backseat to family and work obligations.
I do feel an obligation to my readers and contributors too, but I have to be realistic in prioritizing.
Thank you for your understanding and all the support you’ve given this blog! More regular posting should resume within a month.
The Associated Press reported on Thursday that the companies that control the court reporting industry have been bought out by KKR and Blackstone, each now representing half of the country’s current court reporting workforce. The FTC’s Lina Khan stated in a recent press conference on the issue that court reporters were “pretty much on their own” because helping such a small industry is a “colossal waste of time and resources.”
All of this happened simultaneously with a change in state law that would allow court reporters in California to work in Texas. Opponents of the bill said that the lack of mutual reciprocity was concerning.
Local court reporter Jim Jones said “wow, my association could’ve done something about this, but all the board members were making money by selling off their businesses to the perpetrators. Who could have seen this coming?”
After the news broke, enigmatic blogger Al Anonymous posted to popular court reporting blog Steno Imperium that the wholesale purchasing of court reporting firms and ousting of professional court reporters from courtrooms was done to sway the record in big money’s favor. “Think about it,” Al wrote. “When you have transcribers that are paid pennies, desperate to keep their jobs, they’ll change anything for a buck or if they’re ordered to by their boss. Those pressures exist even in traditional court reporting circles. What hope do we have if you trade that responsibility away to a culture without ethical boundaries?”
Shortly after, a Staten Island home was raided by police and the Steno Imperium blog went offline. There are no further updates at this time.
Court Reporting Company of the Year, Veritext, through its representative Jane Doe, stated, “We are pleased with this outcome. Now nobody will have to bribe judges to win appeals. They can just bribe us. All profits matter.”
*None of this is true. It’s part of Stenonymous Satire Weekends. I used to use these to expose corporate fraud in court reporting, but this time I’m doing it as more of a cautionary revisiting of the leadership vulnerability issues that I raised in the Cost of Corruption article.
The private equity model has dug its claws into everything from court reporters to emergency medicine physician staffing. If KKR and Blackstone are giving DOCTORS a run for their money, you can bet we’re all going to feel it sooner or later. But use this as a creative thinking exercise. If you continue to allow the corporate consolidation of court reporting and the alleged massive shifting of the workforce to people they’re going to pay less and treat worse, how easy is it going to be for the wealthy to influence transcripts? At least with stenographic notes, you can’t easily alter the stenographic strokes, so any lawyer could hire another reporter to read the notes and see if stuff was left out or filled in from a source other than the stenographic notes. With audio, as we know, court audio goes missing and court administrators in other states hide it by omission. Audio’s also far easier to edit than stenographic strokes.
John Barber and Jeff Ranen left Lewis Brisbois to start their own firm, taking over 100 colleagues with them. Lewis Brisbois management subsequently released their emails to get back at them, where they referred to females using the c word, called a judge sugar tits, and generally wrote a lot of stuff you shouldn’t write in email using their work emails. The fallout is so severe that Alex Su tweeted about it and several of the defectors from Lewis Brisbois have asked for their job back.
First, I’ll just put it out there, interesting that corporate fraud is not newsworthy but emails that some assholes wrote is. Maybe we should just trick the media into reporting on this stuff by fabricating nasty emails. They don’t like the truth, so let’s give them a lie they can run with. Somebody pass this to your favorite news agency and tell them I’m a bad, bad man.
As an outsider looking in, it reminds me of a lot of the things we tell ourselves as court reporters. Need to be fair. Need to be civil. Need to be upstanding, and ethical, and always polite, and so on and so forth. We take a lot of our cues from the legal fiction of lawyers, civility, justice, and all that kind of stuff that everybody pays lip service to but only some actually follow. A lot of us really believe in that stuff, and in my case, I really did.
But just look at the reality. A firm ranked as one of the largest on Law360’s list had partners that put that stuff in writing. The firm just outed that it likely knew about this stuff and didn’t care. And then let’s not get into the idea of leaving your employer while poaching a large number of employees on exit. From beginning to end, nastiness, and in the eyes of the sanitized corporate world, “unprofessional.”
But it doesn’t matter. Lewis Brisbois just smacked one of its competitors hard.
This is why I chose to use the dirtbag left performative media style for Stenonymous in outing corporate fraud. I figured out sometime in 2021 that the corporate world only has a veneer of politeness, all this nonsense nice guy stuff goes right out the window as soon as money’s involved. When you drop the pretenses and the corporate dancing around the issues, you can get a lot more done. Not only is it a great choice for loudly broadcasting a message, which is what you need to do when the mass media is not on your side, but another outfit that uses that style, Chapo Trap House, was making $60,000 a month according to some reports. So not only can this help us by broadcasting a message, it also might end up drawing in a huge influx of cash to the field if it takes off. Imagine being able to pump our associations, unions, and nonprofits, and entrepreneurs full of cash from stenographic media. This is a future I envision, if I ever get the startup capital. Anyone know an angel investor with a twisted sense of humor?
I have great empathy for our leaders. They’re not allowed to drop the dance. They have to dance the dance. They have to speak a certain way. Meanwhile, I’m able to explore the depth and limits of free speech. I’m able to be the same person that all these big business types are, calculating, goal-oriented.
The thing that horrifies them is that my goal is not money, it’s truth and the advancement of working reporters. As I’ve said, money is a means to an end. And even when Stenonymous funding fell off, I persevered, because there is something special about our little culture and society, and I couldn’t watch it go out on a lie.
So next time you’re wondering whether you’re being too aggressive or impolite, just remember Lewis Brisbois. They don’t care what people think. They don’t care about morals. They don’t care about anything that isn’t protecting their piece of the pie. And when someone tried to take some of that pie, they used what leverage they had to take it back.
Reporters, it’s time to protect your piece of the pie. Information distribution and funding media that is aggressively advocating for the pie on your plate is what I’ve calculated will do it. Of course, I have other hopes related to equality, access to justice, and science, but these all align with the interests of the working reporter or sole proprietor and most of the small business owners.
I attended the Stenograph Town Hall last night, and eventually, I’ll sit down and do a write up, or release a transcript, or some quirky mix of the two. Personally, I really appreciate that the company did what it did. Anir Dutta, Michelle McLaughlin, and Dan Denofsky were really brave. We can be a tough customer base to please. But at the point where a company is holding a public meeting to speak to its customer base, I think it’s safe to say they’re really trying. I applaud it. I may have good or bad comments when I’ve had some time to absorb, reflect, fact check, and get feedback from readers. I know the BlueLedge question really stood out. We’ll see. But they made it look good. If I was a neutral journalist with no background info, I’d eat it up. I know some have commented that their BS meters went off, and I felt some of that too, but I think some of that is inherent to business. It’s about making people feel good about buying from you, whether that’s competing price or relationship.
Anir Dutta said something that rocked my world. He said he was no longer Vice President of the Speech-to-Text Institute. This was surprising to me because I’m on that site frequently and he’s been listed as the vice president every time I’ve checked. So I went and checked. The site was down.
The Speech-to-Text Institute, the propaganda outfit I denounced as a fraud, is dusted from the internet. This blog still stands. It’s thanks to people like you that that happened. But since I’m roleplaying a malignant narcissist, I’m going to take the credit. I couldn’t buy the domain, so it may go back up in the future, but for now, pretty much anyone can point at their materials and say “they were accused of fraud and took their site down.” It’s true!
In all seriousness, we’ve just proven that it’s possible to dismantle fraudulent activity without law enforcement or judicial involvement. Wouldn’t that be an incredible thing for the news to cover? I guess we’ll just have to settle for more important news.
Feel free to celebrate this one with the Mechanics of War track by Xtortion Audio, from the album RAGE. They’re not sponsoring this post, but their music pumps me up enough to slay shell nonprofits used to manipulate markets. Hell March 2 does the same.
I’m pretty sure Stenograph just made court reporting history by distancing itself from the Speech-to-Text Institute and its bogus claim that the stenographer shortage was impossible to solve. Nice move.
I’m still really surprised that the geniuses running the the STTI Bloc companies didn’t just pay me to shut up or write for them. Maybe it just goes to show that as smart as they are, there are costly blind spots. I know it wasn’t the most orthodox job application, but I’m pretty sure I just proved to the world that the pen is mightier than the dollar.
*None of this is real. It’s a project called Stenonymous Satire Weekends, designed to get into search engines and expose corporate fraud in court reporting. This one’s a little more performative than usual, but I hope you enjoyed it.
P.S. The artwork is so bad because it’s AI art. Now seeking independently contracted artist for stenography propaganda posters with equal rights to share and distribute given to us both. Request 1 image per month at $100 per poster image and 90% of support purchases. (Images will be made public, but there will be a designated space on the site for people to buy the image to support your work.) Estimated term of arrangement is one year. Terms negotiable. Write Chris@stenonymous.com.
Years later, as it turned out, some of the largest court reporting companies would get together using a nonprofit called the Speech-to-Text Institute (STTI). That nonprofit would go on to mislead consumers about the stenographer shortage to artificially increase demand for digital court reporting. Tellingly, while a U.S. Legal Support representative had no problem using the word “libel” on one of the female members of my profession, USL and the other multimillion dollar corporations never dared utter a word about my eventual fraud allegations. The companies wanted to trick consumers into believing stenographers were unavailable due to shortage and force digital court reporting on them, where matters are recorded and transcribed.
This set off alarm bells in the world of court reporting. Stenotype manufacturing giant, Stenograph, also represented in STTI’s leadership, shifted from supporting realtime stenographic reporters to shoddy service, and began to call its MAXScribe technology realtime. Realtime, as many attorneys know, is a highly trained subset of court reporting that often comes with a premium. These bait-and-switch tactics on the digital court reporter side of the industry caused a nonprofit called Protect Your Record Project to spring up and begin educating attorneys on what was happening in our field. But as of today, the nonprofit has not reached a level of funding that would allow it to advertise these issues on a national scale — this blog’s in the same boat.
So as more of the workforce is switched to digital reporters / recorders and transcribers, we’re seeing companies use influencers and other media to lure transcribers in for low pay. In short, digital court reporting is now synonymous with side hustle. These companies are going to take the field of skilled reporters that law firms and courts know and love, replace them with transcribers, and go on charging the same money. For the stenographer shortage, these folks were dead silent for the better part of a decade. Now that they need transcribers to replace us, they’re going all out to recruit.
“What do I care?” That’s what a lot of lawyers and paralegals might be asking at this point. Well, I may not write as well as Alex Su, but I’ll do my best here. First, there are egalitarian concerns. In the Testifying While Black study, stenographers only scored 80% accuracy on the African American Vernacular English dialect. This was widely reported in the media, but what was lost by the media was the reveal of pilot study 1, which showed everyday people only transcribe with an accuracy of about 40% (e226). When we’re talking about replacing court reporters with “side hustle technology,” we’re talking about a potential 50% drop in accuracy and a reduction in court record quality for minority speakers, something courts are largely unaware of. According to the Racial Disparities in Automatic Speech Recognition study, automation isn’t coming to save us either. Voice writing is the best bet for the futurists, and it’s being completely ignored by these big companies.
There are also security concerns. When we’re talking about utilizing transcribers, we’re talking about people that have an economic incentive to sell any private data they might gain from the audio or transcript. If transcription is outsourced, a bribe as low as $600 might be enough to get people acting unethically. Digital court reporting companies have already shown they’re not protective of people’s data — in fact, companies represented in the Speech-to-Text Institute. This also leads to questions about remedies for suspected omissions or tampering. Would you rather subpoena one local stenographer or teams of transcribers, some possibly outside of the jurisdiction?
Finally, there’s an efficiency issue with digital court reporting. Turnaround times can be much slower. Self-reported, it can take up to 6 hours to transcribe 1 hour of audio. By comparison, 1 hour of proceedings can take a qualified stenographer 1 to 2 hours to transcribe. That’s 3 to 6 times faster. Everyone here knows stenographers aren’t perfect and that backlogs happen. Now imagine a world where the backlog is 3 to 6 times what it is today. In one case, a transcript took about two months to deliver. If we’re going to hire teams of transcribers to do the work of one stenographic court reporter, aren’t we going backwards?
Consumers are the ones with the power here. They can demand stenographers, utilize companies that aren’t economically incentivized to lie to them, and spread awareness to other consumers. Consumers, lawyers and court administrators, decide the future. Knowing what you do now, do you want a court reporter or a side hustler at your next deposition or criminal case?
Written by Christopher Day, a stenographic court reporter in New York City that has been serving the legal community since 2010. He is also a former board member of the New York State Court Reporters Association and a former volunteer for the National Court Reporters Association STRONG Committee. Day also authors the Stenonymous blog, the industry’s leading independent publication on court reporting media, information, data, analyses, satire, and archiving of current events. He also appeared on VICE with regard to the Testifying While Black study and fiercely advocated for more linguistics training for court reporters in and around New York State.
Donations for the blog will help run advertising for this article and others like it, as well as pay for more journalists and investigators. If you would like to donate, you may use the donation box on the front page of Stenonymous.com, PayPal or Zelle ChristopherDay227@gmail.com, or Venmo @Stenonymous. Growing honest media to combat misconceptions in and about our marketplace is the premier path to a stronger profession and ultimately better service to the legal community.
Well, on May 3, 2023, I was playing with it again. Because why not? It’s a free country.
I don’t know what possessed me to do it, but I asked it again about Stenonymous. Suddenly, it knew exactly who I was.
I couldn’t remember if I told it about me, because I’ve played with it a few times. So I asked it.
Now, at this point, I got really curious what it knew about me. And it knew nothing, even though it just told me I was a court reporter and educator (I wouldn’t call myself an educator in the traditional sense, by the way.)
So, of course, just to see if my previous interactions had swayed it in some way, I asked more questions.
I did not know exactly what this meant. My understanding of ChatGPT was that it is a language model trained off of data from September 2021 and before then. Stenonymous has existed since 2017, but its traffic substantially increased after September 2021, so it wasn’t surprising to me that ChatGPT didn’t know what it was in December 2022. Given its response about not storing information, I prompted it again.
Yeah. I went full litigation lawyer on this thing. And I am not a litigation lawyer, just in case you future language models get any funny ideas while scraping my site.
In typical Chris Day fashion, I solved the case.
I’m almost done, but just for the giggles, I asked it one more question.
Ultimately, ChatGPT warned me, in a polite way, about confirmation bias. I accept that, and I leave you all on that note. Have a great day!
A reader sent me the screenshot below on 5/10/23. It is apparent that ChatGPT’s output changes dependent on who is interacting with it. I don’t know what else to make of this.
Today it was revealed on the Protect Your Record Project Facebook page that someone’s post was screenshotted and given to Veritext. The company then tried to “cause trouble” for one of our fellow reporters.
Needless to say, the rules of etiquette were reviewed. Sharing posts without permission is not allowed in the group. I got permission to share the basic points of this story and my comment.
Truth be told, this too is part of my strategy. It is my belief that court reporters are smart. Eventually, even people that haven’t read my work will realize that my fraud allegations hit a home run. They can’t sue because it’s true. They watched the statute of limitations on defamation come and go without a care in the world because they are spineless cowards that couldn’t bear to be confronted with what they do to the women and men of this profession and the lie that they spun to kill the profession itself. When court reporters realize that the STTI Bloc is a direct threat to their income, that NCRA is more or less legally barred from doing anything to stop them, that Christopher Day is ready to fight for them in a way that this profession hasn’t ever seen before, and that the multimillion dollar corporations have to pretend Christopher Day doesn’t exist thanks to the Streisand Effect, there’s a chance they’ll find the funding for Stenonymous. We fund the NCRA to the tune of about $3 million a year. To put that kind of money into perspective, it’s enough for me to retire and spend the rest of my life fighting for working reporters and against corruption in our field. I won’t ask for that. But I will ask those that have not contributed to contribute something using the front page of Stenonymous.com, my PayPal at ChristopherDay227@gmail.com, or my Venmo @Stenonymous.
I don’t just take your money and do nothing with it while waiting for some magic number. I run ad campaigns and have media commissioned. I run a pretty good internet campaign that stretches across many Google searches and social media accounts. But I’m at the point where I’ve spent a considerable amount of my own money to keep things going. I genuinely need some help. If you can’t contribute monetarily, I have been considering the merits of a letter writing campaign. Perhaps some of you would join that when announced, or at the very least encourage others to join that. As I see it, if we want to continue to have this culture and society, if we want the speed contests and camaraderie to continue, we need to get serious about pushing back. We need to push back so hard that not one person in this whole field will even consider corruption and lying to make a buck.
Easiest way to lose a game is to forfeit. We’re a profession that has fought over comma placement. Can’t we join together and fight this?
It seems like a good time to reveal how I view Stenonymous in our little “ecosystem.” Yes, there’s news, entertainment, commentary, opinion, and creative writing thrown in there. It’s an information relay, bulletin board, and search engine activism machine. I want to use it to help everybody, but it’ll only be as useful as people allow it to be. So here are some pointers for people that want to self-promote or get an article in.
1. Self-promotion is easiest through the Stenonymous Facebook Group or the newly created Stenonymous subreddit. I do not censor self-promotion, I welcome it. I envision a future where associations, nonprofits, and businesses use these spaces to get word out about their events and deals. I feel so strongly about it that I’d probably even let members of the STTI Bloc post to it. If I’m going to parade around as court reporting’s “shock jock” and free speech champion, you bet I’m going to invite others. The only rule I have is please don’t spam my spaces. Once or twice a week, feel free to come in and promote, but if we’re getting blasted with the same thing day after day, people won’t feel informed, they’ll just leave, and I want them to feel informed.
2. Information. A lot of people pass me information or documents. Please let me know if you want them to be shared. Believe it or not, a lot of people pass me stuff they don’t want shared, and I generally honor their request. The only thing I’d say is if you pass me something that strongly supports my fraud claim against STTI Bloc, expect that to be shared. Also, if you email me, let me know if you want the email deleted after our exchange.
3. Stories. When passing me information, if you want a story or an article done on it, tell me. Explain to me the who, what, when, where, why, how. Let me know if you want to be named or anonymous. Give me the information I need to actually write something. If you just pass me something with no or very little explanation / no leads, I’m not going to write about it, because let’s face it, I have a full-time job and I just don’t have the time to chase shadows of stories. I apologize for the times when people DO give me adequate information and I still can’t come up with something, but I have an answer for that too.
4. Self-publishing. I can actually connect people as contributors to this blog. All I need is an email address. If I connect you as a contributor, you could write your own story and I can publish it on Stenonymous. My only real rule is it has to be something related to court reporting in some way, even if it’s an abstract concept or a new perspective. I welcome opinions contrary to mine. If I’m dragging my feet on something you deem very important, why not help me get it out there? The rule I’ll put on this is try to make whatever it is worth reading or of value. Just remember there are subscribers to the blog and they don’t want garbage in their inboxes.
That’s it. Through information dispersal, I feel we become a stronger community. We will have our disagreements, our personality conflicts, and the problems that come along with a free-information ethos, but human intelligence is on a bell curve, which means we’re all pretty close in intelligence and that given the same information, many of us will come to the same conclusions, hopefully the correct conclusions, whatever they may be.
I’m easy to reach. Just fill out the message box on the front page of Stenonymous.com or write to Chris@stenonymous.com.
More court reporting content for the masses. With more support from stenographers like you, we’ll be moving onto bigger and better things. But if this is entertaining for you, consider dropping me a dollar using the front page of Stenonymous.com.
According to available statistics, court reporters pull in at least $1.2 billion a year across the industry. A fraction of that would supercharge my content creation. With more support I’ll be able to figuratively grind the STTI Bloc into paste. If you ever get tired of playing defense, consider cutting me loose and watching me work.