Veritext Partners with John Jay College on Digital Court Reporting

I’m informed that John Jay is now partnered with Veritext.

Of course, I object to this for many reasons. I still believe that stenography will lead to better accuracy outcomes, particularly for minority speakers. In the Testifying While Black study, stenographers were only 80% accurate taking down African American Vernacular English. Laypeople were 40% accurate (pilot study 1). Since emphasis in the above examples is on short-duration training, which accuracy level do we expect from digital reporting?

If Veritext wasn’t threatening the futures of our students with its lies and misinformation, I’d admire the company for its brilliance. It’s set up to earn money from digital, at least according to Twitter.

“They require you to buy their equipment…”

Of course, we still have the fact that we are honest, hard-working people on our side. We still constitute the majority of workers in this field. Our collective voices can still win this. We have a choice to remain silent and resign the future to the agendas of others or resist and lead this field into its next iteration.

Link 1, Link 2, Link 3

Thank you to my readers for informing me of this development. Without you, what am I?

If you have ever doubted that we are under attack as a profession and that the incomes and outcomes of our students are at risk, here is your sign. It is time to be bold. It is time to stand up for the profession that has given us so much. Share this with your fellow colleagues so that they know what’s happening and can begin to talk about solutions.

Need A Court Reporter? Check This Out.

Nearly a decade since the stenographer shortage was forecasted, some states and municipalities are feeling the squeeze due to a shortage of qualified court reporters. While the severity of the shortage is a matter of debate, digital court reporting alternatives are proving glitchy.

The available data shows a majority of consumers want a qualified stenographic or stenomask reporter. As I’ve published on this blog in the past, not all court reporting firms are making best efforts to meet demand. So here are an industry insider’s tips for lawyers, law firms, paralegals, and secretaries on finding a stenographer.

  1. NCRA PROLink – The National Court Reporters Association is our industry’s largest trade association and maintains a free national directory of qualified court reporters.
  2. State associations – Many state associations keep “Find A Reporter” tools on their website. Some examples include New York, Florida, Kentucky, Illinois, and California. Even states without a Find A Reporter tool, like Texas, have a number you can call or an email you can write to.
  3. Protect Your Record Project – PYRP is a consumer education nonprofit that has a Find A Stenographer feature.
  4. Ask your court reporting firm if they’re using CoverCrow. The firm may simply work harder to find you a stenographer once it sees you know a thing or two about our field.
  5. Check out stenographer social media. There are public communities where you can ask questions and someone will point you in the right direction. Ask if anyone has a list of court reporting services, like the one I am maintaining for New York.
  6. Some firms, like REC, will attempt to help you find coverage even if they can’t cover. Don’t be afraid to ask your firm for a referral.

Anyone looking for more information on stenography as a career should see National Court Reporters Association A to Z, Project Steno, or Open Steno.

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How To Report CR Antitrust Violation to FTC

The FTC has changed its complaint procedure. To briefly explain antitrust, companies aren’t allowed to work together to mislead consumers. By setting up dummy sites to mislead student consumers and making the stenographer shortage seem larger than it is, Speech-to-Text Institute, Veritext, and US Legal appear to be doing just that.

Please take five minutes to send this information to the FTC. More attention on the issue means a higher likelihood the government will act. First step, click this link. Now follow the pictures:

Since we are reporting something about a job, click job, investment, or money-making opportunity.
Job scam, job listing. This most closely matches what we are reporting.
Since our evidence is heaviest on CourtReporterEDU, let’s go after that. You can change the date you first noticed the problem.
As you’ll see in my article, it appears this activity is related to BlueLedge. We don’t know that for sure, which is why I write “Unknown – Suspected Ed 2 Go / BlueLedge.”
Give the government a brief synopsis of what’s going on. You can copy word-for-word what I write here.

It’s important to mention that the NCRA was lied about. Here is proof.

You’ll have to give the government your contact info. Don’t enter mine.
If you own a business damaged by the illegal conduct, feel free to enter its information.
Submit your report and get your report number.

Remember, more reports will mean higher likelihood of action. We are a field of nearly 30,000 stenographers being victimized by this illegal corporate conduct. Ask your fellow reporters to take this seriously. Single complaints are not resolved by the FTC. Hundreds or thousands will get their attention.

Students who were misled into digital might be able to get their money back thanks to you. Remember, your action counts.

This likely concludes my work on the illegal conduct angle. In defense of our profession and the law I have spent the last many months documenting the illegal conduct. Now I need associations and stenographers across the country to take action. Feel free to tell the FTC it was my idea. Any agreements that restrain competition are illegal. Bamboozling consumers to affect the market counts. The government relies on Americans like us to report crime. If you were watching a robbery, would you call it in or would you sit by and say “well, no court has told me this is illegal?”

We all have a choice. I hope you call it in on this metaphorical “robbery in progress.”

P.S. Michael McDonner of Kentuckiana attempted to intimidate me by stating I was attempting to conspire with others by trying to get others to act on the illegal conduct. This is an example of the digital camp trying to scare us into inaction. It’s the same reason Naegeli threatened to sue me. I expect members of the digital camp to try to intimidate some of you. Know that arguably all of you with no direct clients are common law employees and not direct competitors and therefore cannot illegally conspire. We’re not the ones benefitting from the illegal market rigging. Do not let these bullying tactics stop you from doing what you know to be right.

Becki Joins the Stenographic Legion!

At the end of August I posted Becki’s video and wrote about the importance of social media. I also pointed out the preposterous equation that US Legal posted on JD Supra. It was a defining moment for this field. Somebody on the internet who saw us in court was doing a better job at promoting us than the $100 million corporation. That gave me the courage to publish some very heavy content.

In Becki’s video, she talked about jury duty and her observation of the stenographers. In another video recently released, she unboxed what appears to be a student stenotype and revealed she was going to try out NCRA A to Z.

Similar to the way she taught me courage, Becki is teaching us all another important lesson. What if we, as a profession, hadn’t shared her initial TikTok? What if Regina DeMoville had not taken the time to talk to her? What if we all just sat back, said “that’s nice,” and went on to the next thing? People like Hauntie, Regina DeMoville, and Becki’s mom changed the future because they cared enough to try. I don’t know Becki, but she also deserves a lot of praise. In a world full of propaganda, she saw truth and picked up the tripod.

By treating people like people, we come that much closer to solving our stenographer shortage. Similarly, by continuing to support our students and people that try out steno, we’ll drive down the failure rates. Please do the decent thing; take the time to sign up as a mentor or take an interest in what students are doing. A word of encouragement or lack thereof can make or break a career.

Those that refuse to treat stenographers as people? They will be dealing with me.

And I am hardly alone. The businesses that support stenographers are ready to grind the ones that don’t into dust.

Drillmaker for Students/Educators

A student recently explained to me that they had to create a drill for set of briefs they wanted to learn. In my view, the best way to do this would be creating a repetitive dictation of the brief(s) a person wants to drill, marking that for dictation, and then practicing at some kind of speed. I know minimal computer coding, and have made tools to try to help students and educators cut down on busywork in the past, but because my coding knowledge is so limited, I’ve never quite mastered it enough to make it easy for people, and consequently, the tools I’ve designed go underused.

I plan to continue to do research and make a real effort to make these tools accessible, but in the meantime, I have a workaround that anyone can do from their computer in five easy steps.

Step 1:
Get the code. Go to my Dropbox, highlight the code text, right click it, and copy it. You can also use CTRL+C when things are highlighted to copy them. Don’t waste your time reading this image, it’s just demonstrative.

Copy it because I’m about to ask you to paste it.

Step 2:
Paste the code into this person’s website. Note that when you open the site, they have some code there already. Just paste right over that or even delete it.

I am about to paste right over that code.

Step 3:
Once you have pasted the code in, go to line 5. There should be a line that says “possible.” Inside those brackets, you put whatever terms you want to show up in your drill. In order to make this work, every phrase or word you want must be surrounded by quotation marks and separated by commas. In the example below, I show what it would look like if you wanted to drill red, yellow, and green.

Put whatever words you want in there.

Step 4:
Once you have set up the words you want to appear in the drill, click the green “run code” button on the bottom right. A black box will pop up. If it says program start, the program is working. If it talks about an error, something went wrong. If it says program complete, it’s all done.

That’s the green run code button. It looks like a sideways green triangle.

Step 5:
After approximately one minute, the program will finish. You will have a file called Drill.txt on the left side of the screen. You can copy your drill into Todd Olivas’s slasher to help you mark it for dictation. If you need help dictating, see what I’ve written about that here.

Remember, this works with any words you want, even if they’re from a George Carlin routine.

I know that this is not ideal, but it is a fast and easy way to get long lists of words without having to painstakingly write and copy them multiple times. I really hope it helps. Special thanks to the student that gave me the idea.

Addendum:
Shortly after releasing this post I changed the code and Dropbox link to a much faster version of the program. It avoids repeating the same word twice and works in one second instead of fifty. The only drawback is that if you only put one item in your word list, the program will run forever without giving you an error message. Please put at least two items in the list.

Additionally, after sharing what I was working on with the Open Steno community, Joshua Grams created an HTML file that is much easier to use. Just download it and double click to open it in your browser. It does not randomize the words, but it does repeat whatever you type into it as many times as you ask it to.

Paying It Forward with Allie Hall

Allie Hall is a reporter and educator who has made amazing strides in getting schools to pick up court reporting programs and getting students filling those programs. Some months ago, a group of working reporters came together under Allie’s guidance and leadership, and with additional help from co-admin Traci Mertens, the group has managed to donate thousands to new reporters and students in need.

If you are a working reporter or CART writer looking to give back, please reach out about joining the group. There is a fundraiser currently ongoing, and working reporters may donate ten to twenty dollars to help meet students’ needs.

Working reporters may donate via:

Venmo: Allison-Hall-89

PayPal: allie441@gmail.com

Google Pay: allie441@gmail.com

There is truly no contribution too small. If you’ve got an extra ten dollars to put down on a student, consider sending it along to Allie today! I am a contributing member of the group, and I have rarely ever seen such energy and accountability in a grassroots fundraiser. This is something special, it’s something I really support, and I know the money is going to making the road that young professionals have to travel just a little bit less bumpy. Most of us can look back at our student years and say “I wish I had…” Now we get to be a part of making sure the students of tomorrow have!

Scholarships & Contests For Students February 2021

There are several opportunities available to stenography students this month, and students should be on the lookout for opportunities whenever possible. There are a number of NCRA scholarships, including the Milton H. Wright scholarship, with a deadline of March 1.

California Court Reporters Association has announced the chance for students to win a free membership. The deadline is much tighter, February 14, but it’s a chance to get connected with just one of the many professional associations that cares about court reporters. Rumor has it that it’s open to students anywhere in the country, so court reporting and captioning students interested in CCRA membership, jump on this. CCRA’s contest highlights something very important in the stenographic reporting world. Students are making a big difference. Whether it’s creating new and amazing podcast content or creating TikTok sensations, you can be a part of making that difference and bringing attention to our field in a way that old people like me can’t. And remember, age is a state of mind!

Project Steno’s Merit Award Program is also available. If you are hitting speed goals rapidly and meet the requirements, you could be eligible for up to $2,000 according to their website.

New York students, please keep an eye out for more information on the Horizon Scholarship Fund. There are reporters donating every single year to ensure there is money set aside for students just like you. The website has not yet been updated, but there is no doubt in my mind that updated information will be available soon.

Finally, as a special treat for anybody that actually reads my blog, enter to win a $50 Steno Swag gift card. Enter your e-mail here by March 1, 2021 to be eligible to win. I will be using my extremely top secret random number generator to pick a winner.

Anyone that attended the NYSCRA Student Panel, in addition to hearing me ramble, got to hear from Meredith Bonn, a past NYSCRA President. She’s the embodiment of her workshop, Power of the Positive Attitude, and she made an important point. These scholarships, grants, and programs, can sometimes have very few applicants. You could have as big as a one out of thirteen shot at money for your stenographic education. For some perspective, the odds of winning the lotto can be as low as one out of 300 million. So do yourself a favor, have a positive attitude, take some time out to check whether or not you are eligible, and make an entry in some of these programs. Worst case scenario, you’re just about where you started. Best case scenario, hundreds or thousands of dollars in aid that you don’t have to worry about!

NYSCRA Student Webinar May 2020

NYSCRA’s got an upcoming webinar that all students are encouraged to register for. RSVP is required for security. I’m going to be talking about everyone’s favorite topic, politics and legislation. My colleagues are going to be discussing important things like CAT software, words, CART v traditional freelance and deposition reporting, money, and associations. If you don’t believe me, check the flyer, it’s happening. As many who saw our last webinar will know, we go through our agenda  and then allow questions from the audience. Questions that we don’t readily have an answer for can be addressed as an addendum or in a supplemental followup.

As for general NYSCRA news, we always need students and mentors signing up for the mentorship program.  Everybody’s got value. Everybody’s got a superpower. So if you want to reach out to a board member and let them know yours, definitely do.  The bottom line is when there’s an event, or a workshop idea, or even just time to spotlight someone in our quarterly newsletter, The Transcript, outreach can make all the difference. Also, if you haven’t had a chance to renew this year, renewals are open and reporters can get a little more exposure via the Find A Reporter feature on the site.

There are a lot of great times ahead. For stenographers and students, this is or will be your association. Come join us on May 20th and let’s all keep 2020 going strong!

 

Tips for the Stenographer in Training

We started as a blog discussing issues for newbie reporters. In more recent times we’ve pushed this thing to encompass all kinds of issues, questions, and even political ideas. Perhaps it’s fitting to return, briefly, to the things that students can do to make their time in school more productive, less stressful, or even shorter. After all, the field needs new people, so logic tells us that efficiency in preparing and producing stenographers for the workforce is paramount.

Right out of the gate, let’s get one thing clear, respect perspectives. You will read things online and see things in the world that directly contradict what your teachers tell you. You will meet people that tell you that your teacher is wrong, or Stenonymous is wrong, or the world is wrong. Your newness to stenography may lead you to the conclusion that the most authoritative voice is correct. That way of thinking is an offshoot of the Might Makes Right logical fallacy, and may lead you down a hard road. Succinctly, take in opinions and asserted facts, but don’t draw too many conclusions. Everyone’s perspective is colored by their experience, and though our experiences may be similar, they are often quite different and can lead to wildly different advice.

With respect for what we just said, don’t be afraid to act. If you are so busy respecting other people’s perspectives that you never make any decisions, your progress will suffer. As an easy example, some reporters believe we must always use the number bar. Some reporters believe we must never use the number bar. You can respect both opinions. But in the end it is better for you to “pick a side” or develop your own method instead of trying to please everyone. Hesitation can make your job much harder than it needs to be.

Now for the good stuff. You want writing tips. That’s why you came. Here’s a look inside some common perspectives. Brief things you hear often. You may very well reach a point in your career where you are making 40,000 strokes a day with briefs. If everything takes two strokes, that’s more like 80,000 strokes. The amount of stress and strain on your hands is not a joke. Shorter writing can make you a faster writer.

Funny briefs work. You’ll remember them. It’s memorable. Just make them funny for you. It doesn’t matter if anyone else gets it. At one point in my own career every proceeding would start with the sections of law 240.30, 250.20. How long before they became TWAOEFT? Just to drive this point home, an old friend made up a brief for casino when we were in school a decade ago, SKWAOEPB. To this day, I remember it, and it doesn’t come up all that often at all in New York.

It’s better to write than lose. We’re expected to get pretty much everything in the working world. So if you have to make a choice between making a silly outline and dropping, write the silly outline. This can come in the form of condensed words (pseudo briefs) or even half words. For example, perhaps someone briefs “persuasive.” Finally, persuasive comes up — and someone doesn’t remember their brief. It’s okay to write “PER SWAEUF.” In some cases, it’s okay to write “PER.” For example, if the sentence is “The salesman was very persuasive when he sold me the car”, the only time you wouldn’t transcribe your PER as persuasive is if you don’t care or you’re not paying attention.

Testing with tactical drops. Most programs I’ve heard of count a missed word as an error, specifically one error. It doesn’t matter if the word is “Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia” or “hi.” So what happens, often, is students lock up or trip up on small words, and then a big word pops up, and all of it gets dropped or jumbled. So let’s analyze the fake test statement, “hi, my name is Joe, and I have had Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia since I was age 24 in 2018.” All things being equal, on test day, drop the big word and get all the little stuff. Those small words before the big one are potentially 9 errors. 9 errors versus 1. No contest. Please note, in the working world, you need the big words, but you also have the power to ask people to repeat themselves. Also, as a rider to the tactical drop, if you have to drop a word or punctuation while writing, drop the punctuation.

Practice fast. The whole point of speed building is being able to hear, process, and take down what you heard. Some practice slow and work on accuracy, and I hope that that works for them, but ultimately we are training our brains to hear the words and write with what educators call an “automatic response.” You want to be practicing at 10 to 20 words above your target speed. On that note, at least some of this has to do with muscle memory. Repetition is the name of the game. Don’t be afraid to take the same fast take over and over until you get it. Do that with enough takes, and your muscle memory becomes varied and fast over a wider variety of words. My take on slow practice? It’s working against you and training you to be slower. The only thing it might be good for is a confidence booster.

Know your numbers. It doesn’t matter if you use the number bar or not, you need to be very ready to hit numbers. Some of the most common numbers are years, and you should have easy ways to get those out. You can do funky things with the asterisk and lower letter keys to create creative number bar outlines, or you can create short forms. Everyone’s brain is different. Many people brief 2019 in one stroke. I do TWOEUPB TPHAOEPB. Yet with the 90s I do TPHAOEPB TPHAOEPB TPHAOEUPB, which translates literally to 19199, but because I defined it, comes up 1999. Three-stroke outlines are generally a no-no, but if you’re hitting it seamlessly, it hardly matters.

Try to practice interrupting. Worry about this one close to graduation. A lot of the tips so far have been about trying to get it or the tactical drop. Let’s touch on a working skill a lot of reporters don’t have practice with. The interrupt. In the working world there are folks out there that say just let the audio catch it. If you didn’t hear it, it may not be as clear as you think on that audio. So being able to interrupt is a valuable skill. If you have a family member or friend, see if they have time once a week or once a month to read to you. Ask them to read way fast every few pages so you can get a little practice with varying speeds and interrupting. Take note that how you ask can change outcomes. “I’m sorry, please repeat what you said” usually gets people to repeat exactly what they said. “What?” usually makes people expound on what they said or define what they said. Also note that interrupting is situational. Sometimes it makes sense to interrupt on the spot, and other times it makes sense to wait for a break to clarify names or spellings. No matter which way you shake it, how you do it matters. Be polite and professional.

Build your dictionary. There are two major schools of thought here. The first school is methodically go through and add outlines for stuff proactively from the dictionary or news. Another school of thought is to build your dictionary to the work that you do. Some people even maintain different dictionaries for different types of work. Succinctly, it doesn’t really matter what school you’re from, but you should always be adding stuff, with the understanding that anybody who’s taking the time to add stuff from Merriam Webster will have a larger and more complete dictionary.

Analyze misstrokes. If you have the same misstroke commonly enough, it’s either you or the machine. If you can’t get splits or stacks out of your writing, but they don’t conflict with anything else, just put it in. That misstroke that you fix manually every time just became a dictionary feature. In this same vein, if you have a close friend at school, maybe once every couple of months try transcribing each other’s notes. For one, it’ll teach you to read through “rough notes.” On the other hand, your friend may give you ideas that you wouldn’t have had by yourself.

Read back. Practice reading back out loud whether or not you have to do it alone. Practice reading back off notes and transcription. Read back is one of our important skills that we don’t get a lot of practice with. Speaking clearly is surprisingly helpful in matters of business, employment, and stenography. Your ability to speak well may not only affect on-the-job performance, but also whether or not you get a job at all.

Practice writing. At the very least, make sure you know how to compose polite, professional emails, a cover letter, a resume, and a rate sheet. We often like to assume we don’t need any help in this area, but as you have probably seen on this blog and from your fellow students, everyone makes mistakes, and practicing these functions before graduation will make you more employable.

Practice accents. A great deal of our training revolves around perfectly clear speakers at very high speeds. In the real world you may meet people that don’t speak particularly fast, but are not very clear speakers. The more time you get in school or training practicing this, the less difficult it will be during your work and the less likely you will make a critical mistake, such as misunderstanding testimony.

Create your own dictation. Are you having problems with a specific type of word? You can actually create a dictation tailored to the fingering problems you’re having. Get your creative writing on and take a few minutes to compose something, anything. Then you can even mark the thing for the speed you want. The manual way to mark for speed is to take your target speed and divide it by 4. That tells you how many words you need every 15 seconds. So 100 wpm goal divided by 4, you need 25 words every 15 seconds. Count 25 words, make a line. Then you time yourself reading with a stopwatch and hit your lines every 15 seconds. The automatic way to mark for speed is to use Todd Olivas’s Slasher. Alternatively, if you know anything about Python code, you can use my computer program. There are low barriers to creating your own dictation. Google has a stopwatch app and digital recorders can be as low as $50. Explained in more detail here.

Three chances to get it right. Our need to get it right is inviolable. A wise teacher said you’ve got three chances to get it correct, the writing, the transcription, and the proofreading. Countless working reporters skip that proofreading phase, and you may one day find yourself doing just that. That acknowledged, in your formative years and as you are learning, it will make you a better reporter to take that time to proofread your tests and early jobs. We make mistakes. It happens. We are new. The best way to identify mistakes is to take advantage of all the chances to get it right.

You are in charge of your destiny. We have been told by the arrogant that certain people are not fit to be a reporter, or that people over 30 cannot achieve high speeds. For some, this became truth. For others, this became a challenge. Determined reporters across the country have trained to do this. Whatever your issue, whether it be something you feel about yourself, or whether it be an inadequacy in your training, you can compensate and beat it. This is not meant to call anyone’s struggle illegitimate, but to point out that in the end the most likely descriptors of any endeavor are success or failure. Be a success. Everyone wants you to be a success and go on to help other people succeed, but it’s your action or inaction that’ll decide the outcome.

July 10, 2019 Update:

I came across this Doris Wong Blog and the Student Corner. Skimming it, it seems to talk about all kinds of things, and I agree with the writer on a lot of what they say.

The Positive Reporting Challenge

Have you been on the stenography or court reporting subreddits? You may be surprised to see that those communities are not heavily populated by stenographers, but awash with electronic recording heralds.

It’s no secret what they’re doing. They’re poaching people who have an interest in stenography or court reporting and siphoning them to recording. It’s out there in the open, it’s legal and allowed. Transcribers can be taken from a pool of people that know nothing about what we do or how much we make, and then put to work for far less than what they deserve for the job — our job.

They rely on us being complacent and putting on a vitriolic, belligerent public face. They rely on us not taking notice or doing nothing about it. They rely on us not stepping in and saying: Yeah, you can go record, but you can also do what I do, and wow, what I do has given me a lot of success. They need people to become transcribers. The companies that want transcribers are on a recruitment drive, and they go directly to the root to get recruits, us.

I say we take it back. One person described how their girlfriend just got a job recording for US Legal. You know what I did? I said wow, congratulations. But if she likes it, why doesn’t she try steno? She can get paid more for the same job! Encourage people. Empower people to step up the game and join the stenographic legion. And boy, did it enflame another user. He was all LOL tape recorders are taking your job.

And now I realize — this strikes a nerve. It absolutely breaks their game when we come in and say: Hey, this is a great career, and you make more. I mean just by politely suggesting steno, I made someone explode.

So what do I propose? I propose anyone who has five minutes this month sit down, make a Reddit account, head over there to the stenography or court reporting subreddit, and post something positive about steno, or post a resource for steno. Whether you had a great run for 30 years, or you mentored a student, or you have a wonderful resource for sten learners, or you have a great career right now, just go write about it. Let’s be honest, there are thousands of us. If just ten say something nice about steno, it drowns out the ads for ER and puts us in the best possible light.

What’s business about? Presence. Location, location, location. And right now you’ve got ER sitting right under a sign labeled court reporting. Set up shop and put it out there for the public: This field’s here to stay.