Trust Issues, Brought To You By Veritext

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addendum:

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

Stenographers, Planet Depos Is Not Your Friend

Previously on Not Your Friend, we had our very good friends Veritext and US Legal. Today we make an entry for Planet Depos. There’s really not much to say about them specifically. They’ve been using digitals a while, and it seemed superfluous to write about. There are entire Facebook groups dedicated on social media to watching out for this kind of stuff. Where it might take one person a year and a day to find the information and get it out to a large audience, in these groups news travels fast. So if you’re not connected to something like a Protect Your Record group or a DR Watchdogs group, get connected today, or friend someone who is connected. There have been discussions of agencies that are doing this sort of thing, and discussions of how to advocate for our field and stenography.

What can we say? Veritext is still busy seeking digitals in New York City, which is about as close to stenographic fortress as you’ll ever get. PD is doing it in their markets. There are a whole bunch of companies that we were relying on to stay steno, or that were relying on us to do the good work we do every day. That’s changing. What happened? We can blame ourselves, as we often do, and say it’s something to do with our skills or habits. We can blame them, throw our hands up and say this is the end. Or we can take control of the situation. We can embrace that victory is cumulative. We can understand that there won’t be one single defining moment where someone wins or loses. What happens in a year or ten is settled on what we do every day up to that point.

I know my plan. The first step is to really get the news out that this is what’s happening. Next up, information dispersal. As we start revealing how the market works and what’s being charged, the information will be out there for everyone, and consequently, more people will compete directly. Keep in mind recruitment ideas so that the shortage doesn’t beat us via attrition.

I’ll be publishing rate sheets, client lists, whatever I find and wherever it’s leaked. Many others have taken up advocating for us on a larger stage at attorney, paralegal, and “big law” events. These are not new ideas, but the strategies at play are clear winners. Look how Veritext crumpled at the first sign of stenographers rejecting their new direction and subsequently tried dumping some money on steno to make things better. Imagine a world where there’s any sustained effort to expose shoddy business practices and compete. They just might start their own school program!

We can’t guarantee victory. The catch there is they can’t guarantee it either. And if these companies have stiff competition, there’s a good chance they’ll fall in line and use stenography in every market where it’s viable to use stenography. There’s also a good chance that if those companies don’t fall in line, they’ll go under. With websites like Owler saying Veritext has an annual revenue of 300 million, or Planet Depos an annual revenue of 4 million, and with the cold hard truth that large companies with annual revenue in the billions, like Sears, can cascade into ruin, the truth is out there. Competitors are a market force. Labor is a market force. No matter which you view us as, we have real power. Use that power, and a big box can find itself in the recycling bin.

1/13/2020 Edit.

I am made aware of Planet Institute, a mentorship program ostensibly owned and operated by Planet Depos LLC and registered by Planet Depos under the WHOIS lookup. Notably, its registration predates this article by nearly a thousand days. As always, I encourage agencies taking the jump into advocating for court reporting, specifically stenography. Every dollar spent on steno is valuable and important. In my view, every company can easily turn the ship around, get off the digital craze, and grow some value for shareholders by making stenography training and mentorship their focus. That said, I mention this out of commitment to intellectual honesty more than actual belief that PD will come out as a pro-steno player. As always, happy to be proven wrong and watch them come out as a consistent pro-steno advocate.

Can’t Outspend? Outsell.

When many of us were in school we were given a line, steno sells itself. Many of us can probably relate to that. Most steno companies, upon hearing you’re a professional stenographer, will give you a shot. Many of us in New York came out during a big slump (2010) where steno wasn’t selling itself, but even then, it was trivial to get work. All we had to do was say we’d been working three months, and “they’d” go from sorry no work for you to “oh, here are the keys to the kingdom.” Not all of us knew it, but that’s how it was. Agency owners are good at reading confidence, and what we’re offered is often linked directly to our confidence level.

Of course, the following may be an incorrect assumption on my part, but bear with me: We have entered an era where steno is not selling itself. Company owners are being pulled into the mindset that the voice recognition is “good enough,” and some of the major players, like Veritext, have been pushing recording.

I should note, in full disclosure, that I have not been able to corroborate what I’m about to say with documents or pictures as I usually do. It’s pulled from the social media sphere, so consider it anecdotal for now, and do not be surprised if agencies start railing against social media. Even as some claim that Veritext sent an email stating they were not using recording in states like New Jersey, others have come forward across social media to say yes, this is being done behind our backs. Many of us are reportedly asking lawyers what they’re seeing, and they are seeing digital getting peddled to them relentlessly.

So what do we do when we have major players putting their resources into our replacement? Who here thinks they have more money that Veritext or their owners? Hopeless, some would say. But there is something that many reporters are realizing: This alleged shortage is a great time get private clients and begin new businesses. If Veritext or some entity swears they can’t get a stenographer, some lawyers have allegedly called their insurers and gotten authorization to use a local stenographer or stenographic firm. All their marketing moves and salespeople count for nothing if a stenographer finds themselves in the right place at the right time.

We’re the boots on the ground. We have more contact with law office staff and employees. We have the keys to the kingdom. But the people at the top have made it very clear that they’ll do whatever is convenient for them. It’s time we do the same for the survival of our industry. We don’t work for them? Try it. It might just give us access to their clients. We work for them? Guess who already has access.

Even if we don’t want to handle private clients, we could always network with an existing firm owner out there and get them clients in exchange for the work or a share. If we’re even moderately successful, big companies will be offering to buy back their business from us in a few years, and the field will be a lot healthier once the market share is spread out. Our actions determine the future. The conversation today is steno or digital. Tomorrow it just might be stay steno or slam sand.

Shortage Solutions 8: Retirement

The document that alerted us to an impending shortage was the 2013 Ducker Report. In there, it told us that in about 20 years from then, a very large percentage of reporters would be retiring. Off the top of my head, I think it was as high as 70 percent, but you’re free to read it. That point is about 10 to 14 years from today.

Obviously, this brings great opportunity, because if supply can’t meet demand, the price for the service should rise. In many markets, it has risen, especially where reporters have pushed to be paid more. Some reporters are getting out there and grabbing their own private clients because it’s a seller’s market. In response to the shortage, the field had a great many recruitment ideas including A to Z, Project Steno, Open Steno, and many schools got online to reach a larger pool of students.

A big issue for us has been if enough jobs go completely uncovered, there are interests in the market ready to jump on that and say we don’t need stenography. We can use digital recording. We can use AI transcription. We can use whatever. Veritext, from my perspective, led this charge. Notably, they’re also putting money into stenographic initiatives, but this seems to be a clear case of hedging bets in case our commitment to what we do beats the money being poured into our replacement.

So here’s where we stand: We have a large group of people slated to retire. Do we tell them not to retire? No chance. But we can collectively start spreading the word that the retired are valuable. We had this push maybe a year ago in New York. Our Association, NYSCRA, didn’t give retired reporters or educators power. Not because of any ill will or resentment, but because of a simple bylaws issue. As luck had it, who had the most time to take part in and help shape up ideas? The educators and retired! So we took a stand and voted to give them equal voting power and right to be on the board.

Let’s face facts. If we are working 9 to 6 and then going home to transcribe for an hour, it leaves us very little time to advocate for this field. We may not be able to financially take time away from work or training to be a recruiter or voice in support of this field. We may not be able to advocate for others or mentor students. It’s a great time to consider forming programs and workshops for the retired who want to remain in the field as advocates. Look at the lobbying industry. Somebody works in a field for 30 years, a private interest or association grabs them up, and then they are the spokesperson who goes out and educates politicians on the issue — sometimes for big money.

If you’re retired, if you’re about to retire, or if you know someone about to retire, and especially if you’re somewhat of an altruist, you’ve got a chance to make a difference. Anything from a kind word to a student to full-blown involvement on a board or in a professional management corporation can change outcomes. As a matter of fact, a lot of these large corporations keep veteran stenographers at the head of their court reporting programs. Even traditionally transcription-oriented companies, like Escribers, had a stenographer in management. There’s no reason why the retired can’t, if they are so inclined, put down the machine, pick up the phone, and continue to make money from this field, for this field, and grow it in a way that keeps the career bridge they just crossed standing firm.

Table of Contents

Here we have a table of contents of various concepts and the writing Stenonymous has done on them.

Anticontracting…

Explanation, what is AC?

Antitrust…

Why Not Discuss Rates, association liability.

Associations…

Value of Assoc, NYSCRA

NYSCRA Certs, waiving provisional test.

For Stenographers, NYSCRA and NCRA.

Why You Matter, math behind members.

How Organizations Work, including associations.

Billing…

Simplified, NY billing.

Branding…

Meet Stenographer, reporter got hijacked.

Copies…

Conundrum, copy value.

Digital Reporting…

To Digitals, urging them not to undercut.

US Legal, ads for digital.

Veritext, pushing digital.

Veritext March 2019, pushed digital.

Planet Depos, pushed digital.

Verbit, recording and transcription.

Educators…

Transcript Marker, free.

Todd Olivas’s Slasher, free.

Creating A School, new NY process.

Medical Terms Refresher, for tests.

Legal Terms Refresher, for tests.

WKT Randomizer, geared for NY.

Finger Drill Generator, free.

Guest Writers…

Stay Strong, Joshua Edwards, 2018.

Open Steno, Claire Williams, 2018.

LiveSteno4U Review, J. Edwards, 2018.

How To…

Judiciary FOIL, NY

CaseCAT, characters per line.

Make F Keys Work, when they’re not.

Make Writer Work, on new computer.

Kill Superfetch, with alacrity.

Run A Business, basics.

Understand Holding Companies, basics.

Write Persuasively, basics.

CaseCAT E-Signature, one method.

Think About AI, basics.

Timed Dictation, create timed dictation.

Independent Contracting…

Independent v Employee, differences.

Form SS8, IRS determines status.

Direction & Control, more distinctions.

Jobs…

Real Job – finding work NYC

Law…

Remote Swearing, New York.

Law For Stenographers, New York.

FRCP, USA.

Grand Jury Recording, New York.

Sexual Harassment, USA and NY.

Copyright, a brief overview as applied to us.

Leadership…

Rebel Alliance, how everyone contributes.

Savior Chimera, the numbers make steno a market leader.

Marketing…

Magic, selling a feeling.

Negotiation…

Art of Deal, who you know

Turnaround, considerations.

My Sister, know when to make demands.

Verbit, who’s helping who?

HRD: First Look, historic rate data from California.

Open Steno Project…

Open Steno, steno for all.

Aloft, project by Stanley Sakai.

Typey Type, for self-learners.

Outreach…

To Our Agency Owners, use steno.

To Our Litigators, use steno.

Political Action…

Writing Elected Officials, brief.

Price Fixing…(See Antitrust)

Rates…

Audio Transcription, costly.

Rate Sheet, what’s in them?

Case For Higher Rates, better accounting.

Inflation, higher rates.

What Rate, math tables for rates.

Cost of DB, cover your expenses.

Rate Data FL CA, first look at rate data.

Rate Data 2 NY, 1990s rates.

Org & What, about charging habits.

Pricing Yourself, thoughts on how the game is played.

Shortage Solutions…

Monster, doing nothing not viable.

SS1, remote proceedings.

SS2, coverage area.

SS3, private labeling.

SS4, direct market apps.

SS5, public perceptions.

SS6, pay the piper.

SS7, recruitment.

SS8, retirement.

SS9, listings.

SS10, contracts.

SS11, logistics.

SS12, Stenography

Shortage Stats, March 2020

Strategy…

Diplomacy, keeping our cool.

Public Records, seeking information.

We, why we need each other.

Freelance Loyalty, loyalty to yourself.

Tips on Tricks, be aware of users.

KISS, keeping things simple.

Enforcing Rights, instead of complacency.

Power of Contract, have one.

Allies, have many.

Constantinople, identifying decline.

When Agencies Won’t Collect, ideas.

Stop Gatekeeping, hurts us.

Limits of Institution, how you fit.

Good Reporter, urges resourcefulness.

Commitment, win by any means.

Competing, can’t win if you don’t try.

History, how it informs our future.

Power of No, can make you money.

Getting Involved, you make a difference.

Empty City, don’t buy competitors’ hype.

Big Box, don’t ostracize allies.

Them, emphasizes working together.

Pitchfork, the need for diverse ideas.

Cert Shaming, building each other up.

Sell, why grabbing clients is good.

Lie, the importance of identifying spin.

Guard, about not believing everything AAERT says.

Buying Hype, about promoting facts over a sales pitch.

Why & When, to stonewall.

Pricing In Fear, dealing with a bear market.

Beware Busywork, not letting planning defeat doing.

Students…

Real Job, finding work NYC.

Learn Steno, resources.

Beginner’s Trap, true freelance.

Strike That, do you take it out?

Forgot Caption, NY E-filing.

Off Record, disagreements on going.

Interrupting, when and how.

Take It Out, caution editing.

How Are We Paid, it varies.

Parentheticals, the basics.

Cultural Literacy, its importance.

Hardware 2017, computer basics.

Audio & You, tool or crutch?

Emails, clear communication.

Passive Learning, mastery takes time.

State v Federal, understanding captions.

Briefs, a caution.

Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect, thoughts.

Tax Basics, forms I’ve filed.

Specifically Pacific, verbatim?

Speech & Years, verbatim?

Interpreted Jobs, parentheticals.

Mistakes, you will make them.

Rejection, it happens.

Third Person, messy interpreted testimony.

Stipulations, important.

Inadequacy, why didn’t school teach me?

Employability, truths to consider.

Perfection, sometimes good is good enough.

Tips, general student help.

Value Gradients, different upcharges.

Audio Revisited, more cautions.

Be Social Media Smart, cautions.

Let Go, learning not to backspace.

Errors, how many do you get?

C Bank, technique to short writing.

Log, spreadsheet for logging practice.

Retro, achieving goals by working backwards.

Mentoring, list of all mentoring programs.

Disappointment, importance of boundaries.

Pattern, using pattern writing.

Impostor, forgiving Impostor Syndrome.

Enemies, importance of not saying too much.

Loans, a short discussion of loans.

Workers Rights…

Unionization, freelance.

Workers Rights, cautions.

Gov v Gig Economy, about IC regulation.

– – – –

Writers wanted…

Write Stenonymously, on this blog.

Seriously, write on this blog.

Fundraising…

Fundraising page, support this blog.

Jobs Archive…

March, 2019.

May, 2019.

June, 2019.

July, 2019.

August, 2019.

September, 2019.

October, 2019.

November, 2019.

December, 2019.

January, 2020.

February, 2020.

March, 2020.

April, 2020.

May, 2020.

History…

NYSCRA Prep 2017, for court test.

NY Constitutional Convention, 2017.

Exam Prep, 2017.

Reporter Sharing, 2017.

Disclaimer, 2017.

Exam Prep 2, 2017

Sad Iron Stenographer, first appearance.

Dave Wenhold & Lobbying, 2018.

Typos, Stenonymous PSA.

NCRA Amendments, 2018.

Open Letter to NCRA, 2018.

NCRA Retention Fairness, 2018.

Learn to Caption by Anissa, 2018.

Veritext Buys Diamond, 2018.

License Plates History, 1993.

Positive Reporting, 2018.

New Year, New Rates, 2018.

Wenhold Reaffirms Steno Support, 2018.

Release of Diamond’s Old Renewal, 2010.

Language Study, 2019.

NYSCRA Social, Feb 2019.

Learn About Steno, Plaza, 2019.

Steno v Digital, 2019.

Stenofest, 2019.

Mistaken For The Reporter, 2019.

Stenotrain, 2019.

Wake Up, WUNCRA, 2019.

MA Payonk: Steno First, 2019.

Stenonymous Goes Ad Free, 2019.

NYSCRA Bagels and Lox, 2019.

NCRA: Stenographers, 2019.

NY Courts Want You, 2019.

Language Study Revisited, 2019.

NYSCRA Opens Prep, 2019.

Veritext Scholarships, 2019.

NCRA Survey, May 2019.

NCRA Amendments, 2019.

Burngirl CaseCAT Tips, 2019.

Stenonymous Suite Concept, 2019.

RJR, June 2019.

Leadership Book Review, 2019.

Stenovate, 2019.

Steno Speed, 2019.

Global Alliance, 2019.

Library of Congress, 2019.

Resurgence, 2019.

NCRA Virtual Town Hall 9/21/19, 2019.

Outfluence, 2019.

Raise Your Rates, 2019.

MAPEC 2019, 2019.

Stenonymous Suite EV, 2019.

Impossible Institute, 2019.

Economics of Caring, 2019.

NYSCRA Survey January 2020, 2020.

A Night In Brooklyn, January PYRP, 2020.

Stenonymous on Facebook, 2020.

Eastern District Hiring, 2020.

Trust Issues & Veritext, 2020.

Stenopalooza, 2020.

NYSCRA Student Webinar, 2020.

Veritext Scholarships

So we’ve got a bit of good news here. Veritext announced on May 20, 2019 that it was expanding its scholarship program. Now, obviously, this information is directly from the company. We can’t say for sure what’s happening in Minnesota, Washington, or elsewhere, but let’s be cautiously optimistic and assume this news is one hundred percent true for a moment.

It’s a good start. We’ve got to support these companies taking on the funding of education. There’s been a strong wave of stenographer activism since the big push for digital began, and this may be a tacit admission that steno is here to stay. Nothing but praise for Veritext today. Now, more than ever, is a great time for all companies to get out there and tell the field about their efforts in steno education. We are starving for good news! But, of course, we would be abdicating our moral responsibilities if we didn’t offer some suggestions.

    Schools, reach out to the company and see if you can join their program. It never hurts to make a contact.
    Veritext, according to the Ducker Report, the big four states for reporting are California, New York, Illinois, and Texas. Some of the largest shortage cries come from at least three of those states. It would be most helpful to our field if you would expand scholarships to those locations when possible.
    Also Veritext, if you continue to support rolling out the digital stuff alongside the stenography scholarships, it’s going to be assumed that the scholarships are hedging your bets and the digital is your real investment. This probably isn’t the public perception that you want your stenographers walking into your depositions with. On the flip side, if stenography becomes the primary focus, stenographers will be more loyal and less likely to poach clients. As an accountant once explained, it’s just how the world works.

Some will be skeptical because Veritext was formerly making a major push for digital by asking attorneys to amend their notices to allow it. Anecdotally, as recently as May 20, commentators online were stating that Veritext was attempting to send a videographer only to a dep. We shouldn’t forget that. We need to continue to make everybody aware that some companies are taking an active role in supplanting stenographic reporting. But if this is a sign that there can be a pivot and a turning point in the right direction, we look forward to heaping on more praise, letting the past be the past, and seeing stenographers remain the guardians of the record well into the future.

Big Box Reporters: We Are On The Same Side

Got an email that I was given permission to share. It talks about something we touched on in the blog post No Rebel Alliance, and that SoCalReporters talked about in No Evil Empire.

We are watching Veritext and other colloquial big box firms buy up many steno and court reporting outfits across the country, and most recently to my knowledge, Epiq. We are seeing some bigger firms try to push digital reporting over steno. We’ve written about all this before. With these occurrences, we are seeing a lot of vitriol and hatred towards the corporations pushing digital reporting and the stenographers that work with them.

But what we have here is a clear message from people working for the more corporate cultures: They are not blind. They know what’s happening. Those that do not know are educating themselves a little more every day. They don’t need castigation or derision over where they work or who they work for. They need our support like we need theirs.

This is a strategic look at the situation: Who has the capability to build client lists or come across bills to law firms, the independent contractor who never deals with the big box or the independent contractor who deals with them every day? Power to both, but the one with the everyday relationship has much more power and leverage. The company has an incentive not to piss those people off because those people could start poaching clients.

So here’s a thought: Every day associations and individuals are coming out with pro stenographer material. Let’s make sure we continue to make at least some of that material corporate friendly and corporate neutral. Let’s make sure we let every reporter out there know we’re on the same side and try hard not to insult each other. I’m certain we’ll see a huge uptick in education and public knowledge about our field, but only if we keep this a message of unity whenever it can be.

And again, to the agencies and agency staff that I’m quite sure are among the 700 readers we have this month: You’re not the enemy. We’re on the same side. We want you to be in business and make lots of money. It may be a little foreign considering that for years and years the industry was largely quiet no matter which way the wind blew and now there is a lot of anti-corporate sentiment out there. It’s not personal, it’s just business, and when you try to replace a person’s livelihood by switching to digital, that’s a literal end to our business. Don’t take it for granted that you’ll win just because you’re bigger and stronger than an individual stenographer. Take the easy way out and team up with steno, or steno’s going to look for a middleman that keeps us front and center, like Expedite Legal.

NCRA: Our Money’s On Stenographers

There’s been a huge spike in stenographer association activity across the country. FCRA got part of the Florida legislature to consider a bill to create a court reporter registry, MCRA put out a town hall meeting about digital recording, but thanks to the crippling weather conditions around, that got canceled for now. MCRA also announced the CSR exam — free for members! CalDRA, as described a few posts ago, threw together a war chest and started producing pro steno stickers and flyers. VCRA got in on the war call and also began producing pro steno flyers. Sorry to anyone I missed — write to us all in the comments below — but the bottom line is associations have really put their mouth where our money is and began advocating full blast for stenography.

That brings us to today. We don’t speak for NCRA here on Stenonymous, but we’ll give you the facts and the inferences we draw from them. NCRA just announced unequivocally that whatever funding the corporate sponsorship program brought — it’s not worth the appearance of bias to membership. Your membership and participation is worth more to this board and body than corporate dollars. Your time, your talent, your questions, and your concerns are valid. They ended the corporate partnership program. That’s a big move.

No offense meant to the companies that are all about steno. We know that you are out there and you do a lot for us. We want you to keep plugging away and advocating for steno. We want you at our conventions. But NCRA was having a serious public relations nightmare. Some partners, like Veritext, were pushing so hard on the digital reporting, that it became completely incompatible with NCRA’s core mission of the stenographer.

If you think this is the right path, it’s time to consider renewing membership, writing them, and telling them what would make your experience even better. There are many thousands of us, and as I have shown mathematically in the past, just a fraction of the field in any market could shift the playing field from zero association activity to full-scale lobbying campaign to raise awareness about steno and/or get legislators to enact sensible law regarding the record.

It’s all there in yellow and black. This is your NCRA. What do we do with things we care about? We maintain them. We improve them. And when necessary, we fight for them.

Already there are tons of people interacting with NCRA. Got to see a great article by Rich Germosen that talked all about how he had posted up the men of court reporting, and how others could see that, see that it was a wonderful profession for men and women, and jump into the field. There’s really something special about the staff of NCRA and the JCR, so if you’re outspoken or just need to be heard, make a submission today!

Alternatively, if you’re the quiet type, feel free to write in to Stenonymous. We’re not afraid of a little work, and we’ll compile your suggestions and send it to NCRA ourselves. You’re worth the effort, and your ideas just might confirm what the board’s already thinking and spur real action and progress on top of what we are already seeing.

We’re talking. They’re listening. And they’re more willing than ever to speak for us. So let this be a shout out to everybody who’s on the fence: We need you!

Veritext Update, March 2019

Introduction & History.

First and foremost: This post is going to get into past history and then go into more recent history. In the more recent history, in order to prove that what we’re saying is true, there are screen shots of a person’s LinkedIn social media. We’re free to discuss that and we’re free to say how we feel, but any reader that comes here should be aware that harassment, bullying, menacing, stalking, and defamation are all amoral and illegal. Those things may all open you up to criminal and civil action. If you use our steno news as a gateway for antisocial behavior, do not be surprised if you get police at your door.

Now onto history. Veritext was a leader in working to bolster stenography. A quick Google search will show you that assuming all the media out there to be true or partially true, they are a partner to NCRA and do or did, on some level, and sometimes on an astounding level, support the stenographic methodology for taking the record. It is hard to tell if what follows is a case of Yes, Prime Minister’s advice on backstabbing or a case of the principle of hedging. Veritext proceeded to buy out a lot of stenographic or court reporting companies, including Diamond Reporting here in New York. Next, we caught wind that Veritext was advertising to attorneys that they should change their deposition notices to add language of “stenographic or other means”, presumably so that Veritext could choose to send digital reporters to jobs.

This all ended up culminating in a post where we mirrored SoCalReporter’s ideas and said: We need to stop beating each other up about where we work and start talking solutions. Guess what happened? People started coming up with solutions, and content, and even going so far as to create watchdog groups. We have said this before, but we are seeing a memetic shift. The reporting zeitgeist of silence is over. There are hundreds of voices blogging, talking, and working together to come up with new ideas.

Today & Tomorrow.

So that brings us to the end of February 2019. A woman named Gina Hardin, purportedly a VP of Sales at Veritext, wrote or posted an article about digital reporting being the changing landscape of reporting. There was a great deal of chatter about this, culminating in the post being taken down the night it was posted, and an immediate declaration from Veritext that the post was posted by a former employee and that they had nothing to do with it, honest. This doesn’t pass the colloquial “sniff test” or SMELL test for being true. Why would a former employee try to drum up business for a past employer? In this country, with so few rights for workers, what employee would ever go out on a limb and post something like that without their employer’s explicit permission? Unless you work for the government or have a contract saying otherwise, you can be fired for any reason or no reason, even a made up reason, just not an illegal reason, of which there are very few. The whole thing just doesn’t make sense. And if she’s a former employee, apparently nobody told her, because as of March 2, 2019, she was still listed as working at Veritext, but under the name Gina H. It’s all but undeniable that Veritext is pushing digital, including hiring via their website.

Now, here’s the deal: Some people went online and talked about the typos in the article, or even had personal attacks. It’s not about her. As best we can tell, she’s an employee doing a job, and probably doing it damn well. We make a thousand typos a day unless we’re Super Stenographer. Stenographers, and the entrepreneurs among us, should really be looking at teaming up with salespeople like that who’re dedicated to their job and willing to put themselves out there. Though we have not yet gotten a chance to interview Eve Barrett of Expedite Legal, one of the things she’s alluded to online is there’s an amazing power in human-to-human marketing because of this digital, faceless world. Who is going to be better at human-to-human marketing than someone who is willing to attach their face to the product and pitch? We wouldn’t be surprised if there are stenographic companies looking to poach Gina H. or salespeople like her right now! There’s huge money in this field. Nearly every big agency has a satellite office in every borough of New York City and a cadre of dedicated employees — in other words, there is money to be made in this field, and we shouldn’t be afraid to hire talent when it means a bigger return. Success is often a matter of intelligent delegation. As stenographers, we often let our penchant for perfectionism stand in the way of hiring help and building our brand, perhaps to a fault.

But where does that leave us? Well, we need to recognize that Veritext is apparently willing to lie. Freelancers need to recognize that group boycotts by competitors may fall under antitrust violations. Reporters everywhere need to start acknowledging that the best way to beat ’em might be to just start grabbing clients. It’s time for us to get serious about funding our associations and demanding marketing and entrepreneurial courses. These companies all exist because they got clients off of somebody else. Individually, they may seem bigger or stronger than us because they can outspend us one-on-one, but there’s an inherent power in the fact that if thousands of reporters were to compete directly with them and start poaching clients — which is perfectly legal unless you signed a contract saying you wouldn’t do that or stole a trade secret — they’d be SOL.

For the most ambitious, start looking at fundraising. Start considering all the ways companies come into existence. You very well could be the next nationwide conglomerate. As a matter of fact, if you’re in Illinois, New York, California, or Texas, you are in one of the largest court reporting states in the country, and you have a real shot at seizing the market. Companies rise and fall — but your career is in your hands.

We look forward to the day Veritext sees it’s on the losing side and starts throwing its weight behind stenography again. We look forward to dutifully reporting that right here on this blog. But until that day comes, we encourage fierce competition in this market. Don’t be complacent. Maybe someday we’ll get SLAPP’d for standing up for our profession, but we’re happy to take the heat so that you don’t have to. Be involved. Encourage others to get involved and start building their brand. Know that you are making a difference in how the market and our day-to-day jobs develop.

Shortage Solutions 1: Remote Proceedings

One of the reasons given for stenographer shortage is that many reporters have a strict coverage area, and type or amount of work they will cover. Nothing inherently wrong with that. People have standards. Esquire put out a Georgia article about remote deposition proceedings. Photo archive. We’ll note that in the original article it says 70 percent of stenographers to retire by 2023, but the Ducker Report seems to suggest 2033. The basic idea is to increase the coverage area and reduce commute time by using video or audio to have the stenographer attend. We first came across that idea in SoCalReporters’s blog post, There Is No Evil Empire and mirrored it in There Is No Rebel Alliance.

Though we haven’t jumped into every state’s laws, we did spend quite a good amount of energy and time on learning our own state’s laws, and we think it would be feasible in New York. Remote swearing is allowed under the circumstances described in the CPLR. If you have a choice between agencies using digitals or patching us in remotely to these things, we hope you’re smart enough to choose being patched in. We hope agencies are smart enough to keep choosing stenographers first and coming up with creative solutions for complex problems. We hope that stenographers continue to recognize when they’re not being chosen first and go out to build bigger, better business.

We reached out to Esquire about this initiative and article, and for a brief interview with Avi Stadler, Esquire’s General Counsel, about the program.

Might be worth talking with your own agencies about these ideas. If you have or are building your own company or book of business, the investment in remote capability might be something to look at. They want stenographers. We want them to use stenographers. And the consumer pressure in many cases is for there to be a stenographer. All that’s left is for stenographers to get themselves in the mix and make sure we adapt to the market if this is how steno sells. Some important tips from an ex-freelancer:

  • Get immediate contact information from other attendees in case you’re cut off or lose contact. You need to be able to call the others and let them know you’re no longer there taking the record.
  • Learn how to hotspot your cellphone in the event of a site service disruption OR have some kind of backup plan or call service for technology failure. Adaptability can seize the day.
  • Unexpected things will happen. Let’s say an entire unrelated party gets linked into yours by mistake? Take charge. Be a leader. Explain to the other conference that they should call into the agency. Try to communicate with the agency that there’s an issue. Have emergency numbers or contacts saved directly into your phone so that internet errors don’t stop you from communicating vital information to clients and agencies.

We are thankful that there are so many entities and independents brainstorming and coming up with ideas for the field. We encourage working reporters to join the discussion. Make your concerns known. Have your ideas be heard. We understand that this isn’t the newest idea out there, and that various companies have promoted virtual depositions, even as far back as 2017. Archive. But the best we can do is acknowledge that work and ask for more promotion of stenographic services coast to coast. Hopefully in a year or two we’re eating our words on previous articles that told stenographers certain agencies were not their friends and watching the steno renaissance continue full swing.

For now, consider this one potential shortage solution in what may end up a series of many dependent upon reader feedback.