Veritext “Provides More Work To Stenographers Than Any Other Firm In The Country”

“We are committed to our entire network of independent contractors, including the stenographic reporting community, as they provide an integral and necessary service to our legal system,” states Tony Donofrio, CTO of Veritext. “Technology has become an integral part of practicing law today, and while it will not take the place of the stenographer, it will continue to evolve to provide the profession with a broader toolset to aid them in their commitment to transcribing the spoken word efficiently.” – passed to me by Senior Vice President Valerie Berger on February 4, 2021. Again, these are the words of Veritext’s CTO, Tony Donofrio.

How’d we get here? Not long ago, I was performing some research on where students could find scholarships and grants. It wasn’t long until I came across the Veritext Scholarships page. It struck me as odd that I had gotten eight LinkedIn notices for the company looking for digitals in my area, but not a single one for stenographic reporters. I did what many of my readers do. I kept an open mind. I reached out, and I asked, in spirit “why bother with scholarships for stenographic reporting if you’re going to press so hard on digital reporting?” I had an e-mail exchange with Ms. Berger where I shared many of the things I’ve reported on in the past and seen in the media recently. I got to explain that to many reporters, this kind of stuff comes off kind of like business “stashing,” a term I borrowed from the dating world where a partner says they love and support you in private, but doesn’t do a lot to broadcast that relationship, usually to maintain a relationship with another partner.

The message I got back, in sum and substance, was that Veritext supports all of its independent contractors. They said they find their own network a better way of finding stenographic talent than LinkedIn. Ms. Berger told me that Veritext provides more work to stenographers than any other firm in the country, and took the time to link me to some things that Veritext is doing or has done to support the stenographic community:

  1. Pre-pandemic fundraisers for Project Steno.
  2. The Veritext Peer Advisory Council (VPAC) and its mission to mentor students and individuals considering a steno career in North America in addition to collaborating with Veritext on education for the stenographic community. VPAC also has a student resource center, where the advice column has scores of reporters saying what I often tell students, “find a mentor!” As a matter of fact, there is an old quote from me right on that advice column, “know your market and seek many mentors.”
  3. The webinar A Collaborative Effort: Investing in the Future of Our Profession. In celebration of Court Reporting & Captioning Week 2021, the webinar will be held again on February 11, 2021.
  4. Monthly newsletters featuring reporters and stories.
  5. A Court Reporting Training Program through Maryland Community College System.

I was positively surprised by a lot of what I saw. Our lives and careers are so busy. It can be hard to keep track of all the information out there, and though I was tangentially aware of some of these endeavors, a lot of it was news to me. Let this mark the first time that I have seen such a definitive statement from Veritext. Technology will never replace stenographers. I’ve alluded to that. Many industry leaders have said that. Now Veritext, through its CTO, says that. This is serious vindication for all the times we’ve pressed to correct the news media. This is truth that can be brought to the media’s attention by any one of us for years to come. What better time for such a declaration than CRCW 2021?

What I need from readers is a commitment to keep sharing information and supporting stenography. There are so many programs that have opened up to beat the shortage and for stenographic court reporters to meet the demands of the legal field. There’s so much media about such a small field that it becomes impossible for one man to keep track of. As we march through the year, please feel empowered to send me things that support this article, contradict it, highlight the work of other agencies big or small, or give a totally different point of view on a totally different topic. We’ll keep building information and work to keep the public record accurate, and court reporting will carry on as the fantastic career it has always been.

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.

For the sake of completeness, I am adding an image of the letter.

And, to be even more fair, they have added stuff from our community to their reporter corner. But that’s different from actively advertising stenography.

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

On the suggestion of a reader, the table of contents has been revised to show articles in date order with summaries. Articles or posts that I believe have no more value are omitted from this page but may be found via the search box.

This table of contents is currently under construction. Please use the search box on the home page if you are looking for something specific.



PCRA Wouldn’t Say Whether It Sees the Future Generation as Being Digital Reporters
& What You Can Do About It
7/17/21
This post describes a webinar held by PCRA on June 26, 2021 that platformed digital reporting, why digital reporting is not an adequate court reporting technology, and what court reporters can do to safeguard their associations.

NCRA News. Career Launcher and President’s Party 7/14/21
This post describes NCRF’s Career Launcher, a series of modules to help new reporters. It also mentions the NCRA convention president’s party.

Why I Resigned From the NYSCRA Board and NCRA Strong, and the Future of this Blog 7/7/21
This post dives into why I resigned from several volunteer activities and announces my intention to continue providing industry news.

John Belcher on Winning Depositions 7/1/21
This post showcases information from John Belcher with regard to depositions.

Gartner: 85% of AI Implementations Will Fail By 2022 6/30/21
This post talks about Gartner’s prediction that 85% of AI business solutions will fail and explains why that might be the case.

PAF Steno 6/29/21
This post mentions PAF Steno and the work it is doing to train stenographers.

Thinking of Taking Private Clients? New York Reporter: …Trust Yourself and Go Do It. 6/28/21
This post showcases a Q&A with a New York reporter that was able to double their money by taking private clients.

Over-Engineering Will Hurt Your Business 6/24/21
This post explores over-engineering and the dangers of it in a general sense. It also explains how automatic speech recognition and AI relates to over-engineering.

Steno & Me (Under the Sea Parody) 6/24/21
These lyrics are a parody of Under the Sea from the Little Mermaid set to a steno theme. Immediately after this post was launched, it was discovered that more than 10% of stenographers are also mermaids.

Share Something For Me? 6/22/21
This post touches briefly on how social media algorithms can hamper the spread of information and asks court reporters to share my 6/19/21 article in order to counter false perceptions about stenography in the media.

Relationship Conflicts & What You Can Do When It All Goes Wrong 6/21/21
This post talks about the types of personalities you might run into when buying something from someone. It also proposes a process for resolving conflict. It is geared toward business relationships but can be used for personal relationships also.

Journalists May Be Reporting Black People’s Stories Wrong 6/19/21
This post was utilized in an ad campaign to bring more attention to our field with regard to the study Testifying While Black. Many outlets reported false or misleading headlines regarding the study. This article dives into the dishonesty of several media sources when it comes to stenographic court reporting.

Recording Endangered By Stenography’s Retirement Cliff 6/17/21
This post talks about how the stenographer shortage can hurt the record-and-transcribe modality of taking down the record. In brief, it shows how stenographers are used to transcribe work in many places that have “switched to digital.”

Outreach Webinar by Project Steno – June 6, 2021 6/2/21
This post boosted the 6/6/21 Project Steno/NYSCRA webinar pertaining to high school outreach.

1 in 4 Court Reporting Companies May Be Unprofitable 5/28/21
This post describes a 2019 report by Kentley Insights, explains what zombie companies are, and goes on to suggest that the unprofitable companies in the field are the ones using digital reporting.

Does Stenonymous Spend More On Steno Ads Than US Legal? 5/27/21
In this post US Legal’s LinkedIn campaign to recruit digital court reporters is exposed. The post also shows how Stenonymous has been used to expose thousands of people to stenographic court reporting and contrasts that with US Legal’s apparent lack of a stenographic recruitment strategy.

Vote Yes! NCRA 2021 Proposed Bylaw Amendments 5/25/21
This post advertises the 2021 proposed bylaw amendments and gives my opinion of each.

Court Reporters Speak Up For The Record On Future Trials 6/2/21
This post explores the April 2021 report by the Future Trials Working Group to the New York State Unified Court System. It also showcases association and union response to the report and the reply received by the court system.

MGR Interviewed on the Treatment of Reporters 5/18/21
This post shares my interview with Marc Russo, owner of MGR Reporting, on the treatment of reporters.

CART v Autocraption, A Strategic Overview For Captioners 5/13/21
This post gives information to CART providers to help them cope with the hype and lies surrounding automatic speech recognition (ASR) and sentiments by some that they are replaceable. It talks about how captioners can protect consumers and why consumers need that protection.

Literal v Readable, A Primer on Transcribing What We Hear 5/10/21
This post describes several issues stenographers may run into on the job, including whether to edit something that is spoken or leave it completely verbatim. It explains how context matters in our work.

Paying It Forward with Allie Hall 5/4/21
This post mentions Allie Hall’s efforts with regard to Paying It Forward and how reporters can contribute.

A Primer on ASR and Machine Learning For Stenographers 4/22/21
This post explains some of the technology behind automatic speech recognition and machine learning in simple terms so that stenographers can understand it and educate their clients.

How We Discuss Errors and Automatic Speech Recognition
4/12/21
This post explains automatic speech recognition’s word error rate metric and compares it to how court reporters measure errors.

For Digital Court Reporters and Transcribers, Check Out Steno! 3/1/21
This post was used in an ad campaign to expose digital court reporters and transcribers to stenography and express to them in simple terms why it is better to learn the skill of and work in the field of stenographic court reporting.

Facebook Boosting 101 2/26/21
This post explored the power of paid advertising and showed stenographers how they can multiply their reach by 20.

For Students Saddled With Unpayable Student Loan Debt 2/24/21
This post presents links and resources relating to options students in debt have.

Aggressive Marketing — Growth or Flailing? 2/22/21
This article dives into Fyre Festival and describes how sometimes companies talk a good game even when their product or idea is unprofitable or poorly executed. It also takes a look at VIQ Solutions, parent of Net Transcripts, Inc., and how despite making millions in revenue, VIQ reported over $300,000 in losses.

Help Chris DeGrazio Celebrate International Women’s Day! 2/19/21
Court reporter Chris DeGrazio sought to celebrate International Women’s Day by creating a collage. This post helped advertise it.

Court Reporter Humor – Stenoholics & Andy Bajaña 2/15/21
Stenoholics and Andy Bajana have some hilarious videos related to court reporting. You can get links to them through this post.

Finding Time 2/12/21
This article talks about time management, the importance of scheduling, and using common tools such as calendars and schedulers. It also cautions against taking too much time trying to find the “perfect” tool.

Scholarships & Contests For Students February 2021 2/11/21
This post provides information with regard to 2021 scholarships and contests for stenography students.

You Need 2FA Now 2/10/21
This post talks about two-factor authentication (2FA) and why court reporters need to use it wherever it is available.

Veritext “Provides More Work To Stenographers Than Any Other Firm In The Country” 2/9/21
After reaching out to Veritext for comment regarding what I perceived as a nonsensical and incongruent recruitment strategy, I reached out to Veritext for comment.

Need Continuing Education? Consider CCR Seminars. 2/8/21
This post breaks down the value of one private court reporting education company, CCR Seminars.

List of New York Agencies 2/5/21
This post provides a list of New York agencies in spreadsheet format.

The Ultimate Guide To Officialship (NY) 2/4/21
An anonymous person had been harassing me for several years. One of their “gibes” or implications was that I was an official reporter that posts a lot about freelance and I should post more about officialship. So I did.

Collective Power of Stenographers 2/3/21
This post is a mathematical demonstration of the power of stenographers. Often, stenographers share posts from companies or electronic recording companies as gospel. This post notes that reporters collectively have more money and power than any organization.

For The Record Documentary Goes Free 2/2/21
This post reported Marc Greenberg’s announcement that the For The Record documentary would become free.

NYSCRA’s CRCW 2021 & My Thoughts On The Future 2/1/21
This post announced several NYSCRA plans for Court Reporting & Captioning Week 2021 and explained why reporters must stand by their associations.

Can Freelancers Apply For Workers Compensation Benefits? (NY) 1/29/21
This post explored under what circumstances an “independent contractor” could attempt to claim workers comp benefits in New York.

GGU Presentation & Why You Matter 1/28/21
This post talked about Ana Fatima Costa’s presentation for Golden Gate University, Court Reporter Tips Every Lawyer Needs To Make the Best Record. It also went on to describe how any reporter can make an impact.

Beware Commercial Leasing Agreements for Equipment 12/27/20
This post explains commercial leasing agreements and how they can be very costly traps for reporters if reporters do not fully understand the agreement.

Can You Hear Me Now? Computer Parts For Steno Made Simple 12/22/20
This post explains to court reporters what they’re looking at when buying computers. It gives simple descriptions of components and how to make good purchasing decisions. It also provides simple troubleshooting tips or ideas.

What Law Offices Need To Know About A Court Reporter Shortage 12/15/20
This post was used in an ad campaign to explain the court reporting shortage to law offices. It focused heavily on combatting misinformation about our shortage and explained where stenographers could be found.

Remote Notarial Acts Executive Orders (NY 2020) 11/5/20
During the pandemic the governor of New York issued an executive order which allowed remote notarial acts. This post tracked the orders and extensions for court reporters.

Trolls and You 10/17/20
This post explored trolls-for-hire and exposed how cheap it could be to organize a misinformation campaign. The post also noted examples of likely trolls. It also counseled against the advice “don’t feed the trolls” and explained the importance of not allowing trolls to dictate the conversation.

The Question To Ask Yourself When Viewing An ASR Demo 10/10/20
This post compared several high-profile technology buys to automatic speech recognition technology and its dearth of such purchases. It also showed that ASR technology by the biggest players in the business was inadequate for court reporting.

Turning Omissions Into Opportunity 9/19/20
This post explored several omissions in the media regarding court reporting and demonstrated how court reporters can use these omissions to inform journalists.

What Verbit Leadership Needs To Know
9/12/20
This post appealed to Verbit leadership and pointed out how exaggerated claims could make the company look bad.

How To Spot More Better Marketing 8/25/20
A short guide on seeing through puffery.

Common Scams 8/18/20
A guide to spotting scams that may be adaptable to our industry.

August Asterisks 2020 (Jobs) 8/13/20
An August 2020 post about jobs that were available.

StenoKey, Stenographic Education Innovation? 7/1/20
A post about StenoKey, an educational program by Katiana Walton.

Stenonymous on VICE News Tonight 6/18/20
A post covering my TV appearance regarding the Testifying While Black Study by Taylor Jones, et al.

June Jettisons 2020 (Jobs Post) 6/16/20
A June 2020 post about jobs that were available.

Expedite Legal, Enhancing Coverage Nationwide? 6/15/20
A post covering Expedite Legal, an app service connecting lawyers to legal service providers like court reporters.

Check Out 225 and Beyond (Beware of Busywork) 6/14/20
A post promoting the work of Euan Williams.

How Organizations & Associations Work 6/13/20
A post that explains how associations work and the volunteer structure of them.

May Machinations 2020 (Jobs Post) 5/12/20
A May 2020 post that described available jobs.

NYSCRA Student Webinar May 2020 5/5/20
A post advertising the May 2020 NYSCRA student webinar.

Stenopalooza was POWerful 5/3/20
A post summarizing Stenopalooza 2020 and NCRA STRONG

Pricing Pages In A Market of Fear 4/6/20
A post that discussed supply and demand and the dearth of work in our field at the start of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.

April Applications 2020 (Jobs Post) 4/1/20
An April 2020 post about jobs that were available.

Steno Shortage Stats March 2020 3/14/2020
This post gave fast facts reporters could keep in mind when discussing the stenographer shortage.

What Verbit Investors Need To Know
3/4/20
This post investigated Verbit’s series A funding claims and compared them with series B funding claims. It also explained how a cost savings estimate by STTI was pathetic.












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.