Myths about Court Reporting and Captioning

MYTH #1:  Stenographic reporting is old-fashioned and will soon be replaced by digital audio recording and voice-to-text software.

Wrong!  (watch TV news segment or listen to podcast) There is nothing that can replicate the human brain for synthesizing speech and converting it to text. Period. Nothing can or will challenge the human brain in that capacity during your lifetime.  Yes, there have been advances in technology, but not even voice-to-text technology advocates suggest that V-to-T software can replace a live human being.  And while digital audio technology is superior to analog audio technology principally because it’s miniaturized and requires less hardware, the audio quality of voice recording achievable today is not materially different from what could be achieved in 1970.

Q:  So if tape recording is superior to stenographic reporting, why hasn’t it replaced stenos in the last 50 years?
A:  Because it isn’t superior!

Stenos provide the best, most reliable written record, and the marketplace bears out that fact.  Stenographic court reporters/captioners are the overwhelming choice of attorneys, courts, and captioning companies whose job it is to convert the spoken word to text.

Each of these stenographic careers – working in a state or federal courtroom; working for litigation attorneys in law offices and hearing rooms throughout the country; providing closed captions for TV, sports events, cable and movie productions; providing CART (communication access realtime) to hard-of-hearing and deaf individuals – offers you a rewarding and well-paid career.

MYTH #2:   Court reporters are simply glorified secretaries.

Wrong! Capturing the spoken word on the fly, in real time, means writing stenographic shorthand as fast as people talk.  And that’s fast!  Today it’s routine for people to speak at 225 words per minute (almost four words per second) and faster.  Stenographic shorthand is not typing; it’s shorthand written on a machine, analogous in fact to playing the piano but at a concert pianist level.

There are varied career options. It’s a highly skilled career that marries shorthand skills with the latest in computerized technology. Your career will reward hard work with long-term job stability, upward social mobility, and the opportunity to earn a substantial six-figure income.  There’s no glass ceiling in a stenographic career:  There’s only one pay scale and it applies to all, men and women alike – no exceptions!  It’s a perfect career for those who are willing to work hard and enjoy the rewards of an upper-echelon white-collar career.

MYTH #3:  Court reporters only work in court.

Wrong!  But it was correct at one time.  There have been shorthand reporters in courtrooms since the 1800s (all writing manual pen shorthand); and up until the mid 1950s, the only place a stenographer could have full-time employment was in a courtroom, hence the name “court reporter.”  But that all changed when the rules governing civil litigation were rewritten in the 1950s and ushered in the era of pretrial discovery.  Pretrial discovery depositions (i.e., taking sworn testimony in a lawsuit) take place typically in lawyers’ offices, not in a courtroom.  Within a few short years, non-courtroom reporting (called “freelance reporting”) became the major area of employment for reporters, and remains so to this day.  We still call ourselves court reporters, but it’s a legacy term.  Today the field of captioning has huge potential to employ many more trained stenographers.