I was asked to speak on a panel for the students of Sage College Court Reporting School in San Diego a couple of months ago about freelance court reporting opportunities and what firm owners look for when bringing new CSRs into a firm. The other panelists were a CART reporter and a freelance firm owner in Orange County. It was interesting to me how many of the students were really focused on going into CART or captioning for their professional career. (I would say 90% were interested in CART/captioning.)
Times have changed, thank goodness. When I went to school (so many years ago) there was no realtime and hence no captioning or CART. Because of innovation and technology, court reporters have careers that were not even imagined in the ‘80s. I will state it once again, the reason there is new opportunity for court reporters is realtime. What sets us apart from machines is the ability to hear, think, and write what someone says – and include speaker identification and punctuation. There is new technology that is available, but that technology can’t think.
If a group of people are able to speak in staccato voices with no accents, they enunciate every syllable, and use language that is not unique (no IP or patent-type terminology), and there is no need for speaker identification or Q and A, great! A machine might be the ticket.
BUT if a group of people speak with accents, speak at the same time, whisper, or if someone needs a transcript with Q and A and speaker identification, you need a human being who can think. I believe the skill of a court reporter can never be replaced by a machine.
The question is: Will court reporters step up and become great realtime writers? Will they keep improving their skills and look for opportunity to grow as professionals? It is up to us as a profession to fight the machines. We have an ability and skill that no thing can reproduce. We have the trust of the legal community. The people of the world are in awe of what court reporters are able to do. (Tell anyone you are a court reporter and right away they will ask you, “How do you do it? It is amazing…”)
I am proud of the students I met at Sage College and court reporting students everywhere. I know they are working hard to bring up their speed and accuracy. I am proud of my colleagues in this fabulous profession who go out there and take down the spoken word. I look forward to hearing about the next great job opportunity that will be available to court reporters that we can’t even yet imagine.
Our skill is unique and powerful. Let’s celebrate what we can do and do it better than ever! Court reporters ROCK!!!