Realtime or Stenograph Reporting?




Stenographic court reporting is the process of using machine shorthand to create a record of situations such as legal proceedings or governmental agency hearings.  A stenotype machine is used to accomplish the task of accurately recording the spoken word of the proceeding participants.  Using the 22-key machine, a stenographer strokes multiple keys simultaneously to produce words or phrases.  

Older stenotype machine models recorded the strokes made by the stenographer onto long paper strips which could later be read and translated to produce a transcript.  As technology has developed, stenotype machines have been designed with the capacity to record strokes onto floppy disks, internal hard drives, and flash drives, with the paper strips serving as rarely-needed backup.  The newest models of stenotype machines no longer use paper strips as backups to record stenographic strokes.  Multiple forms of digital memory within the same machine provide the necessary backups for the notes made by the court reporter.  Also visit Court Stenographer Schools - Become a Court Stenographer for further information about starting a career in court reporting.

Internal digital dictionaries are also part of the modern stenotype machines.  A court reporter builds a personal dictionary throughout his or her career.  With the personal dictionary usually originating while the court reporter is still in training, it becomes the heart of what allows the court reporter to perform the duties of preserving an accurate record.  Though basic personal dictionaries may start out very similar, as a court reporter continues in the profession, that court reporter’s personal dictionary becomes very specific to that particular court reporter.  The way one court reporter strokes a word or phrase is not necessarily how another court reporter will write that same word or phrase.  The personal dictionaries of court reporters are as unique and individual as the court reporters themselves.

When building personal dictionaries, many court reporters define the same stroke to translate into various words.  This is what is referred to as a “conflict.”  For example, a court reporter may use the same stroke to indicate the words “there,” “their,” and “they’re.”  When going through the process of editing a transcript, the court reporter must resolve the conflicts within the transcript.  Court reporting software indicates to the court reporter that a conflict exists, and the court reporter must manually choose which word is the correct form as indicated by its context in the sentence.

As court reporting technology has continued to develop, so has the usefulness of conflict-free writing.  Now commonly referred to as “realtime” writing, court reporters are learning writing theories that even further reduce the amount of time required to edit transcripts.  The development of realtime writing has not only affected the legal community by making litigation transcripts available almost instantly, but it has also made possible closed-captioning for broadcasts and communication access realtime translation, or CART, for the deaf and hard of hearing.  With these technological developments in stenography, jobs have become available in fields that court reporters in the past would have never dreamed possible.

Even though technology is constantly moving forward, there still continues to be a need for skilled stenographic court reporters.  Not every proceeding requires the use of realtime translation.  At present, realtime services are more expensive than basic stenographic court reporting services, and if the extra expense is not required, it is a far more wise use of financial resources for attorneys to employ the services of a basic stenographer.  However, if the use of realtime services justifies the expense, there are certainly advantages of having instant access to a transcript by judges, attorneys, and other court personnel.  When considering the priceless benefits offered by closed-captioning and communication access realtime translation services for the deaf and hard of hearing, expense can certainly be no object.  Also read Real Time Reporting for other forms of court reporting and the technologies used.

As with most professions, court reporting technology will continue to move forward.  Court reporting schools now emphasize conflict-free writing theories, and eventually basic stenographers will retire and be replaced by court reporters who have never known any other way of writing other than realtime.  With the present need for all levels of court reporters, however, the job outlook for the future of all court reporters is still quite bright.

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