Digital vs. Traditional Court Reporting




What is more effective, digital or traditional court reporting?The most obvious difference in digital court reporting and machine shorthand or voice writing is the level of the active role played by the court reporter.  Though all of these methods are used regularly by judicial systems and court reporters across the country, each of them have their own unique benefits and risks.

Digital Court Reporting

Digital court reporting is an evolving technology that has been used in some courtrooms for many years.  The early days of this method of court reporting consisted of an analog tape recorder and a transcriber.  Digital court reporting systems of today include broadcast quality microphones and digital recorders capable of recording the voices of proceeding participants on separate audio tracks.  This capability significantly reduces the risk of inaccurate transcriptions.

With the budget cuts and the need for saving money being faced by so many jurisdictions, digital court reporting has been receiving a harder look by many financial administrators.  The argument for digital court reporting is that, once the sizeable initial investment for the equipment is made, the savings will be created by reducing or eliminating the salaries and benefits expended for stenographic court reporters.  It is often overlooked that there are expenses for maintaining digital court reporting equipment, as well as transcription expenses which are incurred when a proceeding is part of an appeal and a hard copy of a transcript is required.

Some court systems have opted for a digital court reporter and stenographic court reporter blend to carry out their operations.  There are some proceedings that in all likelihood will never need to be transcribed.  For those types of proceedings, digital court reporting would be the method of choice.  For proceedings that could potentially involve appeals and cannot risk inaccuracy in the transcript or failure of a recording device, use of the services of a stenographic court reporter would be the wisest decision.  Because the transcription of a proceeding made using digital court reporting is usually not transcribed by a person who actually attended the proceeding, a chance always exists for inaccuracy in the production of the transcript.  Though proceeding participants are supposed to identify themselves and be near a microphone before speaking, this does not always happen.  Digital court reporters do maintain a time-stamped log; however, there are times that the annotations are not as thorough as they need to be.  

Machine Shorthand Reporting

As indicated above, claims have been made that machine shorthand stenographers are the most expensive and that money can be saved by using digital court reporters.  While in some instances that claim may be accurate, when the numbers are really examined, the costs associated with using machine shorthand reporters are quite competitive.  When accuracy of the record is vital, there is far less chance for error when the record is taken down by a person who is actually there and watching the proceedings.  When a transcript is required, though some editing, or scoping, is usually necessary, the majority of the transcription work is already done.  Because there is no need for a transcriber, that extra time and money is saved.  Machine shorthand reporters also offer the advantage of realtime services for court proceedings and depositions, as well as CART services for the deaf and hard of hearing.  These types of services are not possible with digital court reporting.

Voice Writing Reporting

There are several different types of court reporting and digital is one of themComparable to machine shorthand stenographers, voice writers are also present as a record is being created, which significantly reduces the chances for inaccuracies.  Voice recognition software that is available with today’s technology makes voice writers as effective as machine shorthand reporters in producing realtime translation.  Again, digital court reporters, though capable of replaying audio spots in question, cannot produce realtime translation which can be viewed by participants as a proceeding is taking place.  Read "Voice Writing" for additional information about this type of stenography and reporting.

Advantages and disadvantages can always be pointed out and analyzed in every method of court reporting available.  For all of the methods, though, regardless of the level or type of technology used, the accuracy of the record still depends on the efficiency of the human being operating the equipment.

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Written by , CCR on 10/6/2012 Suzanne has been a court reporter and worked in legal communities for over 18 years. 

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