Court reporting is as old as our civilization and we’ve seen it professionally being practiced for thousands of years. We can trace back the roots of court reports all the way back to 63 BC, when Cicero’s secretary, Marcus Tullius Tiro, was already practicing shorthand court reporting. The profession requires well-developed skills, a broad range of learning and training, and accuracy.
Stenographers are among the highest advanced people in the courtroom and they are the ones that make court reports. They can also be found working in deposition suites all across the nation. Producers of digital recording devices and transcription companies can often be overheard bragging about the ‘evolution’ of court coverage and how their products are better, cheaper, faster, or more reliable than the work produced by stenographers, but the truth of the matter is that, though digital audio recording may generate sufficient records, these recording devices do not necessarily produce accurate documents.
Transcripts from digital recordings could easily be riddled with some inaccurate declaration, audio speakers may be improperly recognized or identified, digital recordings may effortlessly get lost, and there have been instances that the digital equipment was falling short and that the drivers failed to transform it, and that entire proceedings were not properly recorded or videotaped.
The modern-day stenographic reporter is in every aspect digital, and will capture the voice-to text recordings on multiple redundant hard disks, secure the data in a cloud web server, and at the same time provide backup documents.
Digital court coverage (or more properly, electronic recording), is simply providing transcriptions according to reality, and audio recording provides a state-of-the-art and accurate document. When transcripts are required, stenographic court reporters will quickly and efficiently provide the required documents whereas digital transcripts would require multiple ‘transcriptionists’ to come up with the documents.
A major difference between a ‘stenographic court reporter’ and ‘voice-writing court reporter’ lies in the method they use to make the record. Stenographer use stenographic verbatim to record what defendants, witnesses, attorneys, or others are stating a court proceeding, while voice-writing reporters are repeating verbatim what these people are saying. They use different methods, but the role and duties they have as court reporters are identical.
In the U.S., stenographic reporters need to be certified and they must be able to produce texts at a speed of up to 225 words per minute on their stenographic machines. Only a limited number of court reporting students will manage to do this, and every year the drop-out rate at education institutes in extremely high.
Certification in most states, required, is obtained through the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA), the National Verbatim Reporters Association (NVRA), or the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT). There are also states, though, who have their own certification standards.
The tedium of the job is of a nature that the drop-out rate of active stenographic court reporters is also pretty high. In some states, a court reporter must be a notary public with the authorization for administering oaths to witnesses, certifying that the transcripts are verbatim accounts of what was actually said.
To become a stenographic court reporter, you will generally need 2 to 4 years of formal education to master the basic skills, and learning all basic skills of a voice-writing reporter usually takes 6 to 9 months. If you want to be proficient in real-time voice-writing you will need an extra year or more.
Quite a few universities and colleges offer associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs and candidates may also attend a specialized certificate course at business schools. Online courses are also offered for both specializations. When they are sufficiently experienced through additional on-the-job training, court reporters may move ahead to real-time reporting.
Court reporters must attend continuing education courses in order to keep their licensure. In general, court reporters must manage at least 225 words a minute to get or remain certified.