I’ve talked a lot so far about the importance of a scopist and how they help court reporters. Today I’m going to talk about the importance of a transcriptionist, and how they fit into the future of the court reporting industry.
First, here’s a little context. Over the past several decades, auto-dictation software has improved vastly and is being used in courtrooms and arbitrations. As advanced as it is, it’s not perfect, so the idea of the digital court reporter consists of two separate people as a way to check for errors against the computer. Thus, enter four-channel record keeping.
A digital court reporter will show up, either on-site or virtually, with four microphones. One goes to the judge or arbitrator, another to the witness, one the witness’s attorney, and one to the opposing attorney. Whenever someone speaks into the microphone, it shows up as text on a screen. Since each party has their own microphone, it does wonders for eliminating the hassle of people talking over one another. However, as we all know from Siri, the computer doesn’t always get it right. That’s where a transcriptionist comes in.
The digital court reporter will pass off the audio and text file to the transcriptionist, who will fill in the holes and check for accuracy. The transcriptionist will then turn in the final straight to production.
Court reporters are in high demand, but it isn’t because there are more lawsuits (although it may feel that way). Reporters are retiring in higher numbers than they are learning the trade, causing supply and demand to dictate the price of keeping a record. In response, companies are moving forward with digital court reporters in place. Not everyone is happy about it, but few can do anything about it.
As the pendulum swings, transcriptionists will become more in demand, taking over the job that court reporters did for so long. It’s difficult to say when digital court reporting will become the norm, but the technology is only improving. As of February 28, 2019, the NCRA (National Court Reporters Association) estimates the average age of court reporters to be 53 years old. Over the next decade, as the average age shifts toward retirement, the task of taking the record will be hotly debated and in flux.
“Tonight I write this journal entry on my laptop. Other nights I have handwritten entries in notebooks. Sometimes I jot down notes as I ride home in the cab or wait for an appointment. I want all of this — everything and everyone — to stay with me.” – Paula Huntley