Did you know the court reporting profession has been around for centuries? (Yep! There are historical records from back during the Roman empire!) And, as you can imagine, with a career that has existed for that many years, there have been HUGE improvements made on the process. Along with a lot of myths surrounding it as well — including that court reporters are on their way out due to technological advances. Wrong!
I’ve put together a list of five of the most common myths I hear all the time — and why they are exactly that, myths. Read on to find out!
Tape recorders can only record sound, and vocalizations are often not loud and distinct enough to be heard and understood. Imagine the Court finding a multimillion-dollar verdict in your case and the numbers not being audible! There have been parts of trials that were completely lost because a tape recorder malfunctioned and no one knew it. A live reporter can stop the speakers and ask them to repeat, if they can’t be heard or if multiple speakers are talking at once. Live reporters are by far and away the most accurate record-takers.
There are many very talented reporters who do a superb job of writing, but there are still corrections that need to be made to every transcript. Someone needs to read the text word for word, punctuate, paragraph, research spellings, etc., and that person is either the reporter him/herself or a scopist. It often takes hard work and several hours to produce the professional transcript that attorneys and judges expect.
Because many judges realize that a court reporter is the best means of getting the proceedings down accurately, many judges still insist on having a live reporter present. Because closed captioning is now legally mandated for most TV shows and movies, more reporters are now needed who can fill that void as well. If anything, reporters are more essential now than ever!
No one has a crystal ball to know what will happen in the future, but at this point, voice-activated software has to be trained to the speaker’s voice. It has a very long way to go before it will be able to be utilized for multiple speakers in an often horrible acoustic environment. And if that ever does happen, someone will still need to be there to run the equipment and see to it that everything is working as it should — a court reporter. And in order to meet deadlines, someone will need to read the transcripts word for word, punctuating, paragraphing, etc. Yep, a scopist!
The reporter can only write what s/he can hear. If a speaker is talking at the speed of light, slurring words, has a thick accent, or if multiple voices are speaking over each other, it can make it impossible for the reporter. They sometimes have to take control of the proceedings in order to get the record. Attorneys, witnesses, and judges often sabotage the very record that they need!
We should all take our hats off to reporters who make a very difficult job look like a piece of cake!