Valerie Seaton and Laura Stewart looking into the past and future of Court Reporting.
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Job Description: Court Reporting Is About Making a Hard Job Look Easy
As a bit player in every legal television show and movie ever made, most people think they are familiar with the role of a court reporter: to sit meekly in front of the judge and read back astounding statements on request.
But the job requires enormous concentration and skill. It can be more like performing music than just typing; in fact, the highly specialized stenography machines resemble a piano more than a typewriter. Some sounds or words are recorded by making chords, and each court reporter has their own personal variation on standard shorthand themes, like jazz riffs off a plain melody.
All of this must come together to create an unimpeachable paper record of a proceeding. Much of the work of the court reporter is performed after the actual typing is done—transcribing their shorthand to the official record, double-checking against recordings, formatting to match official requirements. Names have to be accurate; uncommon terms have to be spelled correctly.
The reporter may also be responsible for organizing these records and referencing them at the request of judges or lawyers.
Many court reporters are independent contractors. They may be hired by the court system to work in trials or official proceedings, by attorneys to record depositions or other matters, or by other agencies that hold hearings or other proceedings that require an official record.
A lot of court reporters work in other scenarios that require on-demand stenography, including close-captioning for media or realtime broadcasting or voice-to-text translations (CART, Communication Access Realtime Translation) for individuals without hearing.