Despite the importance of their job, court reporters and the duties they perform are often overlooked. Simply put, a court reporter, often referred to as a court stenographer, a shorthand reporter, or a stenotype operator, is a certified transcriptionist who provides services in a courtroom setting. There is a certain level of misunderstanding about what exactly this entails, and how it is completed.
Court reporters can use either shorthand or voice writing equipment, such as a stenograph, to produce official transcripts of court hearings. Transcriptionists are typically well-educated, certified after completing a specialized post-secondary program. Their role in legal settings and even outside of the courtroom is invaluable.
Transcriptionists possess a unique set of skills that enable them to accurately convey very important information spoken during a hearing. While spoken communication can be difficult to transcribe in real time, the skilled court reporter knows the best ways to go about doing so.
There are a few different methods of court reporting. If you are thinking about arranging transcription, you will undoubtedly encounter one of the following methods. If you are interested in hiring a reporter, you can easily find one through a local agency, most of which employ a roster of highly reputable transcriptionists. One court reporting agency in Fort Lauderdale might have a long list of reporters available to serve the local area.
The most common method of court reporting is the use of a stenotype machine. If you have hired a court reporter for a hearing, you will likely see them using one of these machines in the courtroom. The combination of stenotype technology and the sharp-eyed skills of the seasoned reporter allows for very effective real-time transcription of courtroom happenings.
Stenotype machines capture spoken words, but not directly. Instead, they are captured as a line of phonetic code. Each line of characters in the code represents a specific sound or syllable, which the transcriptionist then translates into common language in order to produce a transcript that is easily understood by everyone.
In courtroom settings, it is not uncommon to see transcriptionists using both a stenotype machine and a computer, which translates the phonetic code digitally and displays it on a screen. This makes it easier for a court reporter to view the text on a larger scale, and enables them to work faster and more efficiently.
Voice writing is another common technique used by court reporters, although it is less commonly known as stenography. It is the process of echoing spoken words into a device hooked up to a computer, which in turn translates the words into text and provides a cohesive, fluid transcription.
Voice writing requires significant attention to detail, good hearing, and a fair amount of patience. In addition, audio transcription requires a high level of proficiency in grammar, spelling, and punctuation, as there is no room for typos and spelling errors. Although the computer software does an excellent job of translating spoken dialogue into written text, no AI is a match for a real person.
A wide range of skills
A court reporter must be articulate, quick-thinking, efficient at typing, and skilled at interpersonal communication. This wide range of unique skills enables them to complete their job effectively without disturbing the court hearing as it is occurring, and to provide a thorough and complete transcript of the hearing afterwards. Since their job is so important in regards to court proceedings, transcriptionists must be very committed to their work.
When you consider the advances in technology, both stenographic and digital, and the use of computers in courtroom settings, you might be wondering why court reporters are still necessary. The reality is that the unique phonetic code used by stenographers is unknown to most people, making transcriptionists vitally important. Court reporters are highly-qualified and possess specialized knowledge gained from a post-secondary program in transcription.