Profession of Court Reporting
The profession of court reporting is thousands of years old. Its roots can be traced back to 63 B.C. when Marcus Tullius Tiro employed shorthand reporters as Cicero’s secretary.
Court reporters and captioners are highly trained professionals who share a unique ability to convert the spoken word into information that can be read, searched, and archived. This specialization has created new career paths for reporters, including broadcast captioning and realtime translation services for people who are deaf and hard of hearing.
What Do Court Reporters and Captioners Do?
Court reporters, also known as guardians of the record because of their impartiality and role within the judicial process, capture the words spoken by everyone during a court or deposition proceeding. Court reporters then prepare verbatim transcripts of proceedings. The official record, or transcript, helps safeguard the legal process. When litigants exercise their right to appeal, they use the transcript to provide an accurate record of what transpired during their case. During the discovery phase, attorneys also use deposition transcripts to prepare for trial. By combining their skills with the latest technology, some court reporters (and all captioners) can provide realtime access to what is being said during a trial or deposition for the benefit of all involved parties. A court reporter providing realtime, which is the only proven method for immediate voice-to-text translation, allows attorneys and judges to have immediate access to the transcript, while also providing a way for deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans to participate in the judicial process.
More than 70 percent of the nation’s 50,000-plus court reporters work outside of the court. Because court reporting involves a highly specialized skill set, reporters have a variety of career options:
Official court reporters work for the judicial system to convert the spoken word into text during courtroom proceedings. The reporter also prepares official verbatim transcripts to be used by attorneys, judges, and litigants. Official court reporters are front and center at controversial or famous cases – criminal trials, millionaire divorces, government corruption trials and lawsuits – ensuring that an accurate, complete, and secure record of the proceedings is produced. Official court reporters may also provide realtime during a courtroom setting to allow participants to read on a display screen or computer monitor what is being said instantaneously.
Freelance reporters are hired by attorneys, corporations, unions, associations and other individuals and groups who need accurate, complete, and secure records of pretrial depositions, arbitrations, board of director meetings, stockholder meetings, and convention business sessions.
Broadcast captioners, also called steno captioners, use court reporter skills on the stenotype machine to provide captions of live television programs for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers through realtime technology that instantly produces readable English text. Captioners work for local stations and for national channels and networks captioning news, emergency broadcasts, sporting events, and other programming.
A version of the captioning process called Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART), also known as live-event captioning, allows court reporters to provide more personalized services for deaf and hard-of-hearing people. CART captioners accompany clients who are deaf and hard-of-hearing as needed; for example, to college classes — to provide an instant conversion of speech into text using the stenotype machine linked to a laptop computer.
Webcasters are reporters who use their training to capture financial earnings reports, sales meetings, press conferences, product introductions, and technical training seminars and instantly transmit the captions to all parties involved via computers and the Internet. As participants speak into telephones or microphones, the words appear on everyone’s computers, accompanied by any relevant documents or graphics.
Well-Paid, Highly Trained Professionals
Court reporters (including deposition reporters and captioners) earn an average of nearly $45,000 a year. Income varies according to the area in which a person lives, certifications earned, the kinds of reporting jobs, and experience of individual reporters.
The knowledge and skills to become a court reporter or steno captioner are taught at more than 100 reporter training programs, including proprietary schools, community colleges, and four-year universities. Many of these programs offer distance learning options.
Upon graduation, court reporters can further their marketability and earn recognition for achieving high levels of expertise in particular reporter markets by pursing certification.
The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) offers the following professional certifications:
- Registered Professional Reporter (RPR)
- Registered Merit Reporter (RMR)
- Registered Diplomate Reporter (RDR)
- Certified Realtime Reporter(CRR)
- Certified Broadcast Captioner (CBC)
- Certified CART Provider (CCP)
- Certified Legal Video Specialist (CLVS)
- Certified Reporting Instructor (CRI)
- Master Certified Reporting Instructor (MCRI)
- Certified Manager of Reporting Services (CMRS)
An Evolving Career Choice
The role of court reporters continues to evolve from serving as information managers in complicated trials, to capturing depositions and business proceedings in digital format, to assisting millions of deaf and hard-of-hearing persons through advanced captioning technology. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that job opportunities in this field will grow 10 to 20 percent through 2012. Also, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires that by 2006 100 percent of all new programming in the top 25 markets must be captioned, establishing a high demand within the profession. The 2013-2014 Industry Outlook Report produced by Ducker Worldwide indicates there are going to be 5,500 new positions available in the next five years!