The week of February 16-22 celebrates the contributions of court reporters and captioners and all the benefits we gain from their hard work. Not only do court reporters provide realtime transcripts of courtroom and legislative proceedings, they also “write” all of the live content (especially sports and news) that we watch on TV today — including all content for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, which are captioned exclusively by VITAC — a service that benefits over 50 million deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans.
The profession of court reporting traces back to one of the philosopher Cicero’s slaves, who developed a shorthand method for quickly taking down Cicero’s thoughts. Since then, the trade has developed, and now utilizes electronic, 22-key stenography machines, which type syllables instead of single characters, allowing court reporters to write at an average of 250 words per minute (the world record stands at 360 words per minute). However the improved technology does not do all the work. The skill is extremely difficult, and only about 10-15% of court reporting students graduate. Of that 10%, only about 10% are accepted into the closed captioning circuit.
Aside from the daily contributions court reporters and captioners provide, there is a historical benchmark that they currently fulfill, as well. Chapters of the National Court Reporting Association plan to observe the week through volunteer projects, such as the State of Georgia’s Veterans History Project Day, in which the group seeks to transcribe veterans’ oral history for submission to the Library of Congress.
Click here to find out how you can pursue a career in court reporting or captioning.
by Carlin Twedt