Realtime Is Our Future


MerileeBy: Merilee Johnson – RPR, CCP, CBC, CRR, RSA

As steno court reporters we have been trained to do one thing, and that is to make a stenographic record.  It is an amazing and unique skill that, outside our fellow colleagues, is nearly universally misunderstood. When I explain my profession, I so often get the well-meaning but condescending remark, “Oh, so you can type like, really fast?” while they mimic typing gestures on an invisible keyboard.  In a world with voice recognition software and audio recording apps built into every technological platform, it’s hard to explain to people that I’m more than just Siri in a skirt.  So rather than simply venting our frustrations to each other, I see this as our challenge as a profession to show, not tell, those who benefit from our services that we cannot be replaced.

When we went to court reporting school, the focus of every course revolved around writing on those 23 keys.  I can’t speak for court reporters as a whole, but I can openly admit that I am not trained to do anything else.  I went to school to become a steno court reporter, and that’s it.  I am not trained to work in finance, marketing or business.  So the fact that we are constantly threatened with being phased out, replaced by computers and digital recording has made me evaluate what I’m doing with this exclusive skill.  I laid out my options and realized I had the choice of going back to school, learn to operate a digital recording device, or become a better realtime reporter.

So what did I choose?

We hear it every day, “Realtime is our future.”  So I hopped aboard the Realtime TRAIN (Taking Realtime Awareness and Innovation Nationwide) and learned NCRA has a realtime TRAIN committee which has member volunteers peppered across the nation to help promote realtime awareness.   The goal?   To help clarify complicated software and hardware issues, and provide helpful writing tips to increase the number of court reporters capable of providing quality realtime.  Although motivated and driven to become a better realtime writer, the fact is, providing realtime…it scares me.  Writing realtime means that my work product is on display for attorneys, judges, clients, interpreters, and employers to see.  Right there, in the middle of the table, lay all my imperfections for everyone to look at and judge.  Realtime is our future, but it’s also intimidating.

For years I let that intimidation hold me back.  Sure I could write realtime, but that didn’t mean I actually provided realtime.  When faced with being replaced by digital technology, I had to make a decision to face it head on, and once I did, I never looked back.  What I learned is there’s no down side to providing realtime.  Being a better realtime writer presents better jobs, a quicker turnaround time, and a new appreciation for court reporters by attorneys and clients.  Discovering new ways of writing something gives me a thrill when I see it pop up on my screen.   The first time you connected a computer to your writer, were you thrilled when you got it to connect?  Are you tickled when you discover a way to get something to translate on your screen?  Do you love watching people’s reactions when they see their speech instantly translate into text?

Instead of stressing out about all my imperfections, I thought about these fun little thrills that realtime presents.  As I worked on updating my theory, I discovered new ways to simplify my writing.  I found short forms in my dictionary that I had forgotten about.  I discovered functions in my software that made my writing better.  I don’t think I realized that embracing realtime would change my career but the fact is, it has opened doors that, at one time, I was too afraid to knock on.

Since giving my realtime a little face lift, I have been presented with the opportunity to provide CART for Deaf/deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals.  My days don’t always end with “How fast can you get that to me?” Instead, some days I am rewarded with comments from students who tell me they couldn’t have gotten through school without this service; comments from patients who said that going to the doctor is no longer scary now that they can understand what is being said; appreciation from consumers who were thrilled they could take part in a meeting or seminar.   I get thanked every day.   I feel appreciated every day.  I feel valued every day.

We are the future of court reporting.  So if you’ve never hooked up to realtime, give it a try!  If you provide realtime for yourself, consider hooking it up for a client or judge, or better yet, your dog or cat until you’re comfortable.  If you’re a veteran in providing and hooking up realtime, push your skills a little further by learning new software or experimenting with different hardware.  Don’t be limited to just one way of hooking up.  Technology is trying to be our competition but we are superior to technology.  Use technology to make us better.  We are the future of our profession and providing realtime is making our profession better as a whole.  The ability and confidence to provide realtime will secure your career and make you marketable for opportunities you may not know exist.

So this skill, this craft that we have, it can be your career changer.  We can show people we’re not just Siri in a skirt or a suit.  We hear it all the time, “Realtime is our future.”   Where will your realtime take you?

2 Responses to "Realtime Is Our Future"
  1. This article showcasing a realtime journey needs to be shared for others to embrace their fears and take the leap! As a TRAIN volunteer and realtime fanatic, helping others to “see the light” of the future and get beyond their fears is an ongoing endeavor. You have described your journey a way that will sweep up stragglers and motivate them toward shore! May I share your article on our Facebook page and wherever there is an ear to listen and two hands on a machine?

    • You certainly may, Carol! Thank you for the feedback and for sharing Merilee’s inspiring words with others! 🙂

      Angie Ballman Punton