By: Angie Ballman Punton
Wednesday, June 21st started out like any other busy day at Paradigm Reporting & Captioning. But it turned more interesting than most Wednesdays around 10 AM when I got buzzed by our receptionist Erin stating WCCO News was on Line 3; could I take the call? “Absolutely!” I said. Holding was John Lauritsen, a television reporter, who explained he wanted to do a piece on the fascinating skill of court reporting for the 10 PM segment of “Good Question.” Our President, who would normally field this call, was out of the office. Not wanting to miss out on this wonderful opportunity, I told John, “We can absolutely help you with this! I have the perfect person…” John replied, “Great! We’ll be there at 11:45.” Gulp! That’s less than two hours…
That’s when I put in a call to Merilee.
Merilee Johnson, RPR, RMR, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP, RSA, is Paradigm’s Director of Reporter Relations and Technologies. Before becoming a freelance court reporter and CART Captioner, Merilee spent 14 years as an Official Reporter for Minnesota’s Fourth Judicial District. She’s also a trainer for Stenograph, and an Adjunct Professor at Anoka Technical College, in addition to being one of the techiest people I know. Merilee is a bona fide court reporting expert. She would be perfect for this unusual assignment! The rub was that Merilee was covering two assignments for Paradigm that day. Could she squeeze a little television interview in between them, I wondered?
Merilee picked up my call in her usual enthusiastic way. Little did she know the request I was about to make! Being the humble person she is, it took some work to convince her that she was, indeed, the perfect representative to shine the spotlight on the court reporting profession. Not one to gravitate toward the spotlight, Merilee’s passion for her profession propelled her past her reluctance to go on camera and she graciously agreed to reroute downtown to our offices in between her two jobs. Oh, the exciting and dynamic life of a freelance court reporter.
Merilee started by showing John her reporting equipment. She even encouraged him to try writing a few strokes on her steno machine. “When you think about it, we are a tie between a pianist and a translator,” she explained… then went on to describe the shorthand keyboard and how the machine can capture short phrases in one stroke.
What impressed John the most was the speed at which a court reporter can process and “type” what is spoken. When he took that Good Question to the streets and asked the public how fast they thought court reporters can type, the guesses came in between 60 and 80 words per minute. “You have to graduate with 225 words a minute, with 95 percent accuracy,” said Merilee. “That’s the standard.” However, she also noted that court reporters and CART captioners have been known to keep up with speeds of over 400 words per minute for short bursts of time on fast-paced assignments. Court reporters are truly impressive! Even having worked in the industry for over eight years, I am continually amazed by the skill, concentration and discipline necessary to do their job. It’s practically a superpower!
The reality is, these superhumans with whom I have the privilege of working every day are in high demand. In fact, one of the most pressing issues facing the National Court Reporters Association is not voice recognition taking over this space. Actually, just the opposite. It’s projected that there will be over 5,000 openings for court reporters and CART captioners in the next five years. Because the space in which these highly trained professionals are working is not one in which Siri is (and perhaps ever will be) qualified to compete.
If court reporting seems amazing or intriguing or at all interesting to you, I highly encourage you to check it out. Here in Minnesota, we’re privileged to have one of the premier schools in the country – Anoka Technical College.
For more information on how court reporting works, check out Merilee’s segment on WCCO: http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2017/06/21/good-question-court-reporters/
To learn more about the fascinating, lucrative career of court reporting, check out this link: http://www.crtakenote.com/
If you’re curious how court reporters got their starts in the industry, check out these achieved blogs: