Real-Time Reporting Explained

Real-time reporters may very well be the speed demons of stenography, as they must be able to produce a readable transcript, in real time, thereby achieving the pinnacle of both speed and accuracy.

Real-time reporters combine their stenographic skills with computer technology to provide real-time transcripts. The stenotype machine in real-time reporting is connected to a laptop computer that is loaded with specialized computer-aided transcription (CAT) software capable of transcribing shorthand near-instantaneously.

Real-time recordings can be displayed on a large screen for audiences or can be transmitted to remote locations.

Real-time reporting has eliminated the need to transcribe notes to produce a verbatim transcript of the proceedings, which can be incredibly tedious for the court reporter. Instead, real-time technology improves the reporter’s productivity, while at the same time providing audiences and participants with the written transcripts they desire.

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Real-Time Reporting in the Court Room and Beyond

It is not uncommon for highly skilled real-time reporters to take their skills to other areas outside of the courtroom. Many of these professionals find excellent job opportunities in the fields of closed captioning and CART services for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Real-time technology has even allowed transcriptions to be translated into braille.

Given the demand for closed captioning (the FCC now requires all broadcast television providers to provide captioning services), the need for real-time captionists has also increased dramatically in recent years.

Real-time reporting jobs have become quite commonplace in a number of settings, including:

  • Courtrooms: Many jury trials and high-profile cases necessitate expedited transcripts, which real-time court reporting provides.
  • Realtime captioning: Realtime captioning is a must for live events and broadcasts, such as news shows, weather disasters/emergencies, and sports events.
  • Communications Access Realtime Reporting (CART): CART reporting is the act of providing specialized services to deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals at live events, such as religious and civic services, lectures, cultural presentations, and classrooms. There is pending federal legislation that will require CART to be made available to all K-12 classrooms in the country.
  • Webcasting: Real-time reporting is commonly used for webcasting, the act of providing real-time captioning for web-based live events, such as product introductions, corporate sales meetings, training seminars, and press conferences.

Real-time reporting provides highly relevant testimony for courtroom proceedings, as it allows attorneys to review the testimony in real-time or at a later date. Real-time technology allows individuals viewing the written transcripts to highlight relevant testimony for later reference; to easily search and find pertinent text; to make notes concerning testimony alongside the written transcript; and skip to a specific page.

Many attorneys use real-time technology to send and share transcripts in seconds, and it is often serves as a useful tool for challenging questionable testimony and to track multiple issues. Real-time is often particularly helpful in cases that involve multiple depositions and cases with conflicting testimony.

The Real-Time Reporter in the Courtroom

Real-time reporters are not unlike traditional stenographers, as they are called upon to use either stenotype or stenomask devices to record spoken proceedings. However, real-time reporters connect their stenographic equipment to laptop computers which, through the use of real-time software, translate the written shorthand into readable text. Due to advances in real-time technology, the transcribed words appear on the computer screen within seconds of being spoken.

It is also common for the real-time reporter’s computer to transmit the transcribed text to the attorney’s computer or to a remote computer or website. Real-time reporters may work with scopists, assistants to the court reporter who edit the final transcript and either print it or save it as to provide counsel with a final transcript at the end of the proceeding.

Instantaneous translation for a court reporter via real-time technology involves becoming accustomed to making editing and dictionary entries during pauses in courtroom testimony. Once real-time reporters learn to use the technology and produce a clean transcript at the end of the proceedings, this method of court reporting is not unlike traditional court reporting.

Many real-time court reporters have even noted that using real-time technology – and seeing their translations immediately upon writing them – serves as an excellent tool for correcting common shorthand mistakes and honing their shorthand skills. As a result, court reporters report faster production and more efficient editing of transcripts as a result of real-time technology.

Because of the accuracy and speed demanded of real-time court reporters, these court reporters often achieve premium salaries and more lucrative jobs.

The Needs of the Real-Time Reporter

A real-time reporter must learn to use a CAT (computer-aided transcription) system with realtime translation. For real-time reporters with a heavy workload, bringing on the services of a scopist is often in order.

Most real-time court reporters must purchase their own realtime software package, which can be quite expensive. It is important for court reporters to ask the vendor a number of questions when purchasing real-time software, as to ensure it is adequate for their needs.

A comprehensive CAT software package should include:

  • The capacity to allow the court reporter to edit while realtime is happening
  • The ability to share the transcript with counsel by connecting to their laptops
  • The capacity to allow the attorney to use word processing functions while receiving the real-time transcript

A real-time reporter must also possess an excellent notebook computer, which features at least two serial ports: one to connect to the stenotype machine and one to connect to the attorney’s notebook. Many real-time reporters also purchase a null modem cable, which allows them to hook up with up to three attorneys. An extension cord and a surge protector are also quite useful.

Certified Real-Time Reporter (CRR)

Beyond a comprehensive education through a recognized court reporter program, many real-time reporters pursue the National Court Reporter Association’s (NCRA) Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR) certification, an entry-level certification that certifies a court reporter’s ability to use a stenotype in realtime using the CAT method.

Candidates pursuing the CRR designation must pass the CRR certification exam, which includes an assessment of their ability to: (1) set up their equipment; (2) complete a five-minute real-time transcription session and achieve 180 wpm; and (3) convert the transcribed text to an ASCII text file.

To qualify for the CRR exam, individuals must have already obtained the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) designation through the NCRA, and they must be members of the NCRA in good standing.

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