What is Court Reporting?

Court reporters use stenotype, stenomask, and even digital audio and video recording devices to capture every single word spoken during trials, depositions and legal proceedings in real-time to create an official, verbatim record that can be referenced later. Outside of the courts and law offices, they lend their skills to live broadcasts and events providing closed-captioning services for the deaf.

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A court reporter is a professional who is most often licensed and/or certified to record proceedings using a stenotype machine. Through a comprehensive post-secondary court reporting program, reporters are able to capture spoken words in a phonetic code on a stenotype machine, with each line of characters representing a sound or syllable. From there the court reporter (or dedicated transcriber) translates the code into written text to produce a final transcript.

Court reporters working in realtime situations connect their stenotype machines to a computer, which then translates the phonetic code and displays it on a screen.

Beyond stenography, which is the term used for using a stenotype machine to provide verbatim transcripts, some court reporters engage in voice writing, which is the process of echoing the spoken words of a proceeding into a special, mask-like device that is connected to a computer. As the court reporter speaks into the machine, the computer software translates the spoken word into a transcription, which is then reviewed by the court reporter upon the conclusion of the proceeding.

Court reporters, in general, must:

  • Achieve an expert shorthand speed (usually about 225 wpm)
  • Be proficient in realtime writing and computer-aided transcription (CAT)
  • Be proficient in English grammar, spelling and punctuation
  • Have an excellent understanding of legal principles and medical terminology
  • Possess excellent interpersonal communication skills
  • Have an understanding and appreciation of legal and business ethics
  • Possess a high level of professionalism

Although court reporters are essentially performing the same job, which is to provide verbatim recordings, the terms used to describe the various activities associated with stenography differ:

Official Court Reporting

Official court reporting, often referred to as judicial reporting, involves stenography in a court of law or legal setting. Court reporters in this type of setting are generally employed by the local, state or federal agency through which the court operates, and they often work exclusively for one judge or court.

Although many court reporters utilize the traditional stenography method, some are called upon to provide realtime court reporting using computer-aided transcription (CAT), which is displayed inside the courtroom and even to remote locations. Some may even perform their job using voice writing capabilities.

Beyond the courtroom, many judicial reporters provide services for depositions or testimony in law offices, and many are called to provide stenography services in private business settings for events such as shareholder meetings and executive proceedings.

Closed Captioning

Closed captioning, which is also referred to as broadcast captioning, is a swiftly growing field of court reporting that involves providing written text for broadcast programming.  Congress requires, as of 1996, all video programming distributors to provide closed captioning for their television programs. As such, court reporters working in closed captioning are in high demand as to allow programming distributors to meet this standard.

Realtime Captioning

Realtime captioning is another form of captioning services for the deaf and hard-of-hearing; but, unlike closed captioning services, realtime captioning is more demanding, as court reporters must be able to provide written transcripts during live broadcasts and events.

Court reporters may provide realtime captioning for live sports events, live news programs, and weather emergencies or disasters.

CART Reporting

CART Reporting, which stands for Communications Access Realtime Reporting, allows court reporters to provide realtime transcription during a live event, such as during a courtroom proceeding, lecture, seminar, speech, or other event where captioning is desired. CART reporting involves stenography that is immediately translated by a computer-aided transcription (CAT) programs and transmitted to a large screen.


Webcasting is a growing subspecialty of court reporting that provides realtime captioning for Internet-based events, such as sales meetings, product introductions, and training seminars.

Electronic Reporting

A method of court reporting that has grown markedly in recent years is electronic reporting, also referred to as digital reporting. Typically used in a courtroom setting, electronic court reporting involves the use of digital audio equipment that is designed to record proceedings.

The court reporter engaged in electronic reporting is generally called upon to monitor the recording as it takes place, while at the same time taking notes to aid in the transcription process. Once the proceeding has ended, the court reporter views the transcript that was produced using specialized computer software, and makes any edits or corrections to the final transcript.

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