Joh Wenklawski - Stenograph - USA

Impact of technologies and human factors in reporting activities.

Intersteno Congress - Prague July 2007

Good afternoon, I’m John Wenclawski, the president of Stenograph.  It is my pleasure to have the opportunity to address so many people involved in this important and exciting profession.  Unlike the previous speakers, I will not try to dazzle you with our technology.  As we approach our 70th anniversary at Stenograph, we continue manufacture most of the shorthand machines that are used in 50 plus countries around the world.  Our software product, Case CATalyst, is the most widely used and  as demonstrated at prior Intersteno conferences, Case CATalyst is the foundation of our voice recognition and  broadcast captioning products.  Enough about the success of our products.

Today I would like to spend my time speaking with you about how this technology has had an impact in all corners of the world.  At times some might say that the profession is changing which is very true.  With that said, we cannot forget the value to society that this profession provides and we must remember to broadcast the positive traits of this skill, to ensure the longevity of court reporting. 

There are many forms of creating a record.  Some utilizing today’s latest technologies, others embrace proven ways.  The shorthand machine and the voice writer rely heavily on the human factor.  Digital recording and video are based on newer technology, but there is still a spot for the pen writer.  The most important point that needs to be made is this; that a transparent legal system requires a record created by an impartial third party.  Without a transparent legal and legislative system, countries will not be able to attract business investments from other parts of the world.  It is also essential to ensuring human rights.

When this transparent record is an electronic text document, significant value is added to it.  Producing  in realtime lends itself to accessibility from any location worldwide.  Extensive research of a record is now easy.   In creating the realtime electronic record, the human element is imperative.  The human element guarantees the control of the setting and the ability to address any technical issues.  They ensure that the record is captured and are an impartial third party to all of the testimony.  They can certify that the record truly is transparent. 

When we think of the traditional forms of court reporting, it is common to think of the following three venues.  The judicial system has been widely publicized on various television shows such as “Perry Mason” and “Law and Order”.  They have demonstrated, at times inaccurately, the presence of the court reporter in the courtroom.  The lack of availability has brought about the rise of alternative technologies such as digital audio and video into this environment.  In the litigious United States, most court reporters, approximately two thirds, are found in the pre-trial discovery process.  Depositions regularly need a fast turnaround of an accurate record.   

The area that probably saw the first court reporter is in parliamentary reporting.  Today in many countries you will still see pen writers, as well as machine shorthand writers, and voice writers taking the record of the legislative bodies.  As you travel through all corners of the world, the number of countries seeking out and demanding a transparent record has increased.  The more high profile the case is, the greater the likelihood that these proceedings will be done in realtime with the record delivered on an hourly or daily basis.  “Down under” inAustralia you will find some of the most high tech cases taking place.  Real-time cases, with 40-50 attorneys and hundreds of thousands of documents, lasting for many months, have taken place.  It is wonderful to see the court reporters, attorneys, courts, and technical staff working together to achieve justice.

As I mentioned earlier, court reporting, like any other business, regularly goes through a process of change.  Change is good, it creates opportunity and is often driven by availability of new technology.  When marring the unique skill of court reporting and today’s technology, many new opportunities arise.  The awareness of the growing number of individuals that are hearing impaired has created an opportunity to utilize the skills of the court reporter and today’s technology.  These individuals can participate not only in the legal proceedings, but in the classroom, workplace or their place of worship.  A service that has coined the name of CART (Communication Access Real-time Translation) has created a service where individuals can read the spoken word.  From Broadway to Wall Street, from the local school to the major convention, the service is regularly available.  Beyond the hearing impaired, the financial marketplaces have seen the benefit of realtime text.  The analysts and markets of the world have embraced this technology to receive timely, searchable financial data as it breaks in any corner of the world. 

The most widely seen example of utilizing the skills of a court reporter is in the area of closed captioning and sub-titling.  Be it a machine shorthand writer or a voice writer, giving viewers of the television the opportunity to read the spoken word is becoming commonplace.  In the States, you will find it both in English and in Spanish, but it is not something limited to the States.  Worldwide from Japan to South America to theUK, sub-titling is becoming the norm. 

And finally, streaming the text across the airwaves is not he only way the spoken word reaches a worldwide audience.  At previous Intersteno’s I have demonstrated the unique service of Speche Communications, a Stenograph company.  Within the last few weeks Stenograph has sold Speche Communications to Courtroom Connect, our largest customer.  Our close relationship with them will only expand this unique service of streaming text over the internet.  At prior Intersteno’s my speech was delivered instantaneously to viewers on many different continents.  A wonderful, useful service that is very easy to use.

I would now like to lead into the second part of my presentation about the worldwide services of this exciting profession.  If this profession is to continue, we need to upgrade the availability of training that is currently taking place.  On a positive note, every year Stenograph is approached by countries around the world who would like to establish a transparency in their legal system.  The first step for many is to establish a pool of court reporters.  As any reporter knows, training is very difficult, but the challenge has been accepted in many corners of the world.  In Africa, programs are in place in both French and English.  More than a handful of countries have adopted court reporting.  Japan has a keyboard that is unique to that country but they also have a pool of sound machine writers within the Supreme Court as well as a few freelance opportunities.  In the States, we have seen the number of schools diminish, but there are still some very strong institutions such as Stenograph’s Denver Academy of Court Reporting with 150 students.  Many of the schools have adopted the latest technology starting students writing realtime from day #1.  In India, machine writers have taken their skills to the growing business of medical transcription.  Utilizing the shorthand machine, these individuals can write faster and with less fatigue, becoming far more efficient than a QWERTY keyboardist.  Generally speaking, there are many examples throughout the world where technology is utilized, but numerous opportunities remain.

StenographUniversity does offer the vehicle for 34 schools to bring Online Education to every corner of the market.  All schools are currently teaching English shorthand, with the exception of one Spanish program and hopefully in the near future a few voice programs. 

New technology continues to be brought into the schools to shorten the educational program.  Terri Gaudet’s Performance Accelerators gives students, as well as professionals, new online dictation at user-controllable speeds to maximize practice time.  And recently, Terri’s Performance Evaluator creates a voice dictation model that analyzes the actual text produced by the students.  Working from numerous dictations, the individual student writes against the master.  The end product is analyzed and the results posted.  Now the student not only knows how many mistakes were made, but is assisted in evaluating the type of mistakes that were made and how to correct them.  In the end, scores are tabulated to see one’s improvement.  It is embracing technology that will produce more court reporters more quickly.

Our profession of court reporting continues to change.  New opportunities present themselves, but we need to train individuals to fill those needs.  At Stenograph, we continue to be committed to this profession and we will work with you supplying the latest tools from machines to software to education products.  Together we will seize the opportunities that exist.