What Is Court Reporting?

The records of the events that happen in any legal proceeding are vital. Judges and jury members rely on court records in reviewing cases so they can come up with a fair decision on the matter. Since court records are public documents, it’s important that they are accurately taken and preserved. The process of transcribing spoken speech in a legal setting into written words for recording purposes is known as court reporting. The professionals who are responsible for taking down every word and recording it as accurately as possible so they form part of legal documents are known as court reporters.

In the court reporting profession, accuracy is a must. Thus, court reporters use a variety of tools and techniques to help them keep up with the fast pace of the written word. These include stenography machines, digital recorders and steno masks. Stenography machine shorthand ensures that everything that is said and done in the hearings to be recorded as they are spoken because the keyboard allows for the formation of words instead of merely single characters the way a regular computer keyboard is capable of. Court reporters who use steno masks speak straight into a microphone, repeating the exact words said by those in the hearing. A computer-assisted transcription program interprets the combinations from the stenography machine to create readable text. For steno mask recordings, computerized voice recognition software is used to convert the voice recordings into readable text. In both instances, court reporters must review the transcript produced by the computer program to ensure that it is free from errors before they print final copies and make them part of public documents, available to everyone.

While court reporting is typically associated with the production of legal transcripts that detail the testimonies of the witnesses and other events that took place during court hearings, it’s important to understand that court reporting also refers to the task of professionals who help those who are deaf outside of the court system. These include broadcast captioners and Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART) providers.

Broadcast captioners are court reporters who transcribe dialogue on television so that those who have hearing problems are able to follow what is being said. These are called closed captions and may be done live or recorded after a program for replay at a later time. CART providers, meanwhile, help people who are hard of hearing in different events when they need real-time translation. These include assisting them when they meet clients for business meetings or when they consult with their physicians during their medical checkups. They may even help deaf students keep up with their lessons in school by using steno machines to transcribe what is being said by professors and then providing hard-of-hearing or deaf students with copies.

Court reporting is a profession tasked with the production of legal records that are secure, correct and accurate. Thus, aspiring court reporters must obtain an associate’s degree or certificate in court reporting and undergo the required training on the job. Many states also require court reporters to obtain the Registered Professional Reporter designation or otherwise be certified by the state as a sign of their professionalism and competence.

Career Spotlight: Court Reporter

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