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The National Court Reporters Association Annual Expo in Denver

Posted on: August 26th, 2019 by Sfl Media No Comments

NCRA_convention29 men and women filled the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver representing the cream of the court reporting crop. They descended on the Mile High City for the annual National Court Reporters Association Convention and Expo, where contestants are competing for the chance to be crowned the fastest and most accurate reporters and captioners in the country.

 

This is basically the Olympics of court reporting.

 

Who are the Participants?

Most know court reporters from movies or TV shows as the silent, robotic human that sits at a steno machine without so much as a smile or smirk and types away indiscriminately.

“People think we’re robots,” said court reporter Amanda Maze, “We’re not!”

And while the name of the role suggests court duties only, the profession extends far beyond depositions and preliminary hearings. Music festivals, TV, movies and more need closed captioning for performances. Sports broadcasts need someone to keep up with the announcers for its telecasts.

And guess what…none of it requires a college degree.

 

“People have no idea what a great job it is,” says a court reporter from Illinois and contest chair for the competition. “You can travel. You can have a great government job. You can stay home. There are so many possibilities.”

 

What do the Contestants Have to Say?

Court reporting is not typing, contrary to popular belief. It’s really learning a language.

Stenography machines look like laptops with smaller screens. They feature keyboards with long, piano-like keys without any letters of numbers. To keep up with the speed of human speech, reporters write in their own shorthand, combining different keys to produce words and phrases. They can also program keys to write common words that can be used with just one keystroke.

While these skills are mostly used in courtrooms and in boardrooms, veteran court reporters and captioners relish the ability to compete against one another on steno’s biggest stage: the National Speed and Realtime competitions.

Court reporters are usually grammar buffs and detail nuts with unnerving concentration. The best of them just let their fingers fly, a rhythm so familiar it’s like breathing or blinking.

“If you’re thinking,” Maze said, “you’ve already lost.”

 

The Competition 

In the speed contest, the contestants raced to complete three, five-minute sessions, that gradually escalate in speed and difficulty. Afterward, they’re allowed to clean up their transcriptions, and the person with the most accurate account takes home the gold.

And it’s all done in complete silence. Organizers gathered all cellphones and watches to prevent any distractions. One court reporter made sure that everyone had their Wi-Fi turned off.

Participants kept their stenos on black tripods, hoisted up to their waists. The computer voice launched into the third and final test, a rapid-fire sequence of questions and answers from a lawyer to a DNA expert. The speed: 280 words per minute.

The good news is that steno keys are virtually silent, unlike computer keyboards.

Many of the participants said the tight-knit court reporter community is what brought them to Denver. It wasn’t just about winning a medal. They come together as a fraternity that from our previous posts are “the last of a dying breed”.

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