What is a Digital Reporter? Explained.
Court reporting relies on professional skill and technology regardless of the methodology— Stenography, Voice Writing, or digital reporting. All three court reporting methodologies lead to the production of a final, verbatim transcript of a deposition, trial, or other legal proceeding. So, what is a digital reporter?
The first thing to keep in mind about a digital reporter is that their primary function is the same as other types of court reporters, including stenographers: a trained, certified professional who understands civil procedure and is present for the duration of the proceeding.
How Digital Reporters Differ from Other Types of Court Reporters
Discussing the history of court reporting tracks all the way back to the ancient Greeks and other civilizations. At its core, court reporting refers to capturing the spoken word verbatim at legal proceedings in order to create a permanent written record.
Because speech has always been faster than writing (and typing, in later years), court reporters developed shorthand: rapid writing using phonetic symbols or abbreviations to capture phrases, words, or letters. The shorthand is captured on a stenography machine by a stenographer.
Technology moved the court reporting process along as early as 1877 with the invention of the first stenography machine, which became commonly used in Western courtrooms by the early 20th century. Modern steno machines still use this unique key configuration to enter shorthand codes rather than characters, entirely different from the appearance and function of a standard “QWERTY” keyboard.
Made popular by its use in the military, Voice Writing is done through a stenomask rather than any keyboard use or input by hand. Stenomasks are devices worn snugly over the official court reporter’s mouth (or nose and mouth) that:
- Contain a microphone to capture the court reporter’s speech
- Prevent sound from escaping, so the Voice Writer cannot be heard by others in the room
- Dampen external sound, so the microphone captures only the Voice Writer’s speech
- Connect to a recording device to create an audio record
Digital reporters utilize high-performance audio recording equipment, specialized software, and other technology to capture an accurate record.
This is not a “set it and forget it” recording that relies solely on technology, however. Digital reporters continuously monitor the proceeding, all technology, and the speech-to-text output to ensure a verbatim record. They also:
- Add annotations to identify speakers and keywords
- Speak up to interrupt the proceeding for clarification if needed
- Provide troubleshooting of any hardware and software issues
- Monitor back-up audio and other equipment
Technology and Equipment Used by Digital Reporters
Digital reporters use the latest technologies to help optimize recording abilities. These include:
- High-quality audio recording devices
- Redundant audio backup systems to protect against potential technology glitches
- Multi-track recording to identify each speaker
- Strategic placement of devices to capture key speaker locations throughout the room
The Role of Digital Reporters Beyond Technology
Mastering devices and software is key to the work of digital reporters, but their responsibilities and duties don’t end there. Digital reporters are certified professionals, notary publics, and a vital part of the legal process.
In addition to monitoring the technology to ensure a verbatim record, digital reporters also:
- Administer the oath to swear in witnesses
- Mark and manage introduced exhibits
- Read back the transcript upon request by counsel
- Pause the proceeding to correct mumbling, nonverbal responses, or overlapping speech
What Makes a Top-Notch Digital Reporter
To become a digital reporter, one must complete a training program, and earn one or more professional association certifications. Beyond that, effective digital reporters have skills and knowledge such as:
- Technology know-how (including staying on top of new developments)
- Ability to operate and provide basic troubleshooting for devices and software
- Strong attention to detail
- Patience and ability to maintain focus for long periods
- Accurate note-taking capabilities
An added bonus for digital reporters is having a background in the legal profession, specifically with unique terminology and practice areas.
The Future of Digital Reporting
When it comes to the future of digital reporting, we can expect demand, advances in technology, and preference to all play a role in the continued growth. Look forward to:
Increased Adoption to Help Meet Demand Among Nationwide Stenographer Shortage
The demand for court reporters is on the rise and there are not enough stenographic court reporters to meet the demand.
Across methodologies, the number of court reporting professionals has dropped from 17,700 in 2016 to 12,300 in 2021, and the National Court Reporters Association predicts an annual shortfall of about 5,000 court reporters.,
While the pool of court reporters, particularly Stenographers, has declined, litigation in the United States is an ever-growing practice. The need for reporters has helped accelerate the adoption of digital reporting and the willingness to utilize multiple types of reporting methodologies.
On top of this, more states are encouraging digital reporting. In fact, New York and South Carolina have even initiated digital reporting training programs to actively reduce their Stenographic court reporter shortages.
Increased Capabilities Due to Advancements in Artificial Intelligence
Court reporting has always blended human oversight and skill with the best technology available. Digital reporting is no exception – with this methodology, legal professionals can choose to leverage a realtime feed, which leverages a combination of AI-based transcription software with automatic speech recognition technology (ASR).
As the development of AI and machine learning continues, it’ll likely be further adopted into digital reporting.
Choose U.S. Legal Support for Your Court Reporting Needs
At U.S. Legal Support, the choice is yours. No matter which type of professional court reporter you’d prefer for your needs, we can help connect you. We work with a nationwide network of 5,000+ professional court reporters across all three methodologies—stenography, voice writing, and digital reporting—to serve in-person, remote, and hybrid proceedings.
For nearly 30 years, we’ve provided all-inclusive litigation support services. In addition to court reporting and transcription, we also offer record retrieval, litigation consulting, interpreting and translation services, and more, managed through our secure Client Portal.
Reach out today to discuss your legal needs or secure a court reporter.
Stenograph. The History of Writing Machines. https://www.stenograph.com/history-writers
National Court Reporters Association. NCRA Statistics. https://www.ncra.org/home/about-ncra/NCRA-Statistics
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 27-3092 Court Reporters and Simultaneous Captioners. https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes273092.htm
The Marshall Project. In Court, Where Are Siri and Alexa? https://www.themarshallproject.org/2019/02/14/in-court-where-are-siri-and-alexa
Coruzant. 4 Things to Know About the Future of Digital Court Reporting. https://coruzant.com/digital-strategy/4-things-to-know-about-the-future-of-digital-court-reporting/