During any court session, a record needs to be made and this is done by court reporters. While most people are familiar with the image of a woman pecking away at a stenograph machine in the courtroom, very few realize just what a court reporter does or that there are actually several different types of court reporters.
The job of a court reporter sounds simple, recording all events and words spoken during the court hearing, arbitration, or deposition. However, this is a position that requires skill and speed, as well as accuracy since the reports will be used for legal purposes.
Understanding the different types of court reporters, as well as the benefits and downfalls of each style of reporting will help you choose the best type for your purposes.
There are three basic types of reporting, which we will look at here.
Steno Mask Reporting
This type of court reporter is often found in political hearings and is a highly accurate form of recording everything that is said. The mask is a recording device that allows the reporter to repeat everything that is spoken in the courtroom. It also has a silencing device so that the rest of the room won`t hear what the court reporter is saying into the mic. The recording will later be transcribed by a professional, but these days a computer is often used with voice-recognition software to provide instant captioning and transcripts that can be viewed by the judge and attorneys in real time.
During the court session, the reporter not only repeats everything that is spoken in the room, but also adds in any instructions or notes that might be necessary for the transcriptionist to know in order to correctly type out the records. Reactions and things that the people do in the courtroom when relevant to the case will also be reported.
A stenograph is like a shorthand typewriter, which allows the reporter to press a number of keys at a time, that can be used to input a lot of information very rapidly and this is what most of us are familiar with when we think of court reporters. This machine requires a court reporter who is trained in its use and who can move rapidly, capturing all the information that is spoken during a court hearing.
In many cases, a computer is hooked up that allows the attorneys to have a steady stream running across their monitor of what is being said, more or less in real time. This obviously requires very quick skills and the ability to transcribe what is being heard almost instantly.
The more modern approach to court reporters, of course, is to record everything electronically. While traditionally video is not permitted in the courtroom, recording devices can be used to record the sound that occurs. So anything that is spoken will be recorded. This is usually a very straightforward process and doesn`t provide the texted real time stream that the other two method can. The recordings are later transcribed by a professional transcriptionist.
Using mics and a recording system works well in courtrooms where it isn`t possible for one person to hear everything being said from a single position, usually due to the size or shape of the room.
The type of court reporter that is appropriate for each case will depend partly on preference, but also on need. For a courtroom with poor acoustics, electronic recording is probably necessary, but if you need real time transcripts then either of the other methods of court reporting will be very useful.