If you've ever been to a courtroom during a trial, or watch a TV show or movie depicting a courtroom proceeding, then you've probably noticed a court reporter. Court reporters are the people who you see sitting off to the side of courtroom, typing away at a rapid pace. If you've ever wondered what exactly the court reporter's job is, then read on.
In short, the court reporter's job is to record every word that is spoken in court proceedings. This can include actual trials and hearings as well as depositions and other out of court proceedings. As you might imagine, it requires a tremendous amount of focus, speed and accuracy to be a court reporter. It also requires an impressive level of mastery of the English language. With people in trials sometimes talking very rapidly or talking over each other, the job can get very hectic.
There are two methods of court reporting that are commonly used. The first method, and the most familiar, involves using a sort of typewriter called a stenotype machine. Although it may look like a court reporter is typing on a normal keyboard, stenotype machines are actually very different. Instead of using individual letters, they combine letters into "chords" that are used in a special type of shorthand. It requires a great deal of training to learn stenotype, but once it is learned its possible to type at speeds upwards of 250 words per minute. Currently, the world record for fastest typing stands at a staggering 350 words per minute.
The second method of court reporting involves using a voice silencer called a stenomask in conjunction with a digital recorder and voice recognition software. The stenomask is literally a mask that the reporter puts up to their mouth and speaks into. The mask silences their voice so that others can't hear it (and thus it doesn't disturb the proceedings) but it simultaneously records everything that the reporter says. The reporter simply repeats what the judges, attorneys, witnesses, and other people involved in the proceeding say. They must even say what gestures people are making. Everything is recorded and then processed into a proper transcript at the end of the hearing.
Court reporters may play other roles during a courtroom proceeding, as well. For example, they might do research regarding items entered into the court record or aid in other ways. In addition to courtroom work, some court reporters take on other tasks as well. The same types of technology are used for closed captioning of live television, for example. A court reporter may also help provide transcriptions for church services, public events, seminars, and other events.
The advent of court reporting has proven extremely useful to the judiciary system. With a skilled court reporter at a court hearing, no word or gesture need ever be missed. The transcripts recorded by court recorders have proven invaluable to judges and attorneys alike, allowing them essentially relive the trial as it happened to better their understanding of it.