Capturing the spoken word provides a permanent record on statements or conversations. New technology and media --- such as computer search engines, video conferences, and Web casts --- give text even more importance. And providing access to everyone, including people who are deaf or hard of hearing, has created a need for workers who can "capture" spoken words and then translate them into text. For court reporters and captioners, who make their living by turning speech into text, those trends spell opportunity.
Luzerne County Community College offers a two-year program in Court Reporting and Captioning. LCCC's program qualifies students for an entry-level position in court reporting in either the courtroom or freelance.
"It's like riding a bike, once you learn, you can do it," said Karen Dessoye, LCCC Court Reporting instructor. Dessoye has been teaching court reporting for five years at the College. Before LCCC, she had experience as a court reporter and a freelancer. Dessoye said that Court Reporting is a highly stressed job, but it is also very rewarding. On average, court reporters in northeastern Pennsylvania can make $35,000-$45,000 a year. This does not include the money earned on selling transcripts once complete nor freelance work.
"In the courtroom, you're supposed to stay neutral and have a stone face," Dessoye said. "I teach student to hear, but not listen," Dessoye said. Some of the topics covered in a courtroom are topics people would rather listen to. "Through our classroom techniques, students will be able to complete their work without being affected by what is going on around them," Dessoye added.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, court reporters are expected to create transcripts of speeches, conversations, legal proceedings, meetings, and captions verbatim. Court reporters assist judges and attorneys in many ways such as: organizing and searching for administration and helping with research. Broadcast captioners work for television or cable stations; they caption news, emergency broadcasts, sporting events, and other programs. Some captioners simulcast the text of talk shows, news, and sports onto the Internet or an online service.
Students who are interested in the court reporting/captioning program must meet the minimum standards for English and keyboarding on the Accuplacer Placement exam to be eligible to participate in the CRC 110 Verbatim Reporting I class. Students must also be admitted into the program.
Court reporters and captioners use computers and a specialized machine, called a stenotype, to do their job. The stenotype works like a portable word processor but with a modifed 22-button keyboard, instead of the standard (QWERTY) setup. By striking multiple keys at the same time, court reporters and captioners type entire words at once. LCCC provides students with stenotypes.
Different topics in the Court Reporting/Captioning program are covered including, medical, legal, multivoice, and technical terminology, transcript production judicial reporting and captioning procedures, and computer aided transcription systems. Some of the courses include, court reporting technology, English for court reporters, business mathematics, and medical reporting. Upon completion of the program, students will be fully prepared to meet an entry-level job requirement for court reporting in either country, state, federal courts, self-employment as a freelancer, broadcast captioner, or a reporter for the hearing-impaired.
A student in the Court Reporting program must maintain Words per Minute (WPM) speed of 225 to be able to move forward in the program.
Upon completion of the program, students will be prepared to fulfill an entry-level position required for court reporting in either county, state, or federal courts, self-employment as a free lancer, broadcast captioner, or reporter for the hearing impaired.