Thirty years ago, no courtroom or formal proceeding would have been complete without a stenographer. But technological advances mean that today there is a cost-effective, reliable alternative to stenography that comes with a host of other benefits.
It’s a classic courtroom scene: legal counsel, courtroom officials and a stenographer, briskly creating the official written record. These days, you’re just as likely to see nothing at all (if it is a new, digitally equipped courtroom) or perhaps a sound technician recording proceedings. What’s driving this shift?
Stenography is a highly skilled process in which speech is captured by a trained expert using machine shorthand equipment and software. The spoken word can be transcribed simultaneously, or afterwards. Typically, a stenographer (or more usually two, with one acting as an editor to support the other taking the official record) attends for the whole proceedings.
The resulting transcripts are accurate, but it’s an expensive business. Whilst big budget, high-profile trials and Public Inquiries still routinely use stenography, or a high-tech version known as real-time, for many clients it is prohibitively expensive.
Recording and transcription services work differently. On the day, proceedings are recorded by either court room personnel or an expert technician using audio and/or video equipment. A company like Appen can supply this equipment along with a technician; some larger organisations have their own.
Once the recording has been made it can be transcribed by a trained transcriber, every bit as skilled as a stenographer. It’s a much more affordable service, with no compromise on quality, and there are many additional benefits, including:
- Clients have a permanent, high-quality audio/video recording that can be easily stored and kept forever.
- Transcription can begin while proceedings are continuing, and a whole day’s recordings can be transcribed, to a high standard, within 24 hours.
- If a transcript is not immediately required, the recording can be archived then retrieved for transcription later.
- The recording can be transcribed either in its entirety or in specific sections. Clients can decide which parts they need a written record of, paying only for what they need. A client might ask Appen to transcribe only the summing up, for example, or what just one witness has said.
- Identifying the most important parts of the recording is easy; recordings are logged with a special time stamp and can be quickly searched. This means a reporter can be asked to transcribe only very specific references, like ‘blue car’ or a certain date or time.
Loyal stenography fans point to its reputation for accuracy, however a provider like Appen can easily match stenography’s high standards thanks to rigorous training and adherence to quality standards like ISO9001.
Some also argue that the stenographer’s presence in the room is an advantage, allowing them to query inaudible speech or ask witnesses to slow down, for example. But experienced recording technicians can intervene in the same way; they can also log and capture changes of speaker and other key events in order to obtain a more accurate transcript.
Whilst there will always be a place for stenography, the development of new recording technology and the raising of quality standards in transcription, led by providers like Appen, means clients no longer need to choose between affordability and excellence. Now, they can have both.
Find out more about Appen’s recording and transcription service at: appen.com/uk/#services