Stenography vs. Digital Reporting: A Battle for the Ages

Capulet vs. Montague.  Sammy Sosa vs. Mark McGwire.  Kanye West vs. Taylor Swift. Much like these storied feuds of literature and history, the enduring battle between stenography and electronic reporting rages on into the digital age as both sides refuse to relinquish their claims of superiority.  Stenographers will argue that their extensive training in the art of shorthand reporting makes them uniquely qualified to capture testimony completely and accurately, but as a digital reporter, I couldn’t disagree more. In fact, I’m completely baffled by the suggestion that it is even possible for a stenographer’s transcript to be superior to one produced straight from the video record.   How can a stenographer’s certification of accuracy, which is simply just his or her controvertible assertion of quality, compare to an indisputable video record of testimony?  It simply cannot.

Transcript corroboration is what sets digital reporting apart from traditional alternatives. And while a video record has the added benefit of capturing some non-verbal testimony that can enhance the reading of a transcript, its greatest feature remains its ability to reinforce the veracity of the written word.  Eliminated is the possibility that, come trial, a witness can claim the reporter got it wrong.  Recently, my business partner, Erin, was recording an arbitration proceeding where the witness claimed to never have said what was reflected in the transcript.  Per the judge’s request, Erin was able to pull up the video and play the contested portion of the witness’s testimony, affirming the verity of our product and the deceptiveness of the witness.  Can a stenographer’s certified transcript alone do that?  I think not.

Now don’t get me wrong here, I actually have great respect for stenographers.  As an experienced transcriptionist, I very much appreciate the talent involved in balancing speed and accuracy in document production.  However, as technology progresses, I find that the development of such skill is becoming more and more unnecessary.  Why type now and risk error, when you can shoot now and type later?  No matter how well trained the stenographer, he or she simply cannot capture every word with 100 percent accuracy. But with a video record that I can reference over and over until I’m certain I’ve transcribed the testimony completely and accurately, I can assure that I’m providing my client with a superior product.

So when all is said and done, the choice between stenography and videography comes down to whether you’re willing to take a risk.  If your case hinges on the veracity of a deposition record, are you willing to unequivocally trust that your stenographer got it right or would you rather have a video record to corroborate that transcript?  Can you risk trusting a witness won’t suddenly change his or her testimony come trial and blame the steno for getting it wrong or would you rather have a video record available to verify the accuracy of your transcript?  If it was me, I’d go digital.  What about you?


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Welcome to the Exhibit 5 Blog!

Welcome to the Exhibit 5 blog! I’m not an experienced blogger by any means, so please bear with me while I get the hang of this. This is probably the first you’re hearing of Exhibit 5 (or e5 as we like to call ourselves), and I certainly hope you’ll take some time to explore our website and learn all about digital reporting and the services we offer. But for the moment, I’m not going to bother you with all that business. Instead, I want this first blog entry to be about Erin and me, the people behind Exhibit 5, because as great as any company’s services are, it all becomes quite meaningless without the presence of a caring and supportive team behind the scenes, so here it goes.

Now this might come as a surprise to you, but Erin and I never dreamed we would be starting our own court reporting company. After graduating from the University of Illinois, Erin began a career in sales and marketing in Chicago’s bustling restaurant industry, while I had every intention of going to law school after graduating from Northwestern. As fate would have it though, we both ended up falling into digital reporting for what we had originally thought would be short-term positions. Unexpectedly, however, everything changed, and this temporary gig truly became our passion. Over the past few years, we have dedicated ourselves to fully absorbing all aspects of the industry and have had the opportunity to play a multitude of roles, from reporter to senior manager and everything in between. Above all though, our greatest passion has rested in taking care of our clients. By placing an unwavering focus on the satisfaction of our customers, we have formed some amazing relationships on our journey to this point. And today, with the encouragement of those people and our mentors, we have finally decided we are ready to make this business our own. Exhibit 5′s mission is simple. We want to serve you. We are a small, local business that promises to treat each client as our most important client. The personal dedication and attention to detail we offer simply cannot be matched by the bigger companies out there. It’s midnight, and you’re having trouble downloading a transcript? Call us up, we’re here to help. You forgot to schedule a reporter for the deposition you’ve got starting in ten minutes? I’m on my way. So there’s our story in a nutshell. We’ve got a great product and an even better team to boot, so why not give us a try? ‘Til next time.


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