On a sunny winter’s afternoon last year I captioned an unusual event (at least for a captioner) that explored the “relationship between law and listening, justice and the acoustic”.
In the opening address it was said, “All of these will explore, in different ways, ideas and practices at the intersections of law, sound and listening. As for today, our intention is to work with the courtroom, its technologies, norms and procedures as our medium. When audio evidence is heard in court, these are the speakers that are used and the screens that are used for testimony provided by videolink often from prisons around Australia. Max and Carol are court officers. Carmel is a stenographer. What we want to do is work with and against the ordinary principles of courtroom morality to extend and overreach them in order to make them audible and so susceptible to fatigue.”
Hang on...rewind...what? It was certainly different to a normal courtroom and at one point I even had to caption the ambient sounds of the room rather than the testimony!
It turned out to be a great afternoon and although highly unusual (and therefore stressful) for someone like me, we all had a lot of fun. Yes, I had fun at work! How many people can say that?
The event was held at the Commonwealth Law Courts in Melbourne. Last week I received photos from the event and I’m posting some here for you to look at. I particularly like the one of my steno machine. What a beautiful photo taken by Keelan O’Hehir.
If you follow the CaptionsLIVE Facebook page (@clstenography), you will have already seen this post on there. This is my first attempt at blogging and I hope to do more and get better at it!
Today is the end of an era for court reporters in Victoria and I have been reflecting on what it means to be a stenographer in the Australian workplace. At most of my jobs someone asks if I’m worried about technology making my career redundant. No, I am not in the least bit concerned. I don’t understand why it’s an either/or proposition. Why does it have to be technology or a physical stenographer? Why can’t the two work together? That’s exactly what I, and my colleagues, do and by doing so produce an amazing result for our clients. (It’s an honour to do my work at CaptionsLIVE. The clients are lovely and the steno contractors are simply outstanding at what they do.) Technology is good, but it can never match the beauty and wonder of the human brain!
So how has the industry changed? The main change is that some State Governments have moved away from having large court reporting agencies, staffed by machine shorthand writers, servicing their courts. In those States the most prominent areas of work for stenographers are broadcast captioning, CART and real-time. It’s really just a change of focus and it means there are a lot more freelance stenographers out there. The industry isn’t dying; just evolving. There is still a strong industry out there for those brave enough to take it on.
So as I reflect on these changes I think back to the days of four on a court, typing committals on a typewriter inside a glass box (Does anyone know if those boxes have a name?), typing up your own steno notes or reading them to a typist - the days of getting it down and sorting out the intricacies and conflicts later. Now it’s all instant (real-time) and you have to have it “all sorted” before your hands even strike the keys and the text hits the screen.
Today we lost another government court reporting agency, this time in Victoria. To the VGRS court reporters - thanks for all your years of service and all the best for the future.
There’s so much more to be said, but I’ll leave it there...for today. Let’s get this conversation around our industry in Australia, and all we have to offer, started.