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I know this might very well cause a sh&t storm. I truly don't mean it to, but I can see how it might. But I am trying to understand the thinking behind the rate sheets I see, in general, today from scopists. One of my regular scopists is undergoing treatment for breast cancer; so I have been looking for another one to help out with my workload while she recuperates. I am just appalled at the things that I see scopists charging for nowadays. Charging more per page for a lot of colloquy? Charging more for technical but no discount for clean or easy work? Charging more for video versus full audio? (What is the difference?)
I understand that the point is to make money, to earn your income. The more pages you scope, the more money you make. The faster you can go through a job, the more pages you can scope and the more money you make. I get it. But the same goes for reporters. The more pages we write, the more we earn. I can't tell you how many times I've sat in a job as the witness rambles on and on for pages and never answers a question, and I can visualize his testimony margin to margin on the page instead of moving forward page to page. I can't stand when attorneys argue or have long discussions between each other causing the number of pages to slow down. But reporters can't control that. We can't say, "Excuse me, Counsel. Can you all please stop talking and get back to Q&A so that I can get more pages, please?" Reporters don't get paid extra for any of that stuff. Why should we be penalized and lose money when having it scoped? The increasing trend among reporting agencies is not to pay extra for technical material either. I can understand wanting to charge more for scoping technical material, but how many of you give the reporter a break on your regular page rate when it is easy material or the job is well written and you don't have to do much? I have never encountered one scopist who does that.
The reason I am writing this is because of being down a scopist at the same time that I have been incredibly busy, I have had several of my reporter friends help me out by scoping expedites for me when they are available. In the past two months I have had four different reporters scope an expedite for me including a same-day expedite and a daily expedite. And you know what? All four of them refused to send me an invoice. When I told them to send me their invoice, they said no, they did it as a favor. OMG! Wow!
I am not a cheapskate. I pay my scopists fairly. Their regular rate is in line with what other reporters pay theirs. I pay more for video depos. I pay more for expedited turnaround. But what I cannot understand is what seems to be the nickel and diming for every extra add-on that you can come up with. We are still in a time of very low page rates overall after reporter page rates have been reduced, and yet scopist rates keep climbing. I mean if I were to have a daily expedite on a video depo with a DNA expert scientist with attorneys who constantly fought during the depo, after I paid the scopist I could be potentially making less than the scopist with some agencies' page rates. How is that possible or even fair?
I was even more astonished to see this morning where one scopist, in particular, advocates that it is not a scopist's responsibility to research terms that a reporter does not get at the job or to do index pages and cover sheets. Just wow. When I was in court reporting school, I scoped to pay my way. I did all of the reporters' cover sheets and index pages. I researched all terms for them, and that was before the Internet, which makes it a breeze now. As a reporter I don't ask my scopists to do my cover pages because I work for so many different agencies and they're all different. But for those reporters on staff or in court, I don't understand this. And there are many times you just don't get a spelling at the job. No one knows or cares or wants to stay and spell sometimes. It has to be researched. On the jobs that were just scoped for me by the reporters, they sent me back spellings they found from Googling and offered to do the cover sheets. All of this without me even asking or expecting it.
I would never hire a scopist based on the blind email solicitations I get especially with some of the rate sheets I've seen accompany them. The only way I hire is by word of mouth from other reporters I know who have used a scopist. And that word of mouth recommendation is based on the quality of work and fairness of rates. So many seem to be pricing themselves out of the market with ridiculously high base rates and add-ons ad infinitum. Compared to when I was a scopist, today scopists are doing less and want to be paid more.
I'm sure I'll get attacked now and get a bunch of replies defending the absurd rates I see, but I just felt compelled to say something after experiencing the kindness of a few reporters who scoped just to help me out and didn't charge me a thing. No, I don't expect to pay nothing for every job I have scoped, but I just found it particlarly telling to see one end of the spectrum and the other all at once as I search for a new scopist.
When considering sending a job to a scopist new to her, the reporter should ask some important questions: How long have you been scoping? Where did you get your training? How did you come up with these rates? References, please.
I personally prefer to have the explanation for each uptick on the rate sheet so the reporter knows up front. If you know ahead of time, there's no lost production time caused by a scopist calling back and negotiating the page rate after the job has been sent. If the reporter decides to look for someone else to do it, she starts all over again with another scopist. That increases the time it takes to get the job done.
The way I handle it when I'm in a position to take on another reporter: I ask for a small job. I will do that job, good writing or bad, unless it is unscopable. A friend of mine had one like that a few weeks ago. It truly was impossible to scope -- terrible audio, absolutely no spellings and no speaker IDs. It must have been a reporter-in-training. No competent reporter would send work like that.
It's up to the reporter and the scopist, after reviewing that first job, to decide whether they want to work together again or not.
I don't know enough about online schools to have an opinion about the quality of training. I suspect the number of these schools is growing along with the number of court reporting programs offered on line.
I do not use a scopist, but as reporters we do not get to charge our agency a higher page rate because the terminology was harder than usual, so I have a hard time when I hear that proofreaders or scopists charge a higher rate because of density. Sorry, just my two cents.
Where did THAT come from? From what I've seen online over the years, 1% and below is the point at which people consider doing RT. I'm going to guess the majority of reporters don't hit it less than 1%. That's laughable that scopists use that as a baseline. If all their work came in at 1% untran, they wouldn't be online bitching about how horrible the reporters are writing.
The better your tran rate, the less and less reason to even use
I use scopists for every job. There are no untranslates when I give them a file. There may be mistranslates and errors from sensitive keys on my writer. I still want the files read word-for-word with audio. I don't want to take the time to do that myself. I'd rather be out taking another job. I also do a lot of same-day and next-day deliveries. I couldn't do them without the scopists I work with. They are hard-working professionals.
There are great scopists and not-so-great scopists, just like there are great reporters and not-so-great reporters. I've seen some rough drafts from other court reporters that floored me. I could not believe they would have the nerve to take jobs requiring a rough draft when they can't produce something useful.
I've been trying to refrain from ranting on this subject, but I can't help it. It works both ways.
I totally agree that it works both ways. The thread where the scopist commented on the 1% untran rate was a thread about another scopist receiving a job from a reporter that had 95% untrans rate. Wow. We'd all like to think we're all about the same -- some a little better, some a little less -- but unfortunately that's not the case. And when scopists are given files with that little translated, I do understand why there's, shall we say, discussion on their end. And the same is true about some scopists... they're the reason why there's any discussion amongst reporters. And I guess until there's a national minimum skill level in either of the professions, we're going to have to deal with the shortcomings of others and try to handle it appropriately.
I don't think scopists have any idea of the page rate that reporters get. I really don't. I know that in general you get paid more for a video dep, or for expedited, so forth, for an added service, but I don't think they realize that many times the rough draft is free, or the firm owner has cut the attorney client a deal. I'm not sure that they consider the outlay of costs that reporters have, such as GAS! or the equipment you have to lug around. And that YOU have to sit through the witnesses and the attorneys in that same room. I don't have to do any of that, and I don't have those multiple expenses you all do. I go to work in my jammies. I get my SN kid on the bus, I shower and I go down the hall to my office. My expenses are... really, nothing. That's why I DON'T charge for every thing. I get reporters have bad days and write like junk, their laptop freezes up and they've gotta restart everything. I figure it's part of my job to make it the best I can for you the reporter to proofread yourself or send to your proofreader. It frustrates me to hear (read) scopists and proofreaders talk about, well, if there's more than one error in 10 pages I'm not making money. What? Or the whole untrans rate. My reporters end up being my friends. I know their families, I know their love lives, I know their illnesses.
Usually my reporters tell me, oh, I didn't write well on this one at all, FYI. I don't charge more for that. I don't charge more for video versus non. I charge a smidge more for expedite, but it's just that, a smidge.
Anyway, happy Saturday!
If a reporter gives a scopist a job with 95% untranslates, there's something really wrong there. The job then becomes a transcription job, not scoping. I'd turn down that type of work, personally. I actually think that reporters with high untranslate rates should work on the jobs themselves to see what they need to change and improve.
Finding the right reporter-scopist relationship isn't easy. Sometimes the transition is seamless. Other times it's obvious right away it won't work out.
I'm lucky to have found people who care as much as I do about the quality of the final product. Over the years, my daily-copy transcripts have been taken to dentist and doctor appointments and the county fair. They are always turned in on time or ahead of time.
Betsee, no free rouh drafts. I hope no one is out there doing that.
You'd hope, but.....
Hi, Betsee! Two things. First, rethink the part about your expenses are nothing so you don't charge for things. My reporting school education was paid for 37 years ago. I have all the points I need, and pay upfront for CEUs. My equipment is totally paid for, writers, CAT software and 2012 support. I do have to pay for somewhere to live and something to eat, things that I would need to pay for whether I was working or not. It costs me nothing to walk out the door and do my job. Sure, we can get technical about my office space at home, taxes, etc., but what I'd like you to change your mind about is saying that you have no expenses so you don't charge for things. You charge for things because they are VALUABLE, and so do I, whether it costs me money to do it or not. The other thing I'll comment on is the free rough drafts. I do not work for most local agencies here in Washington, DC, but I understand that one of them ... and probably more will follow ... is very willing to provide free rough drafts to attract business. But remember this, reporters: Agencies cannot agree to provide free rough drafts unless YOU agree to provide free rough drafts. A DC firm owner was once asked why she didn't charge more for realtime, as it was a hard-to-find specialty, especially done well. And her answer? "We don't want to be greedy." Come on. Back then, good realtime reporters were extremely hard to find. Nowadays, even though there is an overabundance of reporters in our area, a good realtime writer continues to be hard to find. Are there reporters available who will "do" realtime? Sure! But it's the "good" part that is sorely lacking. Is it greedy to charge for a specialty that is high in demand yet continues to be short in supply? I say it's absolutely not. It's good business, and I suggest that if reporters are very good at what they do, especially when it comes to realtime and immediate (and I don't mean hours or days later, friends) rough drafts, respect yourself.
Hi, Lisa. I'm a former reporter and now a full-time scopist/proofreader for I guess it's going on 13 years. I want to comment and respond to you. I don't think you have opened up a firestorm at all. It's worthy of discussion. Being on both sides of the coin, I can totally appreciate what you are saying. As a scopist, I wonder about some of the rates I see my competitors (even though I don't advertise myself; ergo, they may not be my competitors) charging for, as you say, nickeling and diming for every thing. Let me tell you what I do. And I really just scope for one or two reporters now because they keep me busy so I'm rarely looking for someone new to scope and/or proofread for.
My rates have not changed in about 8 years. I have to constantly look at my own rate sheet because the rate isn't that important as long as I feel I can earn an acceptable page rate hourly. That has to balance out with the good and the not so good jobs.
I state in my rate and info sheet that if the job is easy, I can cut you a break. So add that to a scopist who does do that! If a reporter had a particularly awful time on the job, no fault of the reporter, I am not going to charge more for that. It's lumped into the scheme of work. Good days and bad days, good jobs and bad jobs. But sometimes if it's a multi-copy job and the reporter is willing, I'll ask can we do a better page rate for me too. If they are not getting it, then so be it.
I would answer also there is a difference in the time of scoping a video and a full audio job. At least the way I was taught as a reporter, clean up the garbage. Take out the false starts. Don't really touch the witness. Don't write or translate every single "okay" and all of the filler words. But on a video, every word has got to match the audio. So that takes extra time, and for that reason, I can say that if a scopist charges more for a video than for a regular non-video audiosync'd job, that would be the reason. I've often only been able to cover 5 pages an hour, and that isn't good for anyone in any field, under minimum wage.
I have scoped for free. I have scoped for trade this for that. I've had reporters in bad situations who I no longer work for but needed something done and so if it didn't take a whole day or something, no charge.
So if I do it, there must be others that do, too.
I come from the world of reporting. I think I was trained by some of the best reporters in the nation a long time ago. I'm past 55 now so I've been around a long time. I taught CR for 20 years either while I was still reporting or while I was scoping or even at times note reading. Just always been working in this field, and I am so sorry that there are folks who have come up from maybe other fields who don't totally understand the position the reporter is in.
I hope you find coverage for the time your scopist is recuperating and a shout out that she fully recovers. I'm glad you wrote this and this is the first time I've ever written to anyone on CSR Nation or any reporter site, so I hope it's worthwhile.
I'm new to CSRNation, so I'd love to get a response from anyone who has the time to do so. Good luck, Lisa!
Are you there, Lisa, our original poster? Many people have checked in on this subject. If you've been following the thread, it would be good to hear back from you.