As some background, I have been in the reporting business since the late 1970s. I am an RPR and have been scoping full time now for over 20 years. I have been on both sides of the fence of the reporter/scopist partnership.

And that's what it is -- a partnership.

According to the main page of this site, CSRnation is for "Uniting court reporters, scopists and videographers from coast to coast." Unfortunately, a very small minority of reporters have been using this site as a gripe board to air their frustrations with the scopists they have encountered. The unintended result of this is (1) it alienates the scopists who are members here and (2) it is practically a self-fulfilling prophecy to make sure these reporters never find acceptable scopists.

One of the things I have learned about the profession of computer text editing (the formal and original name for "scoping") is that it's a really small world. Scopists are quite well networked through the internet. If a reporter has ever stiffed a scopist, unilaterally reduced their page rate, flamed other scopists around the internet, or otherwise been a PITA, it gets around. Few scopists take on new reporters these days without vetting them beforehand. The best scopists are selective, as they should be.

Now, I'm not entirely unsympathetic to the reporters here. I feel your pain as you bounce around from scopist to scopist, never forming a working partnership with anyone. Of course the first instinct is to blame it on the scopists. I'd like to offer the theory that great reporters with whom it's a pleasure to work, who pay well, who understand the difference between style preferences and errors, who understand that scopists have lives and usually families and are on the low end of the pay scale in this industry -- well, these reporters simply do not have difficulty finding the "good" scopists.

To the reporters who are perpetually fishing around with a dog-eat-dog attitude of squeezing the most amount of work at the fastest pace for the lowest possible minimum wage from their scopists, I'd like to ask: So how's that working for you?

Now, you vocal reporters that love to gripe, go ahead, flame away. I've got my flame-retardant suit on. However, a more productive conversation might just be: How do I form a great reporter/scopist relationship?

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Okay. I'll start (did you have any question that I'd jump in here?).

You ask: So how's that working for you?

I respond: I've learned to clean up my writing and my dictionary, to edit on the fly, to make corrections as I'm going. For the most part what I need is not a scopist, but a reliable proofreader. So, actually, it's worked out well for me in this phase of my career.

I say "for the most part." In the past few years I haven't gotten a lot of multiple-day all-day overnight expedites (let's label reporters that do this type of work as "heavy-hitters"). But IF I were doing that type of litigation, I'd probably enlist the help of a "heavy-hitter scopist," one who would get my feed as I'm writing (or soon thereafter). Just like a heavy-hitter reporter is the cream of the crop, I would expect a heavy-hitter scopist to be cream of the crop, and charge accordingly. Now, these heavy-hitter scopists are not advertising on www.Scopists.com or elsewhere. Why? Because they don't have to. They're probably also not hanging out on boards all day long because they're too busy getting out dailies. So let's not get a "new" or an "average" scopist or even a "reporter-turned-scopist" scopist confused with a "heavy-hitter" scopist because, well, we should all take a big bow down to those heavy-hitters.

So let's go to the easiest one to pick on, the new scopist. Unfortunately for the scoping profession, enough of these scopists are the ones -- despite the fact they have no English background -- that have decided they want to work from home, for whatever reason. So they go to a "scoping school," hoping to learn everything they need to know for their new career. They graduate and start advertising. Their advertising leaves us all shaking our heads and saying, "What could this person be thinking?" as scoping is clearly not their calling (or maybe the scoping school just didn't care about the quality of its students it was giving a scoping certificate to and sending them out the door permitting them to announce to the world "I've earned my scoping certificate." And, UFL, you can't say, "But that's not fair," because, again, UFL, they are generally soiling the scoping profession as a whole. Heck, they might even get a nibble from a decent reporter. But the only thing that's going to happen when the new scopist and the decent reporter get paired up is the decent reporter is going to have to re-do the work and probably vow it's not worth his/her time and/or money to try another scopist and, yes, probably repeat their ugly story to others.

Now let's bounce to the "reporter-turned-scopist" scopist. Now, we all know not all reporters are created equal. Just as some reporters shouldn't be reporters, some reporters shouldn't be scoping either. But it is a logical step for a retiring reporter to take, gotta admit that. So now we've got advertisements "I'm a reporter who is now scoping..." So we, the reporters, start to drool and go ohh and ahh, thinking we've finally found somebody that knows what we want and need. So here I've got to ask, have you heard about that reporter-turned-scopist in, I think, Florida that not only promises the moon, but when she never returns the reporter's transcript and the reporter starts to get verbal on boards (usually asking question, "Anybody ever heard of ABC from FL?), that she actually starts making threatening and harrassing e-mails and posts on boards? UFL, she hasn't done much for the reporter-turned-scopist profession. (Not to mention my own little experience with a reporter-turned-scopist that was a disaster.) Believe me, I'm not saying they're all bad, just that you shouldn't necessarily expect more from them.

Lastly, the average scopist. Have you noticed that most of the reporters that are gripers are not, shall we say, average? One thing I noticed -- and even told my husband -- about the thread to which you're referring, "At least I'm in good company. I thought it was just me that expected too much." We don't want "acceptable" or "good" scopists. We want excellent scopists. And I would bet any of the gripers/grumblers would pay extra for excellence. But because scoping has no licensing standards and the scoping "certificate" really doesn't add up to a handful of beans, which means anybody can hang their "scopist" shingle, here we are on a board posting our grumblings for all to read.

Maybe what the excellent scopists should really be doing is finding a testing procedure -- like through the NCRA -- so they can set themselves apart from the riffraff. I know if I saw initials behind a scopist's name that made them rise above -- hence the cream of the crop -- I could be confident that I was getting a quality product, and, yes, pay them accordingly.

Judy
Wow.......what Judy said!!! Amazingly said, Judy.

I have only worked with two amazing scopists in my career and they were both previously court reporters that chose to scope so they can be home with their children and they know their stuff.(Ruth and Christina, both on Stenocat32). Two amazing scopists, that I hardly ever had any complaints about their work. Amazing. But I had to switch software and I haven't found excellend Casecat scopists yet.....at least as good as they were.
Judy, Arielle, and Kelli,

I completely understand where you stand on the issue. I think Judy has summarized the state of scoping pretty accurately. I agree thoroughly with her assessment that not all reporters would make very good scopists. Many reporters I've met and/or worked with in the past would make simply awful scopists. It is definitely a specific talent separate and apart from reporting.

I would like to add that, in my experience, reporters generally overestimate how well they write. I've heard so many times that a reporter feels his/her work is so clean, and then I found a transcript that is definitely not clean, by any standard. Many reporters also don't take into consideration that the more you work with one scopist, the more attuned that scopist becomes to your common errors, errors that might not be so obvious to another scopist on the first read-through of your work. Familiarity does improve job performance.

Now, whether one should hire a "newbie," well, that could work for those who only desire cut-rate labor or perhaps a new reporter seeking someone with whom to learn the ropes. But don't you find that you are well apprised of someone's experience level before you hire them? Are there scopists out there misrepresenting their experience levels?

And, Kelli, no, I don't feel like any of this is targeted at me personally. Why would I? I'm trying to assist you all in more productively discussing this topic without the finger pointing, whining, and general disparaging of the scopist profession as a whole. There are actually scopists -- heavy hitters at that -- out there reading your posts. To scopists, your posts are not flattering to you and not assisting you in finding the "perfect" scopists you're seeking.

Are you expecting too much? For basic competency, no. For demanding that lower-paid workers put as many hours per week that you might without being compensated, yes. Most workers working overtime are compensated for time and a half or double time. I'm thinking this isn't a foreign concept for most people to get. Reporters definitely have the option of not working on a weekend. They can pay their scopist a higher rate to do it for them. But by simply expecting a scopist to give up their weekend/holiday family plans because the reporter doesn't want to give up their plans and not compensate the scopist extra for the effort doesn't wash.

Well, I'm definitely considered a "heavy hitter" in this profession. I specialize in daily copies and technical work and have traveled out of the country to do dailies and have been on extended dailies lasting several months, and, yes, we "heavy hitters" do advertise from time to time to replace retiring reporters or those going out on indefinite maternity leave. I have been scoping longer than a lot of the new reporters out there have even been alive. When I am faced with preference sheets of mandated personal quirky preferences that would take forever to memorize and that would handicap my ability to work with maximum efficiency, I just politely decline and move on to reporters who are just as competent, if not more so, and much less demanding. Why would I seek to work with someone who is "high maintenance" when there are many, many other reporters out there willing to appreciate my years of experience and quality of workmanship?

As a reporter, would I be happy using an incompetent scopist? Heck, no. The Darwinian theory of the survival of fittest should take care of that issue. Reporters caring for nothing more than getting scoping done for the lowest cost possible and not caring about the final product is what keeps the incompetents in business. IMHO, it is the reporters who are perpetuating this problem, not the newbie scopists trying to make a living.

Any way, I just thought I would be a good candidate to answer questions about how scopists view their working relationships with reporters.
Kathleen,

Are there scopists out there misrepresenting their experience levels?

Maybe not their experience levels as in how long, but their attention to detail, you bet.

But by simply expecting a scopist to give up their weekend/holiday family plans

Give up family plans, etc.? Certainly not. But when it takes a scopist five business days to turn around, let's say, a 100-pager, I think maybe they should start to either work nights and weekends or start declining some of the work. That's a full week, which apparently is what the norm has become. It seems a while back it was 3 days. I used to clean up my jobs before I'd send them to the scopist, mainly so I could make dictionary entries because, let's face it, most scopists don't give a darn about the reporter's dictionary. And, in support of scopists, I've heard that some scopists actually make entries, but the reporters won't download them. So 1st day the depo is taken, it goes to the scopist either that day or the next day, so I get it back on either day 5 or 6. Depending on my calendar, I may or may not get to it immediately for proofreading. And if there's any quoting of exhibits, I have to go through it with the exhibits against what the scopist has quoted, etc., just because I'm that anal. So I can't send the exhibits to the office yet either. Some offices demand everything to be turned in by day 8 (but no later than day 10). So now I'm either making a special hand delivery or I'm overnighting the exhibits and certs on the last day, thus costing, what, about $15? That scopist keeping the job in his/her possession for a full week really makes it though on us. I think that's what the weekend thing was about.

Reporters caring for nothing more than getting scoping done for the lowest cost

From everything I've read in these posts, I don't think any of us are looking for the cheapest. Yes, I'm sure some reporters are. But, you get what you pay for. Sometimes, though, you don't. A long time ago I was looking for a quality proofreader. I kept shying away from using the people that were charging the "high" rates and went for low to mid. But, I wasn't happy with the low-to-mid quality. So the dim bulb in the back of my brain said, Go for one of the higher ones, you get what you pay for! Not true, unfortunately. My experience was she was no better than the low to mid ones. So just because a proofreader/scopist/reporter is charging on the high end doesn't necessarily mean you're going to get quality.

It is definitely a specific talent

I totally agree with that comment. You can't even imagine how much I agree. Because it's a stay-at-home profession, people think, "Oh, I can do that!" "Not!!" Retiring or slow reporters think, "Oh, I can do that!" "Not!!" If only those kids throwing their money at "scoping school" knew first, before they made their first tuition payment, that you NEED an English background, you NEED to have attention to detail, you NEED to work odd hours, you NEED to work with anal retentive, dictatorial, prima donna reporters that need everything YESTERDAY, maybe we wouldn't be pulling our hair out when one gets past us because everything sounded good in the "interview," and now we have the option of either fixing their work, or going back to the file that we sent them to begin with (because one thing you learn real quick is to NEVER copy a scopist's work over the "sent" file, just in case), but still paying them because, you're right, you guys talk.

I still think certification for scopists is an excellent idea.

Anyways, with that, maybe my insomnia will have gone away. 'Night.

Judy
Judy,

I couldn't agree with you more about what it takes to be a good scopist. For my reporters I will work a 20-hour shift and rearrange my life and my familly's life in order to get a daily out by dawn. I'm pulling literally all-nighters and chatting back and forth with my reporters who are also up half the night and need to get up again the next morning and start the process all over again. The biggest daily I ever did was 498 pages, and then we went back and did several hundred pages the next day and then the next.

Could a recent scoping school grad have handled that highly technical finance case? Of course not. Could a newbie reporter have handled that case? Of course not.

There is a learning curve here. Everyone has a right to be new to something. As a long-time scopist, I no more want to be categorized and stereotyped with fledgling scopists as I am sure you wouldn't appreciate being categorized and stereotyped with fledgling reporters. Perhaps the problem here is that there are so many fledglings flooding the market.

I can tell if someone is a good scopist just from reading their e-mails. I can also tell if a reporter is someone with whom I would like to work from reading their e-mails or talking to them on the phone. If I am approached by a reporter whose opening line is complaining about prior scopists, that's a red flag to me.

I'm not sure that certification is the answer to all ills. First, it gives the government the chance to overregulate yet again another aspect of everyone's lives. All the reporters with whom I've worked have had certificates of one form or another. Does that mean they are all competent? No. Would a scoping certificate guarantee competency? Probably not. Would it guarantee dedication to doing whatever it takes to get a job out, regardless of the hour of the night or how tired one is? Absolutely not. Would it guarantee how long it takes to get a job out? Absolutely not. So I'm not sure that your issues would be solved by a simple short-term memory test.

As far as turn-around time, you do realize that scopists work for several reporters at once, right? If your 100-pager isn't getting back for five days, it doesn't mean the scopist was sitting around looking at it for four days or working furiously hard on it at a 20-page-a-day clip. She was working on someone else's expedite and squeaked your 100-pager in under her promised turnaround time.

Do you honestly think most scopists aren't working nights and weekends? Heck, those are my favorite times to work of all. Should I decline your work, even though I can return it in a timely fashion? I seriously doubt that my reporters would appreciate me turning down their work because someone else got their work to me a half hour earlier and I know I can get it to them in under five days. If someone wants their work put ahead of everyone else's, well, there has to be a reason or an incentive to do so. Usually that involves paying a higher rate, having a longer-standing working relationship, or delivering a higher volume of work to a particular scopist.

I think what some reporters are seeking is a personal scopist all for themselves. I've done that in the past. That is not a particularly good business decision for a scopist. The scopist's finances end up being completely dependent on the one reporter. If the reporter decides to take a three-week vacation, have surgery, or retire, etc., then the scopist is without income. If the reporter experiences a dry spell of work, then that impacts the scopist, too. By working for several reporters, the scopist can attempt some kind of a financial stability.

And, yes, hiring cut-rate scopists is a real problem. It's even being off-shored to ESL workers in Asia. Reporters have the power themselves to shun incompetency and not expect a government test to do it for them.
I don't think certification is the answer to all ills -- just as certification for reporters is not the end-all answer -- but it's a start. At least it'll give us a starting point. And I don't think it should be government regulated. Maybe the NCRA?

As far as scopists having multiple clients, yes, I would hope so. Just as I don't put all my eggs in one basket with one client, nor should a scopist. Plus, I never want anyone to depend on me exclusively to make their living .

But... it's the turnaround time quotes that keep getting longer and longer. The first thing I want to know from a scopist is rates and turnaround time. If they say "five business days," without saying something like, "that's my outside limit, usually it's x days," I move on because it's going to be out of my possession for a full week. That's all I'm saying.

And I'll add another complaint before I close. Scopists that can't read steno, need an audio file, and then charge extra because they had to spot-check. Sorry, gang, if you can't read steno, you shouldn't be charging me extra so you can properly do your job.

Okay, I lied, one more little, tiny one. Scopists that need audio and somehow think it's the reporter's responsibility to have a large download transfer system. Excuse me, if you need the audio, shouldn't you maybe have a website with some sort of transfer system so you can do your job completely and properly?

In closing, cut-rate scopists and cut-rate reporters, yes, it's a real problem. They're certainly not doing anything positive for our industries.

Judy
Judy, well said again!!! I'm not putting my two cents in because I already said what I had to say........but I will say this, agencies need us, we need scopists, and scopists need us and if we all did our best, then there would be no problem. There.....that's my thought on this.
Amen, Arielle

I am a scopist. I won't say I'm a heavy-hitter as referenced in a previous post, but I have worked as one from time to time. I am currently bogged down in a transcript by a reporter who is an official reporter in a federal court. I have to say, it's close to one of the worst I've ever seen. On many pages there is no Q & A, it's all A -- the Q's are mine to find and fix. And it's not a matter of reading the steno -- it's horrid! While the untrans rate shows 4.64%, a good deal of what's translated is MIS-translated. These are the days when I wonder why did I agree to do this. Even at my exorbitant full-audio (it's a must on this one) rate, I will be very fortunate to make minimum wage on this job.

In the meantime, I have four other transcripts awaitng my attention from reporters who on their worst day don't do this. So, yes, I believe if we ALL did our best, none of us would have reason to complain -- from the stroking of steno keys to maintaining dictionaries to scoping well to paying on time. Would that the ruler we use to judge others by fit as well on ourselves.
That's what my scopists loved about me --- even if I wrote something wrong because they were going crazy, I always got my speakers correctly. And I always get my periods and sometimes commas, I also global a lot so that I make sure it goes in my dictionary, and I give a list of spellings whenever possible
Judy,

Yes, I agree totally with your assertion about cut-rate scopists and cut-rate reporters.

As far as scopists and audio, well, that's a tough call. I can read steno with the best of 'em -- I was a CR instructor, no less. However, even I can't read steno that looks like a reporter was writing with mittens on or that doesn't even exist. So what would be considered properly doing one's job here? If a reporter prefers getting back a transcript full of ^ marks and having to spend a lot of time figuring out their own mistakes, then have at it. If the additional $25 per 100 pages of transcript isn't worth the reporter's time, then don't pay for audio and fix all of your own mistakes. As much as we wish, not even the most seasoned scopist is clairvoyant and can make steno that does not exist appear.

And doesn't this site now offer a free large file transfer service? It think it accommodates files up to 1G.

Back to the certification issue, I was around way back when, when the certifications for reporters were instituted. No one was particularly interested in obtaining these certifications until their individual states mandated them in order for the reporters to work legally. NCRA certainly doesn't have any particular oversight authority over scopists. How would you propose that that be handled?

Turn-around times -- my rate sheet says four to five days for regular delivery. That is to distinguish the regular delivery from daily and two- and three-day expedites. My reporters routinely get their "regular" delivery transcripts overnight or in one or two days and I wouldn't think of charging them for anything other than regular delivery. However, the choice is mine to adjust my own schedule accordingly. When a reporter is requiring me to deliver in less than three days, that does not necessarily fit in my schedule and I will have to put others' work aside to meet the faster delivery. The only way to ensure that reporters are not always expecting rush delivery at regular rates is to have a firm policy that four or fives days -- at the outside -- might be necessary.

Judy, I really appreciate the time you're taking to bring these issues to light and dialogue with me about these topics. I've been getting many private e-mails from scopists who are very appreciative that we are discussing these matters.
I'm not saying certification as a requirement. I'm saying voluntary certification so that reporters know by looking at the initials behind your name that ~some~ agency holds you above the rest. Just like the RPR, CRR, RMR, etc., is not a requirement in California, it's a nice little extra. (And, yes, CA is a state that requires state certification, for anybody that was going to jump on that one.)
I think I understand your concept on this, Judy, but what about those reporters who have the alphabet soup after their name, but now, for whatever reason simply can't (or won't) turn out a decent transcript. By decent, I mean one that doesn't require me to make a correction on every line. As I noted in my previous post, the transcript I have in hand has required exactly that. Every line. Yet the initials are there. So, what now? The certification in this case means little to me.
Someone has said they get a prospective reporter-client to send them ten pages for her to scope so that she can determine how she will charge the reporter or if she will work with them. I think that might become my new mantra -- let's try each other out -- ten pages, no charge -- you decide if you like my work and I decide if I like your writing.... who knows?
I'm enjoying the dialogue and am glad to see that it can occur.

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