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The Huseby Journal

Comeback court reporters give the human touch in New York, according to Daily News

Plaza College, Queens, New York

Now the newspaper with the eighth-biggest circulation in the U.S. is on the story.

The New York Daily News (644,000 Sunday circulation) has trumpeted “Court reporting makes comeback as more legal proceedings demand human touch,” in a story published this week that includes photos of stenography students practicing at Plaza College in Forest Hills, Queens. (New York Daily News

Here are some of the details from this thoroughly reported story.

“Right here in the city, the Surrogate’s Court put in recording devices years ago, for budgetary issues, but now whenever there’s a really important case, we get a call. ‘Can you please come cover this trial, we need a live court reporter.’ ” 
                                                                                       -- Eric Allen, president of the Association of Supreme Court Reporters

It’s not all good new, though:

Unfortunately, the resurgence was not enough to save the New York Career Institute, the last school in Manhattan that taught court reporting. It recently closed for good, with many of its students just halfway through their two-year degrees."

But there’s hope for the future:

According to Karen Santucci, a long-time court reporter who is now a professor at Queens College, grads can start working right out of school.

“We get calls all the time from agencies who need accredited court reporters for depositions, grand juries, pre-trial meetings, all kinds of things,” Santucci said.

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Effective public relations puts court reporters in headlines

The issue of court reporter shortages continues to make headlines across the country. It’s truly one of the most effective and successful public relations campaigns we’ve seen.

A National Court Reporters Association news release is the basis for many if not all of these stories, including ones we’ve reported on recently.

Here are two newer ones: From St. Louis, Missouri CBS affiliate KMOX, headlined Illinois Courtrooms Face Shortage of Court Reporters, as well as an Associated Press story about court reporter problems in in Bloomington, Indiana. AP stories, as you know, are distributed across states, regions and the nation.

How did this story catch fire in the media? Extremely effective PR.

According to the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit journalism school and think tank based in Tampa, Florida, there are several aspects of an effective news release. The most important newsworthiness.

Theses are questions posed by Poynter about news releases.

  • Is this news relevant to my audience?
  • Is the release worth a brief post?
  • A longer story?
  • A post and a longer follow-up story?

Clearly, the answer was an emphatic “yes” in the case of the court reporter shortage news release.

But what makes a release newsworthy? The information should contain at least one of the following news values. The more of these news values a news release contains, the more newsworthy the information -- and the more likely to be picked up by news media.

  • Impact
  • Timeliness
  • Prominence
  • Proximity
  • Conflict
  • Currency
  • Unusual or bizarreness

Which ones did the court reporter shortage have? Impact and timeliness, yes. In some cases there is conflict: Either the conflict between live and digital court reporting or a conflict between the need and the supply of court reporters. There’s also an implied conflict between those who are funding courts and those who are using them.

But the primary news value that’s perpetuating the story of court reporter shortages is proximity. As the news release was disseminated across the U.S., the story was relevant in many different communities and states. And many reporters say proximity is the most important of the news values.

“I immediately check to see if there is anything local; check for local phone number,” one journalist told Poynter, when asked what she looks for in a news release. Another journalist said, “Local relevance and contact information for someone who can offer background.”

If you’ll notice, all of the court reporter shortage stories contain those elements: Local people, local context, local relevance.

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A Detailed Look At The New York State Court Reporters Association

Court reporters at Huseby find that joining their state court reporting association carries many benefits. New York court reporters have at their disposal the New York State Court Reporters Association (NYSCRA)

The Oldest Association of Court Reporters

The NYSCRA was founded in 1876, a day when New York court reporters used shorthand to document legal proceedings. The machines that modern court stenographers use were not around yet not to mention many of the computer tools we all take for granted.

In that year, eight New York court reporters got together in Syracuse and decided to form a professional association. They worked out the organization and constitution and named their new organization the New York State Law Stenographers Association. Today the organization boasts well over 600 members and is the state National Court Reporters Association affiliate.

Invaluable Resources for New York Court Reporters

Court reporters can get help from the NYSCRA no matter where they are in their careers, starting with which school to go to. The NYSCRA website lists all the court reporting programs in the state so students can decide which one is the best for them.

The state of New York does not require NCRA certification to practice in the state, but many New York court reporters choose to pursue these credentials to open up new job opportunities. The NYSCRA offers a variety of resources to help its members on their path to becoming certified court reporters.

Even reporters who don't belong to the association benefit from it. The NYSCRA maintains an active lobby to ensure that state and federal legislative changes are in the best interest of their members and other reporters in the state.

Get A Mentor

At Huseby we know that court reporting is a rewarding profession but also a very demanding one. Our staff has been through the challenging coursework and speed trials. We've been through the challenging early period of our careers. As a court reporting agency we offer what help we can, but we can't offer the one-on-one attention that a mentor can.

NYSCRA recruits experienced New York court reporters to act as mentors to students. They give their mentees the benefit of years of experience, offering tips on studying and building speed and accuracy. Some provide the opportunity for mentees to observe them on the job, getting experience that school can't match.

Mentors often continue to guide their mentees after graduation. The early days of New York court reporters' careers can be difficult as they adjust to the stress of the profession. Encouragement and advice from someone who's walked the same road is invaluable in giving new reporters the confidence to succeed.

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