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Filling the gap: The critical need for court reporters nationwide

Court reporting has survived for decades, but the profession is in crisis.

Rochester, N.Y. - Meredith Bonn's passion for the law runs in the family.

"My father is an attorney and my mother worked in the appellate division and her side work was typing transcripts from reporters that worked in this very building," Bonn said.

She didn't want to go to law school but still wanted a front row seat in the courtroom.

"People have wanted what they said written down, recorded, passed on so this was my opportunity to be an intricate part of the system," she said.

Bonn is now an official court reporter for New York State. She works at the Hall of Justice in Monroe County.

"Our role in the court room is to make a verbatim record of what's being said and who said it and we do that with machine shorthand," said Bonn.

That machine is a Stenograph or Steno machine.

"We are using a system where we're using brief forms in phonetics and when we hit our keys we could be hitting a word, part of a word or several words all in one stroke," said Bonn.

It's a career that can earn you a lot of money, but Bonn says fewer college students are choosing court reporter as a career path and that's creating a shortage.

"There's a deficiency in our high schools where not as many guidance counselors realized we're still a cutting edge field, realized people can still make a lot of money in our field," said Bonn. "You can earn a six figure salary."

Technology such as Siri and instant voice to text has also helped decrease those numbers.

But Bonn wants to change that.

She hopes to boost numbers with a class she teaches, Steno A-Z.

Donna Davis took the class.

She says she's looking for something to do once she retires.

"The first day I really didn't think I'd ever get this and now I find myself thinking in Steno...I spell in steno now," Davis said. "When I watch movies now and they're in the courtroom, I'm looking at the stenographer more so the actors now and wonder oh wow did they catch that?"

It's an investment that can pay off and goes beyond just the court room.

"We need people to go to school for this to provide captioning for TV, captioning for YOUTUBE, captioning for NFL sports games, any sports where you have a Jumbo tron captioning what's happening. You do not have to be interested in the law to be interested in court reporting," said Bonn.

If you'd like to learn more about court reporting, visit NCRA.org or contact Meredith Bonn at MeredithA.Bonn@gmail.com.

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