Turning the tide to support the reporters of the future

As your president, I receive hundreds of emails every week and many of them are positive and optimistic. But not long ago, I received an email that left me staring at my ceiling well into the night. The email highlighted the story of a recent court reporting graduate who works at a small firm with four or five other reporters. While the new reporter is grateful for the amount of work coming her way, she notes that it’s not without cost to her psyche – the scheduling administrator doesn’t really understand the profession, and the owner is dog-tired and is making a beeline toward retirement. At the holiday party, colleagues questioned the new reporter’s choice in entering the profession, indicating that digital recording is going to replace steno reporters. Not to be deterred, the new reporter is working to pass the last leg of her RPR and she’s starting to look for an officialship. She’s still in love with the profession, but she asks, “Where should I turn to look for employment with people who aren’t so negative about the profession?”

In many of the seminars that I have given around the country, I have said that we are our own worst enemies. Whether it be the nitpicking, the negativity, the apathy, we are the root of so many of our own problems. Plenty of Facebook comments, emails, and cocktail party conversations can still make me cringe, but I, like that new reporter, will not be deterred. I know we can be better. More supportive of each other. More positive in public. And while we cannot go back and change the thinking of those who are set in their ways, I have noticed in the last couple of years a positive swing in the overall morale of the profession. I think the naysayers are slowly being overshadowed by those who love our profession and see all the good it brings to the environments in which we work and to those to whom we provide service.

Did you know that NCRA has garnered more positive press and publicity for the profession in the last six months than it has in the previous six decades combined? Did you know that hundreds of leads are flowing into NCRA-certified court reporting programs, where previously a few dozen trickled in? Did you know that young teenagers are not only aware of court reporting as a profession, but are starting to think of it as cool?

As you probably know, NCRA commissioned an independent firm of analysts in 2013 to study the five-year outlook for our profession. The results that came back were somewhat scary, but also incredibly positive from a messaging standpoint. We have jobs. A lot of them. We’re not a dying profession. Stenographic court reporting isn’t going away. And we’re going to need new professionals – as many as 5,500 more than what current projections are saying will enter the marketplace – in five short years. Oh, wait, make that four.

NCRA is promoting the profession, targeting school counselors, parents, and most importantly, potential students. The messages are working. They are interested. And the perception is shifting.

Equally important to getting students to come into the career is supporting them once they begin their professional journey as working reporters. We cannot let the past rain on the future’s parade. As I said, there’s a lot to be positive about at NCRA and in the court reporting and captioning profession. I know we have had our fair share of challenges throughout the years, but now is not the time to allow our new reporters – the future of our profession – to be discouraged. Their future is bright, and it’s our job to promulgate that message among those who will carry the torch long after we’re gone. And more importantly, it’s our job to mold our future and teach them the longstanding history that we know so well.

As an established reporter, what are you doing to encourage a positive outlook among students and new reporters? Are they hopeful about the direction of the profession? Do they have a support network to carry them forward? We should hold our professionalism standards very high. It’s time to stop complaining about clients on public pages on Facebook. It’s time to put on a brave face for the students and new reporters and acknowledge the greatness there is from within. Perhaps the power of our positivity will, indeed, overshadow the negativity that still exists in the profession.

I can feel the tide turning. Can you?

[Excerpts of this column have been taken from President Nageotte’s address at the NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference held in February.]