CAPTIONING CORNER: File vs. transcript

By Jen Schuck

There are many differences between a court reporter and a CART or broadcast captioner. However, one similarity is the electronic file that is produced. In court reporting, there is a fee to purchase that product. When captioning, whether you charge or not is a business decision, and that business decision should lead to several other business questions that should be addressed. These questions are best answered before a job begins. They include: Who will be receiving a copy of the file? When will they receive it? Who is entitled to a copy? Does distributing the file violate confidentiality for anyone? Does the file contain intellectual property that should be considered before distributing?

You may notice the specific use of the word file as opposed to transcript. There is a distinction. When captioning, there may be purposeful translations that are not verbatim. Transcript implies verbatim. Because captioners look like court reporters, many consumers or clients may assume they will be receiving a verbatim transcript. Clarification in this regard before a job begins will help to avoid some ethical situations at the conclusion of the job.

Captioners and interpreters both provide communication access. The difference is that captioners also can produce a file. Although the roles are similar, this file opens the door to some ethical considerations. Foremost among these is the fact that often the person or entity paying for services may not be the consumer receiving services. This may result in competing interests at times. For example, imagine a company hires you to CART caption a meeting for an employee. During this meeting, the employee is discriminated against. The employee wants a copy of the “transcript” to use in a discrimination claim. The employer does not want the employee to have it. Would distributing a file breach any confidentiality? How verbatim was the captioning?

Here’s another example: You may have the opportunity to CART caption a researcher’s presentation about new medical advancements. These advancements are cutting-edge and revolutionary. The presentation is the researcher’s intellectual property, and he does not want it distributed to anyone. However, he or she is not paying for the captioning accommodations or receiving the services. This is another scenario where the handling of the file must be discussed ahead of time.

There is an endless list of scenarios that can arise over the fact that, as stenographers, we can produce a file. Captioners provide a great service by capturing the spoken word for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. However, sometimes that file and its distribution may be called into question. There are, in fact, times when a file may not or should not be distributed for ethical reasons. In all cases, there should be a disclaimer included, such as those referenced in the NCRA Guidelines for CART Captioners. Be proactive about the handling of the file before the job begins, and it may save you a lot of time after the job.

Jennifer Schuck, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP, is a captioner based in Scottsdale, Ariz., and co-chair of the CART Ethics Task Force.