AAERT: Then and Now
By Jim Bowen, President, AAERT, Inc.
On a bookshelf in my office, I have a 4" black binder with the letters AAERT scrawled vertically down the spine. Its contents are divided by colored tabs: AAERT, Board Minutes, 1994 Convention, Membership, Newsletters, Financials. The binder has sat on the shelf for over 18 years and been given very little attention except for an occasional dusting. Its creation at the time was of course dictated by the need to organize the growing number of documents I had been accumulating from my involvement in a new professional association.
The first item in the binder is a letter dated September 24, 1992 from Dennis Borlek and Connie Meadows (later Connie Rill, AAERT's first President) soliciting membership to a new professional organization. This association is being founded to "establish and maintain professional standards, render legislative support..." and continues in the next paragraph with "the Association will provide a certification program...for reporters and transcribers."
At the time, I was President of the fairly-new Certified Transcribers Association of NJ and saw the worth of a professional association promoting the above values on the national level. So, without any idea of what lay ahead, I sent Connie a two-page letter dated October 26, 1992. The letter concluded with "I would be willing to come out...and assist you with setting up this organization." A year or so later, the original Incorporators, Connie Meadows, Janet Harris and Steve Townsend, asked if I would serve on the first Board of Directors.
Fast forward to November 2012. I sit at my office computer with my AAERT President's hat on, a hat I had previously worn 13 years earlier, and I have been tasked with creating an article for the AAERT Blog. Thanks to the great work of our Strategic Task Force and our subsequent adoption of a new Strategic Plan, AAERT has identified a need to be more involved in the social media arena as a way to better connect and communicate with our members and the industry as a whole. As a result, AAERT now has Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and WordPress pages.
As I typed the last paragraph and looked over at that dusty black binder, I could not believe what has transpired in just 20 years. In 1992, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn were at least a decade or more away and social media described a cocktail party of newspaper journalists. My first e-mail address contained only numbers, email@example.com. Reel-to-reel recordings were replaced with audiotape cassettes in the analog age. We now have moved to the digital age where court audio and transcripts are routinely sent through the internet.
As an association, we have grown and adapted to these changes and our growth has been nothing short of phenomenal. Tasks handled by committees of one now need committees of many, not to mention an Executive Director and his staff. And with all of this growth, AAERT has held true to the promise it made to me in the letter I received in September of 1992. And I am certainly most proud of our certification program as I had a hand in bringing that to fruition and I consider it the greatest asset offered by AAERT.
So, where do we go from here? What will the next 20 years look like? How will AAERT and its members adapt? What will our industry look like? Lots of questions, but these questions are no different than what we asked ourselves 20 years ago. We didn't always have the answers, but we plugged along to meet the needs of our members. This blog post still has the same message of the AAERT letter of 1992. It's a call to everyone in our industry to promote our high level of professional standards and to support the goals and objectives of AAERT. So join us now as we embark on the next 20-year journey. I can guarantee you one thing. When the AAERT President sits down to prepare a message to the members in 2032, he/she won't have a dusty black binder.
Tell us what you would like to see in the next twenty years.