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Remote Reporting: No Longer Something of the Future; It is Here Today
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Remote Reporting: No Longer Something of the Future; It is Here Today

by Jennifer MacGregor, CER, CET

 

What do I mean by "remote reporting," you ask? Remote reporting is just as it states: court reporting services provided remotely from the location of the client. This is similar to the way remote live captioning is being performed only via audio and not both video and audio.

The logistics to provide remote court reporting are relatively easy to set up and at minimal cost to the reporter. For example, you can use Google Docs to take notes or dictate into via voice recognition for free, if you have a Google account (also free). One of the nice things about using Google Docs, especially during a live session, is that you do not have to stop and save because it auto saves for you as you input.

You can also use a free Google Phone session instead of a cell phone by creating a Google Phone account which will give you a free phone number to either call out to your client's phone line or they can call you. Many large companies or firms have the capability to have conference calling so multiple individuals can call in. That works very well, because all voices are heard through the same line which makes the recording very clear for all participants.

There is free software to record the audio directly onto your computer made by NCH Software. It is called SoundTap Streaming Audio Recorder. It records directly from your computer's internal sound card to the drive/directory that you select. The files are defaulted to be saved in MP3 format, but you have the option to change them to WAV or MP3 files, as you are probably aware, are small and compact to make it easy to send to others and take less storage space on your drive. The software is straightforward to set up, and it has a friendly user interface.

You do not want to attempt this type of service using a wi-fi connection, because it is too unpredictable. You must use a hard-wired modem connection. Even with the hard-wired connection, you may still have a hiccup which can cause a loss of the "phone" signal you are using. So just be aware. Nothing is 100% foolproof, as you have likely experienced with your equipment when you are onsite as well.

If you are able, you should check with your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to take advantage of the fastest speeds that are available in your area. For example, Cox Communications offers their new G1GABLAST service which provides up to 1 GB/minute of download speed. If you are using the basic service, you may want to invest in that added expense to be sure you are using the fastest connection possible. That also includes making sure all of your hardware is the most up to date that you can afford. And, keep in mind, these are all generally business write-offs at tax time.1  Also, most ISPs offer their customers a free or low-cost cable modem/router combo and when it becomes out of date, they will usually let you trade it in for the latest model.2 

Next you'll want to have the fastest CAT cables available. This is the network cable that goes from your modem/router to your desktop or laptop computer that you will be using for your recording. This is what "hard wired" means versus wi-fi connections.

Even if you aren't going to do remote reporting, you may still want to update your CAT cables to be sure you are getting the fastest data transfer rates available for your location. The fastest CAT cables available on the market at this time are CAT 8. CAT 8 (RJ45) can be purchased from Amazon and other cable retailers. You can get helpful information from your current ISP technical support if you are using their modem.

After ensuring you have the best connection possible and your software and communications lines are set up on your computer, then you are ready to provide remote court reporting services. For me, I was able to get started using this method with some existing clients who were paying my travel when they needed my reporting services. It was more efficient for both of us. They saved money on the travel and I could stay home and not deal with traveling, especially in the winter months, when this location receives snow.

We did a trial run with the setup. I was satisfied with the quality of the audio, and they were satisfied as well. They were already familiar with the high quality transcripts I would provide them, so they were on board. We did most of their hearings via phone after that over the next three years. I also felt more confident about my ability to capture the audio and the speaker IDs as time went on -- even with all male speakers with similar voices -- so I began offering this service to other clients who would contact me that were in a location where I would have to charge travel expenses for my services.

When I performed remote reporting, I never had an issue about the identity of the witnesses being interviewed. This is because the witnesses were either in the same room as the person(s) doing the questioning or if not, they were from the same government agency. So there was never an issue about identity. Any administrative details would be handled prior to going on the record. As far as giving an oath to the witness, I have done both, where I did it over the phone, and also where the person in charge of the interview would provide the oath to the witness. I will note that the types of remote reporting jobs I did were not depositions like a good many reporters do. They were board of inquiries or investigative interviews that covered matters internal to an organization and not a court case at that point.

Just as remote live captioning and CART services are more affordable and available due to the improvements in technology and reliable networks, remote live court reporting can also become more widely used within our industry for a variety of hearings, depositions, investigative interviews, and anything a client needs recorded live and provided a transcript for. It's an ideal setup for any reporter whose client is willing to allow the work to be done using this method.


[1] Be sure you check with your tax specialist about this to be sure this is the case for your particular situation and business setup.

[2] Again, check your local provider about this information. You may be able to upgrade for free or low cost.


Jennifer is a 30-year Retired Army Reserve Veteran who served as an Army voice writing court reporter on active duty from 2003-2007. She then opened Combat Veteran Voicewriters in 2008 providing court reporting, transcription, captioning, and CART services mainly for government agencies, educational institutions, and non-profits. The company name was changed to CVV Transcripts in 2015.

 

Jennifer@CVVtrans.com

 

 

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