My grandmother used to say, “you get what you pay for”. This is true in almost any situation. You can sometimes cut corners and end up saving money. But when it comes down to a critical verdict in a trial, do you want to take chances?
So what is digital reporting? It is sometimes called electronic reporting and is basically an audio recording of the proceedings. A digital reporter shows up with audio equipment and presses “record”. Sounds reasonable, except there are many things that can go wrong with digital recording. Probably the most obvious is mechanical failure. If the recorder stops, the individual failed to hit “record” or other technical glitches, like battery failure, it could mean part or all of the record is lost.
Another significant concern is quality of the record. Background noise might interfere with the recording making it garbled when playing back. If this happens, the transcript will simply read “inaudible”. Having an actual court reporter taking real time records prevents this. If something is unclear, the court reporter can ask the person to speak up or repeat what was said. Court reporters are experienced at tuning out background noise or sidebar conversations.
Most of us have some sort of virtual assistant to help us in the home (SIRI, Alexa etc). How often have you asked Alexa a question only to have her misinterpret what you’ve said? The same is true for transcriptionists who are typing from audio recordings and not actually present in the courtroom. There is a big difference between finding $5 in the dryer after doing a load of laundry and actual money laundering! It’s important to be sure what you hear is accurate. A court reporter is able to ask for clarity at the exact moment of testimony if needed.
One of the final advantages of having a court reporter taking minute by minute records is that those records can be read back if the court so requests. Court reporters have years of training as well as a clear understanding of legal proceedings and terminology. Investing in professionals rather than trusting important proceedings to an inanimate device, just makes prudent sense.