Journal of Court Reporting
Jo Ann Bryce favors a more traditional style of court reporting that involves typing out more words phonetically. Billy Higgins/The Wall Street Journal
Jo Ann Bryce didn’t win any medals in Sochi, but in the Olympics of court reporting, she’s a champion.
The quick-fingered, unflappable 59-year-old pulled off an upset at the 2014 national court-reporting championships, sweeping both the real-time and the speed competitions.
In a contest in which a hyphen or comma can spell the difference between victory and defeat, the pressure can get intense. But for the silently scrupulous bunch, it’s also their moment to shine, writes WSJ’s Zusha Elinson who was on the scene at a hotel conference room in San Francisco to cover last month’s event.
Organized by the National Court Reporters Association, the annual contest stretches back more than a century to a time when pen and paper were the tools of the trade.
The technology hasn’t advanced much. Nowadays, court reporters use a machine resembling a miniature typewriter, but they’re still in high demand in federal and state courthouses.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said that there were about 21, 000 court reporters in 2012 and predicts that the field will grow by 10% by 2022. Closed captioning on television shows has also been a source of employment, the bureau said.
Mark Kislingbury, a 51-year-old regarded as the Michael Jordan* of court reporters, had been heavily favored to win this year’s contest. He boasts a transcription rate of 360 words a minute — a world speed record — employing a new brand of stenography that uses more shortcuts to minimize keystrokes.
But he was bested by Ms. Bryce, a 39-year veteran who scored nearly 100% in accuracy, including a perfect five minutes of question-and-answer testimony read at a blinding 280 words a minute.