How Court Reporting Has Changed Over The Years

Courts have come to rely on court...

Courts have come to rely on court reporting as a way to keep an accurate recording of legal proceedings. Here at Cook & Wiley, Inc. we take our role as court reporters quite seriously and work hard to deliver all of our clients the very best video conferencing and court reporting in Central Virginia and the surrounding area. If you’ve never worked with a court reporter before, you might be interested in where and how it all started. Well, here’s your chance to find out how court reporting originated and how it’s changed over the years.

Origin Story

Believe it or not, but court reporting is actually thousands of years old and goes all of the way back to 63 B.C. It was then that a man named Marcus Tullius Tiro, who was Cicero’s secretary, used shorthand as a way of reporting. Even though it might not seem terribly difficult to develop a shorthanded way of making reports, it’s actually something that requires a high degree of skill, great listening skills and accuracy as well in order to make sure each work is correctly recorded. Now you’re starting to get an idea of why highly qualified court reporters are in such high demand in the court room as well as outside of it.

The Way It’s Done

court-reporting is important

The bare bones of court reporting is that the reporter listens to what is being said during the legal proceedings or television show if they’re providing closed captioning. They type out what’s being said and record it on a magnetic media file through the use of either a hard disk or a floppy drive. The file then makes it possible for the reporter to make a copy of the proceedings. The voice reporters and machine shorthand reporters still use this process today.

The Writing Process


It wasn’t until nearly the end of the 19th century that court reporters no longer had to use pens or quills for reporting. A man named John R. Gregg was the originator of the most prevalent used method of shorthand that’s written with a pen. Eventually John went on to open his very own school in Chicago. In the late 1870s automation was conceived through the invention of the first stenotype machine, which was invented by Miles Bartholomew. What made the stenotype machine so unique was that it made use of the reporter’s ability to type faster than they were able to write. It was roughly the same moment in history when Alexander Graham Bell started his work on the photoautograph, which would later allow him to create the telephone.

By the time the 1940s rolled around, court reporters had given up their pens in favor of special typewriting machines since they were so much faster and easier to use. Ward S. Ireland made it possible for novice reporters to seem like well-seasoned and quick-typing professionals with his stenotype machine. Soon the definition of “shorthand” was widened to include the abbreviations used on typing machines as well.

Voice Writing


Horace Webb was able to develop an even more efficient way of court reporting during the 1940s. What he did was place a microphone inside of a cigar box that was linked to a recorder and into a coffee can that contained a special path that muffled reflecting sound waves. With his invention, court reporters were able to speak faster than they were able to write. All the reporter had to do was set a stenomask near their face and verbally repeat the words they heard in the court proceedings into a recorder that was set on the stenomask. When it came time to create a transcript, all the reporter had to do was play back their recording. Although his has been modified, the Senomask and its variants are still used by court reporters to this day.

Voice Recognition

Technological innovations made it possible for us to start employing speech-to-text translations in realtime. Surprisingly, speech-to-text has a reported accuracy of 96 percent. Court reporters who are able to get at least 96% accuracy on a test diction between 180 and 200 words per minute received their Realtime Verbatim Reporter certification from the National Verbatim Reporters Association.

As you can see, court reporting has gone through a number of changes throughout the years and continues to do so even today. Who knows, maybe they’ll be able to figure out a method of court reporting where the reporter is able to write out a transcript with just their thoughts.


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