Having served as parliamentarian to hundreds of conventions, I’ve worked with different types of court reporters who used different methods to provide verbatim transcripts of the proceedings. These included stenographic court reporters using audiotape, specialized court reporting machines or laptops. At times I’ve also seen voice writing court reporters using a stenomask as you might see at a trial.
With no disrespect towards others, I want to give special recognition to convention reporters Jack and Dee Boenau (pronounced BAY-no) of AmeriCaption, Inc. Because we’re on the convention circuit together, Jack, Dee and I see each other at conventions ranging from 300 to 9,000 delegates of the National Education Association, National Air Traffic Controllers Association, National Pork Producers Council, and others.
Jack and Dee have most every credential in the court reporting world—Registered Professional Reporter, Registered Merit Reporter, Registered Diplomate Reporter, Certified Real-time Captioner, Certified Real-time Reporter, and Fellow of the Academy of Professional Reporters. In addition, Dee has won the National Realtime Contest two times and placed second in both the National Speed Contest and World Competition. She has medaled nine times in the National Realtime Contest.
Jack and Dee provide two really exceptional services:
- Convention Transcript. At some conventions I‘ve worked, there has been a need during lunch or a recess to find out exactly what transpired earlier in the meeting or the precise wording of a motion. Some court reporters keep a recording or have to convert code so that a transcript will not be ready for many hours or even days. Once I was told that a convention transcript would not be ready until a week after the convention! In contrast, Jack and Dee have both real-time stenographic writing skills as well as software that instantly converts their court reporter code to text. As a result, on occasion I have asked them moments after a specific debate to see verbatim wording of what occurred, and they immediately forwarded the language to me on my laptop while the meeting continued. When a delegate shortly after that asked about the proceedings, the President read back what had happened. Talk about impressing the delegates!
- Live Captioning. For some large conventions Jack and Dee also do what is called real-time captioning. Basically, everything that anyone says appears as two or three lines of scrolling text at the top or bottom of the convention screens and/or video monitors (like certain newscasts). They can also provide unedited real-time transcription files periodically throughout a meeting and/or a real-time feed to a tablet or a computer. Depending on the setting, such as conventions in extremely large rooms, this can greatly help delegates understand what has transpired. In addition, for conventions with persons with disabilities or foreign-speaking guests, a live written record allows great participation in the proceedings.
While I have worked with a number of excellent convention reporters over the years, I like to acknowledge professionals who are at the top of their game. Jack and Dee are fixtures at many national association meetings, and deservedly so.