Court Reporting in Popular Culture

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As a new employee here at Planet Depos, I’ve learned a lot in the last few weeks. Before I took this position I knew very little about court reporting. I am an avid Law and Order SVU fan, so I was aware of court reporters from  the courtroom scenes. However, I soon learned there’s so much more that goes into court reporting.

Now that I’m involved with the profession, I’ve noticed court reporting in quite a few instances on television. There are the obvious shows like Criminal Minds and Netflix’s Making a Murderer, who all film court reporters in the courtroom. However, I also noticed court reporters in more unexpected shows. In an episode of The Office, Michael Scott is a witness in a deposition and, as usual, cringeworthy awkwardness ensues. The court reporter is even given a speaking role, when Michael asks for “a line” and the reporter reads back the comical banter between Michael and the plaintiff’s lawyer. In an episode of Modern Family, Mitchell, who is a lawyer, was in court on Halloween. His case was put in jeopardy when the court reporter showed up… In a spider costume. This was very distracting to the jury. I also recently watched an episode of Two Broke Girls where Max accompanies Caroline to her deposition. Max is in awe of the steno machine, calling it a “tiny typewriter” and sits at it, enthusiastically typing. These coincidences could be potentially because I watch entirely too much Netflix, but I think it’s because court reporting is a critical component of the legal system.

Although these shows are over-the-top fictional series, I hope showing court reporting in film and television sheds light on this promising career. It’s important we raise awareness about the court reporting profession, especially to the upcoming work force. It’s such an underrated occupation, particularly with a shortage looming!

In the Two Broke Girls scene I mentioned above, Max, like me, assumed court reporters were used only in courtrooms. This is a common misconception. Court reporters are a key player in depositions, trials, arbitrations, and any other official proceeding. Freelance court reporters work independently or through a court reporting firm, official court reporters work inside the courtroom, and realtime captioners are responsible for the closed captioning for live television events.

For more information on a career in court reporting, visit the National Court Reporters Association website.

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