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American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers, Inc.     Best Practices in E-Reporting

To ensure professional digital or analog 4-channel recording, we recommend:

Take a few simple steps in preparation and follow regular principles in practice.
This will significantly improve the consistent quality of your work product.

Click here for printable PDF outline / "bookmark" versions.

  For Reporters:

        Maintain a checklist that includes the following:
  • Test the recording quality of each microphone / channel by speaking into each in turn, then listening to the recorded result on each channel individually.

    It is wise practice to ALSO do a tap / scratch test with your finger / fingernail ON A MICROPHONE'S SURFACE, going to each one in turn.  Why?  Because another nearby microphone may be picking up your voice, while the microphone you are supposedly testing may actually be unconnected or turned off.

  • Place microphone at each speaker's position following this guide:

Channel  Assignment  Guide
1   Judge — keep separate from both podium AND witness microphones
2   Witness  — keep separate from podium microphone
3  or  4   Podium
3   Plaintiff's counsel
4   Defendant's counsel

Important note:  The judge and the attorney at the podium often engage in extensive colloquy, so it is wise to assign them to different channels.  This preserves clear voice separations, even during simultaneous speech.

  • Map ("chart") microphones for maximum channel-to-channel voice separation for all parties who will speak — including interpreter, if any.
  • Note case name, number, and venue.
  • Note date and starting time.
  • Note attorney appearances.
  • Create speaker log.
  • Monitor recording through headphones, using Confidence Monitoring to ensure proceedings are being adequately and intelligibly recorded.

     What is Confidence Monitoring?

    This means listening to the actual result being recorded — critical to ensuring its quality.  [Analog reporters refer to this as "monitoring from tape."]  By definition, you will hear a very slightly "delayed echo" of what is being said in the real-life sound environment.

    If what you hear through your earphones is exactly IN SYNC with the real-life sound environment, you are merely "Monitoring from Source," listening only to microphone activity — and in that mode you CANNOT know for sure what is being actually preserved on the recording medium.

    It is wise to occasionally switch between Confidence Monitoring and Monitoring from Source (microphone-checking).  In either mode, occasionally listen to each channel in turn, rather than relying on a muddled "all-source" or "room-wide" mix, which is not very helpful when a single microphone or cable is having problems.

  • Note unusual names, spellings, and terminology.
  • Monitor sidebar conversations and adjust recording gain if necessary.
  • If an attorney mutes a microphone to confer, make sure it gets turned back on.

    If no mute switch is available, so the attorney has placed the palm of her hand over the microphone's surface, note that this portion is not intended for the record, and is not to be transcribed.

  • Provide notes and diskette (or tape[s], if analog) to transcriber or file, as directed.
  • Follow manufacturer's directions for regular equipment cleaning and maintenance.
  • If attorneys are required to stand, adjust microphones upward.  If this is the practice in your court, attend to this before proceedings begin.
  • Ensure proper placement of microphone[s] if there will be jury voir dire or interpreters involved.

    One of the most valuable contributions E-Reporting can make is when a witness requires an interpreter.  This is increasingly important as the numbers of Americans grow who speak English only as a second language, and who are more comfortable testifying under oath in their native tongue.

    ONLY electronic reporting can capture BOTH the original language being spoken as well as its English translation, so questions can be resolved as to whether an interpretation in court was correctly rendered or not.

    The witness microphone may be placed between the two speakers, so both languages are adequately recorded.

    If the witness and interpreter are not positioned closely together, provide a separate microphone for the interpreter.  This can be assigned to the witness channel.


 

 



  For Judges:

  • Identify case.
  • Note date and start time.
  • Request parties to state appearances.
  • Permit attorneys to remain seated during proceedings — but if you prefer that they stand when speaking, the E-Reporter can easily conform by adjusting counsel table microphones accordingly.
  • Discourage overlapping questions and answers or colloquy.
  • Discourage wandering around the courtroom --
    examination should occur from the podium or counsel table.
  • Hold on-the-record sidebar conversations at the sidebar microphone.

    When a sidebar is to be on the record, attorneys should not merely whisper, but at least speak, although softly or sotto voce.  E-Reporting, although wonderfully sensitive, has an initial threshold for sound, just as the human ear does.

  • It is best to leave your microphone turned on while in session to ensure all your remarks will be clearly recorded.

 

 



  For Attorneys:

  • Avoid moving microphones.
  • Remain within arm's reach of a microphone.
  • Avoid tapping on or striking the table or microphone.
  • Use mute button while consulting with your client, and be sure the microphone is toggled back on before proceeding.

    If no button / switch is available, placing the palm of your hand firmly over the microphone's surface will prevent inadvertent registration of your remarks, and will give clear notice to the E-Reporter that you are not then speaking for the record.

  • To identify a point where you may wish to re-listen to the audio, whether for playback in court or for later reference, note the clock time alongside your keywords.
  • When at sidebar, avoid blocking the microphone with documents, and speak one at a time into the sidebar microphone.

    When a sidebar is to be on the record, do not merely whisper, but at least speak, although softly or sotto voce.  E-Reporting, although wonderfully sensitive, has an initial threshold for sound, just as the human ear does.

  • E-Reporting separates speakers onto different channels, so all statements are recorded; however, for the benefit of the written record, try to avoid speaking simultaneously with witnesses or other counsel.