The practice of a profession

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She is a fly on the wall who has heard everything from murder trials to child abuse cases.

She uses a stenography keyboard, a dark red, medium-sized writer with plain black keys that look as if they would produce some kind of musical sound.

Brent Ruffner-News-Bulletin photo: Thirteenth Judicial District Court reporter Annette Aragon works under Judge William Sanchez. Aragon wants to raise awareness about the benefits of the profession.

Annette Aragon thinks of herself as a guardian.

She doesn’t watch over individuals, but what she protects effects Valencia County residents.

Aragon is a stenographer, or court reporter, who takes down the official record of what attorneys, defendants, plaintiffs and judges say on a daily basis at the Valencia County District Court.

“It’s fun,” Aragon said. “It’s interesting — something different every day. It’s like watching Court TV and getting paid.”

Aragon, who says she is a guardian of the record, learned to type 225 words a minute in a code that is much different than the English language.

She uses a specialized dictionary to type shorthand so that she doesn’t miss what someone is saying. She types phonetically what she hears in the courtroom.

A stenographer in Valencia County since the early 1990s, Aragon wants to raise awareness about her profession. She said court reporters are a “dying breed,” and that schools, such as CNM, have dropped programs related to stenography because students had a hard time keeping their typing speed up, says Aragon.

Court administrators have had to recruit certified reporters since there aren’t many schools that teach the trade.

She said professors would make students write unnecessarily long version of words that would slow their times down.

“People don’t know about it,” Aragon said. “The schools, unfortunately, kind of started teaching the wrong way. This is shorthand.”

She said she spent thousands of dollars over the years on equipment she uses for her career.

But the investment pays off — literally.

In addition to her regular salary, she makes income when attorneys need a copy of the official record of a certain case.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, the median salary for a court reporter is about $48,000.

“It’s not cheap,” Aragon said. “But it’s a good profession. You can make some good money at it.”

Aragon said a tape recorder should never take the place of an individual since trained reporters can make sense of things that happen in the court room.

She said programs, such as Dragon speech recognition software, shouldn’t be relied upon.

In one instance, she said a witness had an accent and said a word that sounded like a Spanish item. She had never heard the word before and it turned out, the man was saying “common areas” instead of Spanish dialect.

“We are the voice recognition,” Aragon said. “That’s us. If somebody has an accent, what’s it going to do?”

The court reporter said more students should look into becoming a stenographer since the job can be rewarding.

Certified stenographers help do depositions and closed captioning work for television stations, she said.

Aragon plans to volunteer her time to talk to students about the profession.

If you have any questions, you can call Aragon at 865-4010.

“It’s a good career,” she says.


-- Email the author at bruffner@news-bulletin.com.