They take notes at a feverish pace, transcribe them verbatim, avoid redundancy and ensure proper sentence construction. Their work is invaluable as they are the record keepers of every spoken word in the floor of the Legislative Assembly.
The Assembly reporters, as they are known, are valued for their high speed in shorthand and proficiency in Tamil and English. Their transcript is printed and published by the Legislative Assembly Secretariat as the official report of the proceedings. “The Assembly proceedings also form the basis for the Executive to take suitable action on the demands placed by the members during the question hour and other forms of debate,” says N. Veeraraghavan, Deputy Secretary (Editor).
“Assembly reporters acquire an enviable position of seating in the well of the House. The post places a person in the know of things on a variety of subjects,” he adds.
When the Assembly is in session, four reporters are deployed - two each for recording English and Tamil speeches. The reporters cover the proceedings in turns of five minutes' duration..
Assembly reporters are highly skilled stenographers who begin with a speed of 120 words per minute in Tamil but train themselves to take notes at a speed of 150 words/minute.
C. Shantha, who has put in 16 years' of service as Assembly Reporter says, “Some members speak very fast and others are slow. We maintain eye contact with the Speaker and follow orders when a remark has to be expunged or corrected,” she adds.
Though Assembly reporters use tape recorders, they largely depend on their notes. They use the recorder as a back up. R.Venkatakrishnan, one of the six chief reporters in the section, asserts that a tape recorder cannot replace a reporter. “The transcription software is tuned to identify only a particular voice. A tape recorder will register only the commotion during heated debates. At such times human ingenuity becomes important,” he adds.
“High speed shorthand writers are a vanishing tribe,” says Mr. Veeraraghavan. “Fewer people learn shorthand these days, much less high speed shorthand. It is an art that requires corporate support. Providing incentives and prizes to persons who pass high speed examinations in Tamil and English shorthand through Directorate of Technical Education would popularise the rare art form,” he adds.
Keywords: TN Assembly