It's My Job: Fargo man has owned court reporting business for half-century

FARGO - When Norman Mark was a young man growing up in Madison County, Iowa, he knew he had two options if he did not want to be a farmer: join the military or further his education.

Norman Mark
Norman Mark shows a strip of paper that contains his shorthand characters from a court hearing. Dave Wallis / The Forum

FARGO - When Norman Mark was a young man growing up in Madison County, Iowa, he knew he had two options if he did not want to be a farmer: join the military or further his education.

The idea of becoming a court reporter seemed like a good one after he noticed he was the only male in his high school shorthand class. It also helped that a family friend worked as a federal court reporter, so he was somewhat familiar with the profession.

This year is his 50th in the business. Since 1970, he has owned and operated Norman E. Mark Court Reporting Service, a freelance firm in Fargo.

Do you work in courtrooms?

Federal and state courts normally have their own full-time employed court reporters. Our business is 90-plus percent working with attorneys who represent individuals, insurance companies or corporations.


What kind of work do you do?

We prefer depositions. Public meetings - they can get wild.

When we're talking about depositions, there is a witness who is either a party or perhaps an expert. Attorneys take a deposition for two reasons. One, to analyze the case or evaluate it; or two, they may take it to perpetuate the testimony so at the time of the trial if the witness is not available, they can read it. And, should a witness change his testimony, it can be used for impeachment.

What are some of the challenges of your job?

Accents. People talking over each other. People shaking their head, saying "mmhmm" instead of "yes" or "no." ... We take down words. We can say "shaking the head," but it's not up to us to say "indicating yes." It might be "Yes, I understand the question." It doesn't mean "Yes, I agree." It's not up to us to interpret that.

How many words do you type per minute?

When I graduated they only required 200 words a minute. They've raised it to 225. No matter how fast you can write it's never going to be fast enough. When people speak in a conversational tone, an exchange is 160 - 170 words or 180 if there is overlap. When people read documents, they don't have to think so they read rapidly and skip over a lot.

How do you overcome that?


Well, the idea is that if somebody is reading from a document or exhibit that I will get a copy. We try not to interrupt, but if it's impossible (to keep up) we will.

With more proceedings now being taped, what do you think of the court reporter's job outlook?

Before I was out of school in 1963, one of the magazines, I can't remember which one, came out with an article that said these 20 professions are going to be eliminated within the next period of time, but we're still here after 50 years.

Yes, electronics are being utilized more. We utilize the Internet and electronics, but it still takes people. I think the number of reporters is diminishing. Perhaps at some point we'll be eliminated, but they haven't been in 50 years.

Are there other jobs for court reporters?

You watch captioning on TV. That is done by live reporters and it can be done remotely. I could be sitting in my office listening to the state Legislature in Bismarck and it could be going back to their laptops. All captioning of sports on TV is done live.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I guess the flexibility would be one thing. I've traveled some. There are no court reporters in Norway, so I've had a client take me to Norway twice. Melroe, when they used to do their discovery here ... they took me to Brussels, Belgium, on a patent case. Some of their employees were stationed in Brussels.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Angie Wieck at (701) 241-5501

Angie Wieck is the business editor for The Forum. Email her at
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