The Record Office is a crucial department of the Grand National Assembly of Türkiye (TBMM) that records the debates and preserves the spoken history of the Assembly. The office existed prior to the establishment of the Republic of Türkiye and continued to operate following the establishment of the Parliament in 1920. Initially, speech capturing was carried out using a shorthand method known as rika. However, with the adoption of the Latin alphabet in 1928, another method of shorthand became the preferred method of transcription. To this day, the Record Office continues to utilise shorthand and an audio recording system to facilitate the work of stenographers.
The Role of Stenographers in the Record Office: Qualifications, Career Progression, and Department Structure
The Record Office employs a total of 98 stenographers, who contribute to the department’s operations. Within that, 73 individuals hold the role of stenographer and are responsible for transcription duties. To pursue a career in this field, individuals with a background in political science and law must successfully pass the public personnel selection examination. On passing the examination, these graduates are required to complete a comprehensive one-year training programme. After gaining three years’ experience in the profession, they become eligible to be appointed as stenographers.
Furthermore, the remaining 22 individuals in this group are recognised as expert stenographers. These professionals have acquired a minimum of 10 years’ experience in the field and have advanced to the position of editors. Additionally, three stenographers are tasked with the preparation of summary reports for plenary sessions and committee meetings. To manage this workforce, the department is led by a head and three vice-heads who co-ordinate the workflow.
The Environments We Work In
Stenographers hold a key responsibility for capturing official proceedings of the TBMM by assuming a prominent role in recording the plenary sessions and the commissions of the Assembly. In addition to these core duties, they also participate in meetings of the Council President and Advisory Board,which serves as the TBMM’s supervisory body. Moreover, stenographers attend meetings of theConstitutional Court when it functions as the Supreme Council, further underscoring their importance in official proceedings.
Stenographers at the TBMM are grouped in threes. On the first day of the plenary session, three groups start working at the same time. However, one group finishes their tasks early in the evening to ensure sufficient rest for the next day’s duties while the other two continue working until their task is complete. Since the length of plenary sessions and committee meetings is unpredictable, a precautionary measure is adopted to allow one group to rest in advance and ensure their readiness for the following day’s duties.
In the context of plenary sessions or committee meetings, stenographers and expert stenographers utilise their internally developed individual computer systems to access and review their schedules.
The transcription process
During plenary sessions, stenographers enter the meeting room in rotation, with each taking notes for a duration of six minutes. Within this timeframe, two minutes are assigned for individual note-taking while the remaining four are reserved for providing assistance to colleagues. Additionally, an expert stenographer is present in the room to observe the proceedings and is responsible for reviewing 20 minutes of the report.
Plenary sessions and committee meetings are characterised by high interactivity, resulting in frequent interruptions and overlapping voices due to simultaneous or unauthorised speech during speeches. Stenographers working in this stressful environment are required to exercise great care to ensure accurate transcription.
The length of time for which a stenographer is accountable for taking notes in committee meetings varies depending on the day’s workload. The preferred duration for each stenographer to take notes during committee meetings is five minutes. Furthermore, expert stenographers do not physically attend the committee meetings but review transcripts of the committee meeting reports.
Stenographers attend meetings to take shorthand notes. Afterwards, they return to their workstations and produce verbatim reports with the aid of an audio system. During the transcription process, they refer to dictionaries, encyclopaedias, and self-made resources such as the Index of Words and Guide of Report Writing, especially for technical terms related to fields such as law, chemistry, medicine, and others. These resources are essential to ensure consistency and accuracy among the stenographers. If corrections are needed, the stenographers use a blue pen to make the necessary changes to the transcript.
Stenographers generate two transcripts during the creation of plenary session reports, one for review by the expert stenographers and the other for summary reports. The process for committee meeting reports is similar but only one transcript is produced.
As soon as the stenographers transcribe the proceedings, the complete transcripts are made available on the TBMM’s website, in multiple parts, labelled as “unverified transcripts”. Moreover, sections of deputies’ speeches are extracted and delivered to them by email.
Unverified transcripts of reports are dispatched to the expert stenographers for a meticulous review to detect any errors. The expert stenographers make any necessary corrections using a green pen. After these transcripts have undergone scrutiny by the expert stenographers, they are re-examined by the vice-heads. Any errors they detect are then rectified with a red pencil. At the conclusion of this process, the vice-heads send all the transcripts to the stenographers to correct the errors in their respective copies on their computers.
Within the Report Office, certain officers are tasked with preparing the contents of the reports. This responsibility is important, as it involves determining the positioning of report headlines, thereby facilitating the location of deputies’ speeches or relevant information. The officers employ an orange pen for this task. Following completion of the correction process, the reports are sent to the printing office to be published as a journal.
Modernising the Report Office: Plans for the Future
In the light of technological advancements, the TBMM is preparing to implement new methods. It has gained access to a speech-to-text program created by TÜBİTAK, a Turkish technology institution. TÜBİTAK developed the program specifically for stenographers and is committed to providing the best possible service.
As a result, it is expected that stenographers will soon adopt this program, which uses artificial intelligence and includes all the information and data about the writing process. Following its use, stenographers will no longer need to copy their output as every stage of the job will be managed through this specific network. Upon implementation, the program will ensure that all steps, from the transcript to the printing office, are organised effectively.
Ayşenur Acar and Elif Yayla are parliamentary reporters in the Grand National Assembly of Türkiye.