NCRA MEMBER PROFILE: Shaun Young, RPR

Shaun Young, RPR

Shaun Young, RPR

Currently resides in: Jacksonville, Fla.

Employment type: Freelance reporter in criminal court

Member since: 2002

Graduated from: Stenotype Institute

Theory: Thyra Ellis

What are your favorite briefs?

Instead of making briefs for two-stroke words, I try to make briefs for longer words, especially since criminal court uses a lot of the same jargon. One of my favorite briefs that I use is BEX (beyond and to the exclusion of all reasonable doubt).

Why did you decide to enter this profession and how did you learn about the career?

After graduating from college, I wanted to pursue a career in computers, but it was hard finding a job with computers as a recent graduate, especially since I had no experience. One day I was talking with a friend who was a clerk at a courthouse. I told her I wished I could find a job where I could just type all day and make money doing it. That’s when she mentioned that I should take up court reporting, so that’s how I got started in the court reporting field.

What has been the best work experience so far in your career?

I enjoy my career for so many reasons. When people ask me how I like being a court reporter, I usually jokingly tell them I love it because I get paid to be nosy. But in all seriousness, the best part about being a court reporter for me is the friends that I have made along the way. There is nothing better than having a great work family and a job you enjoy going to every day.

What was your biggest hurdle to overcome and how did you do so?

When I was a new court reporter, I did mostly civil litigation, so sometimes transcripts, in my mind, seemed to be a little bit challenging for me, especially when I would get a 100- or 200-page transcript. I felt that was a lot for me, that is, until I did a week-long trial by myself with six attorneys on the case and expert witnesses, etc. When the transcripts were ordered from all of the proceedings, I had over a thousand pages to transcribe. Needless to say, ever since then, there’s been nothing too great for me to overcome transcript-wise.

What surprised you about your career and why?

The greatest surprise I’ve had in my career is meeting my husband through court reporting. I currently work in criminal court. Sometimes I would have to go to our first appearance courtroom. My husband worked as a uniformed bailiff in that courtroom, and that’s where our happily-ever-after story began.

Have you had challenges to overcome in your profession? If so, what was the challenge and how did you overcome it?

I’m sure most court reporters have probably felt this way as well, but reading back was my biggest fear. No matter how confident you feel when you’re writing on your machine, when they ask you to read back, panic kicks in — at least for me it did. Fortunately after court reporting for so many years, I’ve been able to overcome that fear by telling myself to stay focused and pretend that I’m reading out loud to myself. Now the fear doesn’t set in until after I’ve had to read back.

Is there something else you would like to share?

Court reporting is an awesome job for me, but sometimes it can get a little hectic. One thing I enjoy doing, when the weather is right, is driving around in my convertible with the top down. A nice long drive with the family is very relaxing for me and it allows me the opportunity to spend quality time with my family as well.

New professional spotlight: Jessie Frey

A young blond woman standing in front of the reflection pool with the Washington Monument in the backgroundBy Jennifer Porto

Jessie Frey has just celebrated her first year working as a freelance deposition reporter. She was a stellar student with infectious enthusiasm. Have you ever met someone who exudes positivity and makes you want to run the extra mile? That is Jessie. She was not immune to the struggles that every court reporting student faces, but she had the will to achieve. By surrounding herself with other mentors who matched her optimism and tenacity, she was able to stay on her path to her goals. Hard work has paid off, and she is living her dream.

What was life like as a student?

Time goes by fast when you’re having fun and loving the career that you worked so incredibly hard for. I just celebrated my one-year anniversary as a California CSR. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and I decided to begin my court reporting journey at South Coast College in Orange, California.

As a new student, my biggest stumbling block was learning how to prioritize getting out of school. Getting through court reporting school is a whole ‘nother ballgame versus getting my undergrad degree. I quickly learned that in order to get out of school, I needed to center my life around classes and practice, and I made sure my friends and family knew it. My mission was to get out of school and not get buried in student loans.

Speedbuilding was an exercise in realigning my attitude when I’d reach the inevitable plateaus. The roller coaster of passing a test and then getting bumped into a class where you immediately started to fail again was the strangest and most difficult mental battle I have ever endured. The idea of quitting or giving up was never an option. I had to constantly remind myself to keep pushing past the negative self-talk and the self-doubt. To burst through these plateaus, I made sure to transcribe every single test. I always analyzed my (sometimes many, many) mistakes to see what I was doing wrong, and eventually the amount of those errors would get smaller and smaller until I passed.

What did you do to remain positive and motivated?

One of the most valuable and important decisions I made as a student was to start getting to know working reporters in my state associations. I went to as many functions and networking events as I could. By taking advantage of student discounts, I was able to go to conventions, English seminars, student picnics, and even small networking happy hours that were hosted by some amazing court reporters.

One of the coolest things I experienced as a student was sitting in a seminar listening to reporters who worked at Guantanamo Bay. I left the seminar feeling exhilarated because of the possibilities and options that I would have. I didn’t have to limit myself to one path. That same day was a seminar presented by four CART captioners. It was the first time I truly grasped that side of reporting. I’ll never forget their stories about how grateful their students were to be able to follow along during class because of the captions these reporters were providing.

The beauty of doing these things as a student is that so many of these reporters are willing to help you. As a student, school feels like it is never going to end, but by surrounding myself with actual working reporters, I was able to visualize myself out in the real world too, and I knew there was light at the end of the court reporting school tunnel. By their association, I was able to keep the spark I needed to stay motivated.

It is all about staying positive. When I felt down about a test, I had people I could reach out to for words of encouragement or advice. As I passed more and more tests, these same reporters were just as excited about it as I was (maybe even more so). These are the same reporters that I now consider to be some of my closest friends. I can rely on them when I have questions that come up about depositions, procedures, or when I just need someone I can vent to about having to cancel plans to get out an expedite.

After you passed the CSR, what reporting path did you choose?

When I got my license, I decided to be a freelance deposition reporter. I find it thrilling to be in a new place, with new people and a new case every single day. No two days are alike. I never know what to expect.

As a freelance reporter, I am able to work for multiple agencies. I am completely free to pick up jobs when I want, take additional work, or enjoy a few days off when I feel overwhelmed or buried with pages — or simply want a long weekend. I love that I have that flexibility. I love not having a boss. I have complete freedom to pick and choose my own schedule, where and when I want to work and how much, but I do miss having the benefits that an official would have. There are no limits to what the reporting road may lead to. I’m happy as a freelancer for now, but I find comfort in the fact that I have a variety of career paths to choose from within court reporting.

What has been an obstacle for you as a new reporter?

As a new reporter, I have struggled with time management and balance. I want to take every job that is offered and work every day, but I have had to learn to gauge the amount of pages versus the time it will take to edit so I can meet my deadlines. It is all about figuring out the balance and what is within reason. I’m still learning how to juggle working, editing, and trying to find the time to practice shortening my writing.

One of the biggest things I had to overcome and learn that wasn’t taught in school was how to interrupt and ask questions in a depo setting. It took me quite a while to feel comfortable being assertive with attorneys. I “faked it ‘til I made it.” Now I have no issue interrupting when there are multiple people talking at once or asking an attorney to speak louder when he thinks I can hear his whispering objection as well as the ongoing testimony.

I’m so thankful I put in the hours of practicing and studying in school to be where I am today. The struggles and ups and downs of court reporting school were worth it, and I’m part of a wonderful profession where I learn something new every single day. My career has only just begun, but I know I have the skills and ability to become a great reporter. There are so many wonderful opportunities in this field that I can’t wait to take hold of.

Jennifer Porto is a freelance reporter in Long Beach, Calif., and a member of the NCRA New Professionals Committee. She can be reached at jenn0644@gmail.com

TechLinks: Travel apps

By Jennifer Late and Susie Simmons

TechLinks_logoThe Technology Committee recently shared a number of travel apps designed to make your travel easier whether your journey takes you across the state or around the globe.

Lisa Knight, FAPR, RDR, CRR, says there are several travel apps that she can’t live without.

  • Google Maps: This app works without being on WiFi. You can still see where you are on the map.
  • Uber: This is a great way to get a ride anywhere.
  • Converter: I love this app. It converts the currency. I use this daily when traveling abroad.
  • Expensify: This helps manage my expenses, and it creates and sends an expense report.

Nancy Bistany, RPR, uses WorldMate to store all her airfare items and hotel, and it’s even a currency converter.

Robin Nodland, FAPR, RDR, CRR, has several favorites:

  • Outlook: When traveling, I copy and paste my itinerary into the calendar and save all confirming emails to the travel folder for airlines, hotels, rental cars, etc. The paperless boarding pass can be saved to the travel folder, too.
  • Dropbox: I scan my passport, driver’s license, health insurance card, and credit cards, and I keep in a secure folder in Dropbox in case of emergency.
  • Splashtop: This gives me access my office desktop computer from my Android.
  • MyTSA: This gives real-time conditions of TSA lines at any airport in the country.

For a full list of travel apps that our technology committee members use and love, click here.

Reporting the Keystone pipeline public comment meetings

By Sheryl Teslow and Lori McGowan

At a long skirted table on an auditorium stage sit five people in professional attire; at a skirted table on the floor sit two court reporters; in front, with their backs to the camera, are a father and his two young sons, all three dressed in jeans, plaid shirts, boots, and ball caps

Lori McGowan, center left, and Sheryl Teslow, center right, write the public’s comments on the Keystone pipeline. Photo courtesy Omaha World-Herald.

In 2013, the U.S. State Department held a public comment hearing in Grand Island, Neb., as part of the presidential permit application. The pipeline is designed to carry tar-sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast for refinery and export. Because it crosses the border with Canada, the presidential permit is required.

Latimer Reporting was hired to report the day-long hearing. Lori and I took on the assignment ourselves. We knew it would go all day and into the night, so we knew we wanted two reporters. At first, we thought one would do the first half and the other would cover the second half. At the last minute, we decided to ride out together, so we were both there from the beginning. That turned out to be incredibly helpful. I took the first section of testimony. The first few witnesses were Native Americans who spoke in both Lakota and English, using many unfamiliar names of people and places. When the first speaker finished, Lori had the presence of mind to approach him before he sat back down and asked for the notes he was reading from. We continued that practice throughout the entire hearing. We were not always able to convince the speakers to turn over their notes, but most of them did cooperate. The hearing began at noon and ended at 11 p.m. The transcript was 494 pages.

The pipeline and its route are highly controversial and in 2015, President Barack Obama denied the permit. In 2017, President Donald Trump revived the project, and the responsibility for siting the pipeline through Nebraska now rests with the Nebraska Public Service Commission. They scheduled a public comment meeting to be held in York. Latimer Reporting, and Lori in particular, has a great deal of experience with the Public Service Commission, so they asked us to cover this hearing. The hearing began at 9 a.m. and ended at 7 p.m. The transcript was 406 pages.

Since Lori and I had the experience in 2013, we, of course, took on the assignment again and used the same process. One of us would write the proceedings and the other would track down speakers as they finished and request their notes, and then we would switch off.

As far as preparation, we really didn’t do that much to prepare for the first hearing in 2013. We were familiar with the issue and some of the interested groups. We did do a little bit of internet searching for some possible technical terms that might come up, but there wasn’t much we could do to prepare. There was no list of witnesses and no appearances of counsel. Most of the speakers were concerned citizens and landowners, so there wasn’t a great deal of technical testimony.

The same things were true in 2017. We arrived at the venue two hours ahead of the scheduled start time and made sure that the sound system was in good working order and that we were directly in front of the speaker podiums. We had our job dictionaries from the first hearing and were now more familiar with the names of people and places and technical terms that were likely to come up.

The 2013 transcript was used by the State Department. We were told it would eventually end up on President Obama’s desk and was part of the official record used to deny the pipeline permit. The 2017 transcript will become part of the official record of the Nebraska Public Service Commission in their decision on siting.

Public comment hearings do present some interesting challenges. Speakers are given five minutes to present their testimony. Very few of them are used to public speaking. They are speaking to a very large crowd and in front of many television news cameras, so they are nervous and tend to read from their notes very quickly. The large crowd behind them at times reacts loudly, sometimes in support and sometimes in opposition to what they are saying, sometimes to the point of drowning the speaker out. There are speakers who cry and speakers who are angry and speakers who yell, so it can be a challenge sometimes to hear them. Again, most people were cooperative in turning their notes over to us when we explained it would help us prepare the transcript. When they were reluctant, we offered to give them an envelope and promised to return the original to them. Some speakers would let us take a photo with a phone.

Each speaker was required to register and received a number. They filled out a sheet with their name, place of residence, speaker number, and whether they were speaking in support or in opposition. Speakers were called up to the microphone in order. They had five minutes to speak. They were instructed to leave those sheets with us at the end of their time. So when we retrieved the notes they had read from, it was easy to keep the notes with the sign-in sheet and the speaker number.

Quite honestly, at the end of the hearing in 2013, Lori and I looked at each other and said, “Never again.” The experience was stressful and draining and a bit out of our comfort zone. But as is usually true, an experience that challenges you is rewarding in the end, and it was interesting and fun to be in the middle of history. So naturally, when our client asked us to do it again, we took a deep breath and said yes.

Sheryl Teslow, RDR, CRR, and Lori McGowan, RDR, CRR, are both owners of Latimer Reporting in Lincoln, Neb.

Cosby trial puts court stenographer in spotlight

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyIn a June 15 post on his blog, Carl Hessler Jr., a journalist who covers the Montgomery County (Pa.) Courthouse, praised the professionalism of NCRA member Ginny Womelsdorf, RPR, who reported the Bill Cosby trial. Hessler highlighted the extensive readback that Womelsdorf was asked to do and included positive reactions to her hard work from Twitter.

Read more.

Among the elite: Earning the RDR

By Megan Rogers

“Earning the Registered Diplomate Reporter certification is the crown jewel of our profession, demonstrating competence and experience in all aspects of court reporting,” said Lisa DiMonte, RDR, CMRS, who earned the RDR in October 2016. Less than 5 percent of NCRA members hold the RDR certification, which is NCRA’s highest degree of certification.

The RDR means different things to different people who earn it. For some, the RDR has been a career-long dream. “Having the RDR initials after my name has been something I’ve been aspiring to ever since I joined NCRA,” said Erminia Uviedo, RDR, CRR, who earned the RDR in October 2016. Others see earning the RDR as practicing what they preach. “Our company values court reporters who pursue certifications and commit to continuing education. It is only fair that I expect nothing less of myself,” said DiMonte.

Others use it as a personal benchmark. “What has already been important to me is growth personally and professionally, and improving my skills is how I choose to grow professionally. Certification exams provide a measurable way to do that,” said Kim Xavier, RDR, CRR, CMRS, CRI, who earned the RDR in October 2016.

While the word elite is frequently paired with the RDR, such a lofty sentiment covers up what are very personal rewards for earning the certification. “I live in a small pond,” said Debra Dibble, RDR, CRR, CRC, who passed the RDR in 2012. “I thought I was an average reporter. I may be, but now I have a national standard with which to gauge myself and a measure to say that I have earned a place among the ranks of reporters that I admire and respect on a national level.”

Xavier agrees, adding more benefits that affect the day-to-day on the job. “Having the RDR designation or any other doesn’t necessarily mean I know any more than any other reporter or that I’m any more skilled than anyone else, but it sure does wonders for self-confidence and positive attitude,” she said.

Many of these benefits come in the form of assignments. “I am lucky enough to be included as part of a team of reporters working on an historic case,” said Jim DeCrescenzo, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CLVS, who earned the RDR in May 1995. “Advanced professional designations are part of the price of entry to even be considered to join the team. Having the RDR and CRR opened the door for me to end a great career working with elite reporters on a part of history.”

“Court reporting school was hard! So I want to maximize the benefits of having this amazing skill,” Xaiver said. “Conquering any type of exam in our field is an accomplishment that can’t be taken away.”

Earning the RDR is deceptively simple: It involves one written knowledge test. However, “studying for the test can prove to be a bit tricky because of the broad nature these areas may cover,” said Jeseca Jacobs, RDR, CRR, who earned the RDR in October 2016.

Several reporters used their professional expertise as their preparation for the RDR exam. DeCrescenzo elaborated a bit more on what that meant for him, focusing on the three topics of technology, reporting, and NCRA. “Because I had employees who pushed the technology envelope and developed new products for our clients, I’d been exposed to enough technology-related topics that I felt comfortable with that topic.” His experience working first as an official, then a freelancer, and later a firm owner encouraged him to “begin offering realtime early on.” Finally, he said, “I had been very active on several state and national committees, and I served on the board of my state association for many years, including experience with state and national bylaws and COPE opinions.”

However, NCRA has resources available for reporters aspiring to earn the RDR. “I prepared for the exam by first reviewing the RDR Job Analysis. I almost quit!” said Xavier. “The list of references is enough to change anyone’s mind about taking the exam because there’s really no way a working reporter can read all of those resources from cover to cover and ‘know’ everything. But after taking a good look at the percentages for each domain, I decided to start concentrating on areas where I knew I was weak and began with the references I could easily access on NCRA’s website.”

And Jacobs made her RDR prep a family affair: “I also created flash cards and recruited my husband and my 10-year-old daughter to help me study!”

Uviedo found preparing for the RDR helped her learn even more about the profession. “I learned more about the federal procedures, which I knew nothing about. Those questions really had me thinking hard. But it also made me realize, there’s still a lot of areas I don’t know about. Having an RDR does not mean I get to stop practicing or stop studying.”

Xavier agrees. “The most valuable thing I learned was that I needed to get back to working on personal growth through reading more outside of work, keeping up with technological advances, and paying more attention to what is going on within the profession,” she said.

The one thing that all reporters who have earned the RDR can agree on is that anyone considering going for the certification should just do it. “Education is an express train,” said Dibble. “The longer you stay on, the father you go. The farther you go, the better the scenery.”

Even if the exam feels intimidating, DiMonte has this reassurance: “The worst thing that can happen is you learn what you don’t know. You can always take it again.”

Xavier also recommends that reporters thinking of taking the RDR not wait. “I allowed 15 years to lapse between RMR and RDR, and the steno world changed drastically around me during that time,” she said. “Since this is a knowledge-based exam, the sooner you take it, the less you’ll have to brush up on.”

And maybe Jonas puts it best: “Those three letters will look great behind your name!”

Megan Rogers is NCRA’s Communications Assurance Specialist. She can be reached at mrogers@ncra.org.

Court reporting dominates local news in Texas

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyNCRA members Cayce Coskey, RPR; Leslie Ryan-Hash; Carol Smith, RPR; and Nardi Reeves were quoted in an article posted June 18 by the Times Record, Wichita Falls, Texas, that showcases the role of a court reporter as well as the speed and accuracy needed to succeed in the profession. Also on June 17, the newspaper posted an article about the salaries of Nueces County court reporters. On June 18, an editorial piece calling the salary assessment “grossly unfair” was published in the newspaper.

NCRA member recognized for new certification

JCR logoThe Observer-Reporter, Washington, Pa., posted a press release on June 17 announcing that NCRA member Amanda Lundberg, RPR, CRC, recently has earned the nationally recognized Certified Realtime Captioner certification. The press release was issued by NCRA on behalf of Lundberg.

Read more.

Former NCRA member Alan Roberts passes away

JCR logoThe Sun-Sentinel reported on June 17 that retired NCRA member Alan Roberts, FAPR, RPR, passed away in Boca Raton, Fla. Roberts was a past president of the New Jersey Court Reporters Association and a former school owner.

Read more.

National Court Reporters Foundation Trustees announced

NCRF logoThe NCRA Board of Directors elected the following individuals to the 2017-2018 National Court Reporters Foundation Board of Trustees: Danielle Griffin, RPR, Phoenix, Ariz.; Karen G. Teig, RPR, CRR, CMRS, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and Sandy VanderPol, FAPR, RMR, CRR, Lotus, Calif.

Danielle Griffin represents the future of the profession and can aid NCRF in its continued focus on helping students finish court reporting school and new reporters acquire the opportunities to thrive in the profession. She grew up in the court reporting field, working in her mother’s firm in Phoenix from the time she was in middle school, an experience that gives her more in-depth understanding of the business and profession than the average new reporter. As a new reporter with diverse experience and contacts, Griffin commits fully to everything she does. Griffin comes from a culture of volunteerism and strong fundraising experience and understands the value of networking and using those contacts to help make whatever she’s tasked with successful.

Karen Teig has extensive experience volunteering and serving on boards in both her personal or professional life, and she has had specific training on how to advocate for a philanthropic project. This has given her a thorough understanding of what it takes to be both a worker and a leader. She has served on numerous state and national committees; is a past state and national board member; and is past president of her state association. Teig has a true spirit of giving back and has been a long-time supporter of NCRF, whether promoting NCRF during state rep visits; transcribing histories for the VHP program; helping raise funds through her service on the Angels Drive Committee; or donating to NCRF through the Angels program.

Sandy VanderPol is a committed volunteer who has contributed extensively to the profession by writing articles, giving presentations, and serving on many court reporting association committees and boards. She has strong leadership experience, having been president of both her local and state court reporting associations. VanderPol’s accomplishments are well-known as the recipient of NCRA’s Distinguished Service Award, and she is highly respected within the NCRA membership for her work ethic, ability to think outside the box, and intimate knowledge of and passion for the profession.

The NCRF Trustees will begin their three-year terms on Aug. 12, 2017, at the annual NCRF Board of Trustees meeting that will take place in conjunction with the NCRA Convention & Expo in Las Vegas, Nev. The Nominating Committee thanks all candidates for their dedication to the profession and congratulates the new Trustees.