NCRA Board of Directors kicks off Court Reporting & Captioning Week

NCRA’s Board of Directors took time from their development meeting held this past weekend at the Association’s headquarters in Reston, Va., to mark the start of the 2018 Court Reporting & Captioning Week with a video encouraging everyone to celebrate.

The video, which was posted on NCRA’s Facebook page and other social media outlets, has more than 3,200 views. In the video, Board members shared the following message:

We encourage everyone to join us as we celebrate our wonderful profession from Feb. 10 to 17 during the 2018 Court Reporting & Captioning Week. No activity is too small to celebrate all that we do, in each day, in our professional careers. From capturing the record and preserving history, to providing captioning for broadcast news and live sporting events, to providing CART services for schools, churches, public events, and even theater productions, to ensuring that those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing have equal access to important information: We are court reporters and captioners; and what we do, we do proudly. So let’s come together and celebrate our wonderful and rewarding profession. Let’s share with others the vast opportunities that exist when they chose this career path. Reach out to your legislators and ask for an official proclamation. Attend a career fair and introduce potential students to the world of steno and where our profession can take them. Demonstrate how realtime can benefit your judge or a friend’s judge. Mentor a court reporting student and let them know that the hard work in school is worth it. Join us, your Board of Directors, in celebration, and let’s make this the best Court Reporting & Captioning Week celebration ever.

Members can use the Court Reporting & Captioning Week Facebook frame when they post photos to the social media platform this week. The frame is an easy way to celebrate the week, perhaps with a steno selfie or a photo of you and some of your colleagues.

For the first time ever, NCRA is expecting official national proclamations recognizing the week from two lawmakers. Rep. Bradley Byrne from Alabama is slated to deliver a one-minute floor speech recognizing Court Reporting & Captioning Week on Feb. 15 at 9 a.m. ET. The speech can be viewed on CSPAN. NCRA will also post a link to the speech on its social media outlets.

In addition, longtime supporter U.S. Rep. Ron Kind from Wisconsin will honor court reporters and captioners in a statement he will submit for the record. Rep. Kind’s wife — Tawni Kind, RMR, CRR, CRC — is an official court reporter and a member of NCRA.

Reports continue to come in about the activities happening around the country as members of the court reporting and captioning professions celebrate their chosen careers with pride. Members of the Georgia Shorthand Reporters Association will visit their state capitol and request an official proclamation from lawmakers on Feb. 15. They will also host a meet-and-greet and hand out doughnuts to their supporters and state senators and representatives.

The California Court Reporters Association is calling on its members to celebrate the week by sponsoring a student to attend its Boot Camp event in honor of Farryn Ashley Nelson, a U.S. veteran and court reporter who passed away at 27 years old.

Court reporters in San Antonio, Texas, also report having received an official proclamation from lawmakers in that city. The proclamation was presented to several members during a small ceremony on the courthouse steps on Feb. 13. Also, on Feb. 19, the chief reporter for the state’s House of Representatives will visit with students in the court reporting program at San Antonio College.

Need more ideas on spreading the word during Court Reporting & Captioning Week? Check out the e-seminar Promoting the Profession. This e-seminar is for teachers, court reporters, and firm owners who would like to get more involved in promoting their profession. Veteran reporters Carolyn Ruiz Coronado, RPR, and Erminia Uviedo, RDR, CRR, CRC, share how they use resources like career days, social media, state-wide recruiting networks, Google docs, and A to Z programs to spread the word about the court reporting and captioning professions. Uviedo, from San Antonio, Texas, is the 2016 and 2017 winner of the annual National Committee of State Associations (NCSA) Challenge. The presentation lasts one hour and forty-one minutes and is worth 0.15 continuing education units.

The aim of the NCSA Challenge is to encourage working professionals to reach out through career fairs and other activities to spread the word about what viable career paths court reporting and captioning are. NCSA will review and tally all submissions by members and state associations, and all entries will be eligible for prizes that include free webinars, event registrations, and more.

NBC Olympics selects VITAC Closed Captioning Services for its coverage of the winter games

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklySportsvideo.org posted on Feb. 9 that VITAC Closed Captioning Services was chosen by NBC Olympics, a division of NBC Sports Group, to provide closed-captioning services for its production of the Winter Olympics, taking place in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Read more.

TribLive.com also posted an article on Feb. 15 about the captioners who work for VITAC who are assigned to caption the Winter Olympics with the headline “Closed captioning live sports is an Olympic task for Pittsburgh-area firm.”

Read more.

Starting out in captioning: An interview with Chase Frazier

Chase Frazier placed in two legs of the 2017 National Speed and Realtime Contests

Chase Frazier, RMR, CRR, CRC, started out as a captioner, although his mother and brother, both already court reporters, were in the legal arena. Some recent graduates find going into captioning right away to be a good first step in their careers rather than spending time freelancing or interviewing for open officialships. The JCR Weekly asked Frazier to offer some thoughts on what is different if you plan to consider this option yourself.

What made you decide to go into captioning right out of school?

My realtime in school was exceptional for still being in school. I was realtiming qualifier-level tests for California while still in school. (The California realtime test presents four-voice 200 wpm for ten minutes.) Also, my teacher was kind enough to let me take normal tests as realtime tests. I would immediately email her my test while still in class, and she would print it at home and grade it. Getting that kind of feedback made me love realtime and love the challenge of trying to get every test even more perfect than the last. I still, to this day, try to get each captioning session better than my last.

What kind of equipment did you need to get to start out?

I needed my captioning software, a professional machine, and a modem. I was fortunate to have my parents give me the professional software and a professional machine as a graduation present.

Did you get any additional training before you started captioning?

I didn’t have any training. I researched on my own how to caption TV, the equipment needed, and what tweaks I needed to do to my dictionary. I googled captioning agencies and sent them all an email to try to work for them. None of them responded, except one. But that’s all I needed!

The one that responded vetted me by watching me caption to live news for 30 minutes a day for about a week. After that week, they said that I was good to go live and caption news.

What was challenging for you the first few times you captioned? What did you do to overcome that challenge?

Getting over my nerves was hard for me. It took me a week or two to not be nervous the first few minutes of the broadcast.

What advice would you offer to someone who wants to start captioning from school?

I wouldn’t recommend intensely working on your realtime while in school. Focus on your speed. Your realtime will come with speed. If you can write 200, try to realtime a 160. There are a lot of tricks to improve your realtime.

Also, you don’t have to write out to caption. You can write however you want and have perfect realtime for TV. Just make sure to also have a strong group of prefixes and suffixes. People on TV make up words all the time.

If you want to get your realtime up to par, find a captioner and see if he or she will help you and watch you write once or twice a week. You can share your screen on Skype, and the captioner can watch you write to news. Have that person tell you everything that you can do to improve your realtime. It’s going to be damaging to your ego, but it’s great for your writing.

Chase Frazier, RMR, CRR, CRC, is a captioner in Murrieta, Calif. He can be reached at chaselfrazier@gmail.com.

College football coach talks so fast, watching closed captions try to keep up is exhilarating TV

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklySBNation.com posted an article on Dec. 29 that interviews Kristen Humphrey, a captioner with ASAP Sports, about what it was like to caption Jimbo Fisher, the new coach for Texas A&M football, who was interviewed recently on ESPN.

Read more.

London’s Grand Theatre opens doors to deaf patrons and actors

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyThe CBC reported on Dec. 20 that the Grand Theatre in London, Ontario, Canada is reaching out to the deaf community to help make productions more accessible. The Grand has announced that for the first time it’s offering open-captioned shows as well as productions that will feature actors who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Read more.

Captioners incorporates both CART and broadcast in terminology

At the Nov. 3 NCRA Board of Directors meeting, the Board adopted the term captioners to describe any person practicing broadcast or CART captioning in the field. This change came on the recommendation of the CRC Certification Committee and the Broadcast and CART Captioning Committee. The proposal was part of the committees’ long-term strategy to aid practitioners in the marketplace by using the terms most understood by the people using the service.

The co-chairs of the Broadcast and CART Captioning Committee (Steve Clark, CRC, and Cynthia Hinds, CRC) and the co-chairs of the CRC Certification Committee (Karyn Menck, RDR, CRR, CRC, and Carol Studenmund, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC) proposed the change in a letter, explaining: “Twenty years ago, most captioners did either broadcast work or CART captioning. … Over the past five years, we have recognized that the overlap between the two groups was broad enough that we merged the two committees into the Broadcast and CART Captioning Committee.”

The letter to the Board noted that maintaining the distinction between broadcast and CART captioning also leads to confusion among consumers, placing additional barriers to finding someone who can provide the correct service.

“I know to most people, this change is pretty subtle,” said Studenmund after the Board adopted the change in terminology. “Some of us had legitimate concerns that when someone went to find a captioner, they would only see people who chose to be identified as CART captioners and didn’t realize the person was fully capable of working in the broadcast world. I can’t tell you how many times I have tried to explain to people who need our captions what CART captioning is as opposed to broadcast captioning, only to then see them look at each other and say, ‘It’s captioning.’”

Many captioners already provide a wide range of services, using the necessary devices for the assignment, providing CART services when asked and signing up for captioning shifts through one or more captioning companies. In addition, many captioners find new ways to offer their services that use a combination of technologies available. “Captioners don’t get up and say, ‘Today I’m going to be a broadcast captioner from 10-11 a.m., then go work as a CART captioner from 1-3 p.m., and later go back to broadcast captioning when I cover the 11-11:35 p.m. local news,’” Studenmund said. “We are all captioners, and we love what we do.”

This change in NCRA usage is only applicable to the overall categorization. “We are still going to talk about CART captioning to our friends in the hearing disabled community in the work NCRA does for us in Washington, D.C.,” explained Studenmund, “and we will still talk about broadcast captioning when communicating with the Federal Communications Commission.”

Following through on this change, as the Association updates the language from CART captioners or broadcast captioners to captioners in the print and online NCRA Sourcebook, NCRA members affected by the change will be contacted by email about making sure that their information is accurate.

On receiving thanks

By Cathy Rajcan

Working with intelligent, pleasant adults is a joy. As a seasoned court reporter in the 1990s, I expanded my skill set to provide Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART). At that time, I remember arriving at a high-level medical conference to provide CART, and let me tell you, it was the most daunting assignment I had undertaken up to that time. The majority of terms were between three and seven syllables and in an area of medicine with which court reporters are not regularly exposed to: neurofibromatosis.

A bouquet of thanks

In my 33-year career, I have discovered that of the professional hats I wear – as both court reporter and captioner – by far the role within which I receive the most appreciation and recognition is on-site CART captioner. We provide a critical link for people who are deaf or have hearing loss to the world around them. And in the consumers’ professional settings, our skills have a powerful impact on their success. I believe that the most significant effect these services have is in a person’s professional life and in and medical and health settings. Perhaps this is why, when I arrived at the above-mentioned conference decades ago, the organizers gave me a corsage as an expression of their appreciation.

As a captioner, I spend a large part of my time focused on obtaining in advance as much prep materials as possible. Often this is like pulling teeth, as many invited speakers and lecturers are well-seasoned experts in their careers and, due to busy schedule, unfortunately put off preparing for an engagement until the 11th hour. Understanding their professional demands, I keep in regular communication with the event organizers to receive prep materials. When all is said and done, I am consistently emotionally moved and positively affected by the work and efforts of these organizations and their undeniably honorable influence on our world.

When preparing for a recent celebratory event for a different nonprofit, the point person at the organization provided me materials piecemeal as they became available. As the event drew closer, the materials grew to be more extensive, and some earlier versions of scripts were replaced with updated versions. I was also provided the event rundown, which is a timeline of when each piece of the show is to be cued up. Even on the day of the event, some of the moving pieces are morphing; and as I was on my way to downtown Chicago, there was a change in a song selection and thus lyrics, so I asked the organizer to print out the lyrics for me and bring them on-site to the venue.

Once on-site, I was provided the updated lyrics in hard copy form, and I plugged the pages into my 30-some page aggregated script. I explained to the organization’s point person that constructing the entire script, ready to go live, was like working on a jigsaw puzzle.

The event was a wonderful amalgam of an instrumental percussion piece, an instrumental work on piano, a moving vocal blues number, and an upbeat, fun, stylized rap about Chicago; the music was interspersed with congratulatory speeches, presentations of awards, and expressions of appreciation. During the speeches, a speaker apologized directly to me in advance for going off script, but I was mesmerized by the joy and excitement of the occasion and didn’t miss a beat. The awards and recognition portion of the event was followed by a mix and mingle, including open bar and hors d’oeuvres.

Reconnecting with acquaintances in the arts and disabilities communities and making new friends from among this talented, passionate, and compassionate group is adequate recompense in and of itself. However, in addition to being paid for my professional captioning services, my client followed up with having delivered to my home a few days later a beautiful bouquet of flowers! It is sure nice to be appreciated – and it’s a blessing to work with such a giving, thoughtful, and supportive organization.

 

Cathy Rajcan, RDR, CRR, CRC, is a captioner and agency owner based in Wheaton, Ill. She can be reached at efficiencyrptg@cs.com.

Captioning Awareness Week 2017

By Leah Willersdorf

Captioning Awareness Week is an initiative of Stagetext, a registered British charity that provides theater captioning and live subtitling in cultural venues so that d/Deaf, deafened and hard-of-hearing audiences can access live events, including at museums, galleries, festivals, and collections.

Be a caption heroIn the United Kingdom, we use the term speech-to-text reporter (STTR) to refer to someone who is providing live subtitles or captions (captioner in the United States). In-house at Stagetext, however, the term captioner has an altogether different meaning. A captioner is someone who prepares the text in advance and then cues them live as the production is ongoing. The text scrolls up on a captioning unit and appears at the same time the words are spoken or sung.

Stagetext’s Captioning Awareness Week covers both forms of output, whether the text appears on a captioning unit or appears live via a STTR. It is all about being accessible. In fact, sometimes the two are used together, for example at festivals and concerts.

An example of a captioning unit

Captioning Awareness Week was prominent in a lot of our social media feeds over here during the week of Nov. 6-11. Live performances and events were happening around the nation, and everyone was tweeting or Facebooking about being a Caption Hero. To start the week off, there’s a Thunderclap. Thunderclap is a crowdspeaking platform for social media that is similar to a virtual flash mob. One message can be shared en masse so it will be more prominent in social networks for a length of time and others can join in.

In amongst all the performances and events of the week, Stagetext held an Open Day at the notorious Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. I was honored to be asked to provide the live subtitles to an audience of venue owners and event organisers. The Open Day was to help the attendees to become more deaf aware and provide them an understanding of how everything works. My co-worker, Louise Pepper, and I were also asked to take part in a different way — by stepping out from behind our machines and actually talking about what we do as STTRs and how we see the profession moving forward.

Stagetext have been instrumental in making performances accessible even at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. The individual screens are only provided in the slightly darker Upper Gallery. Why? Because the theater prides itself of replicating the era of Shakespeare in every way possible, and the viewing devices may project too much light if seated down in the lower- or ground-level areas.

Louise Pepper gives a flash talk on captioning

And so, with Captioning Awareness Week having completed a third successful year, I’m sure it will gather momentum with each passing year and continue to be a victory for promoting accessibility in theater and the arts. Next year is bound to be bigger and better!

In addition to Stagetext’s Captioning Awareness Week, the British Institute of Verbatim Reporters (BIVR) hosts an Awareness Weekend in the summer. This event is akin to a cross between the NCRA’s Court Reporting & Captioning Week and the national convention, but on a much, much smaller scale. The BIVR Awareness Weekend promotes all genres of the profession, whether reporting in court, U.S. depositions, arbitrations, regulatory proceedings, or captioning and speech-to-text. Our members cover it all, as do the NCRA’s. We will continue to work together with the NCRA in the promotion of all things stenography, and we are looking forward to Court Reporting & Captioning Week 2018 in February.

Leah Willersdorf is a freelancer in London, England, and the president of the British Institute of Verbatim Reporters. She can be reached at lmwillersdorf@yahoo.com.

8 questions for the winner of the Kindle Fire 8

Amanda Marvin, RPR, CRC, from Tomahawk, Wis., won the drawing for a Kindle Fire 8 by renewing her membership in October. A new professional, Marvin graduated from court reporting school in 2015 and has been working as a captioner for nine months, currently doing remote CART work “for several different college classes including biology, statistics, psychology, criminal justice, and commercial irrigation.”

“CART captioning was always my ultimate goal, and I am so happy that with the help of the Certified Realtime Captioner certification, I was able to start my career helping others and doing what I wanted to do,” she says. “I continue my membership in NCRA because it has given me a big advantage in employment for companies who hire captioners. They consider the certification as a standard of professionalism and proof of the skills needed to do a quality job.”

The JCR reached out to Marvin with eight questions to get to know her a little better.

  1. What is your favorite thing about doing remote captioning?

My favorite thing about doing remote captioning is the fact that I can stay at home and have a flexible schedule that allows me to get my kids to school and their after-school activities.

  1. What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned while captioning for college classes?

I have learned that there are an enormous amount of biology terms that can be pronounced several different ways. I learn something new in that class every single day.

  1. What is your most memorable moment from court reporting school?

My most memorable moment from court reporting school was probably when I passed my first 225 test. School was a long, hard road, and that was a very exhilarating experience.

  1. What was the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far as a working professional, and how did you do so?

One of my biggest challenges is numbers and fingerspelling. Practicing, along with writing a statistics course and fingerspelling pop-up biology terms, has made me a better overall writer.

  1. What do you always include in your “elevator pitch” when you tell people what you do for a living?

I tell them I do CART, which most people aren’t familiar with. So then I tell them that it’s captioning what the professor says for students who are deaf and hard of hearing. I also make sure to tell them how there are many more people needed in the field, so if they know anyone who may be interested to let them know about it.

  1. What is your favorite benefit of being an NCRA member?

My favorite benefit of being an NCRA member is reading JCRs and the great wealth of information that is included in them as well as being able to list my certifications on my résumé.

  1. Before I became one, I never knew that captioners …

… had to put so much research and prep into doing a good job.

  1. What is your dream reporting or captioning assignment?

I would love to caption somewhere locally so people can see and understand what I do for a living.

 

Haven’t renewed yet? Members can take advantage of Black Friday discounts and giveaways, including purchase of membership renewals. Mark your calendars for Nov. 24.

Debilitating disease no deterrent for dedicated Astros fan

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyAn Oct. 19 article in the Houston [Texas] Chronicle spotlights Victor Lombrana, a Houston Astros fan who is blind and deaf due to Type 2 Usher syndrome. The article mentions NCRA member Susan Henley, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, a freelancer in Houston, who captions the Astros’ and Rockets’ home games.

Read more.