Statement from the NCRA CEO: Sinclair Broadcast Group

By Marcia Ferranto

NCRA exists to represent, protect, and advocate for the stenographic professions of court reporting and captioning. Here at NCRA, everything we do, everything we fight for, and the very reason we fight are founded by the core belief that stenography is the most effective and efficient means of capturing the spoken word, the best way of providing speech-to-text services in any forum, and the only way to satisfy the needs and protect the integrity of the institutions and consumers who rely on it. This belief has been borne out by the facts time and time again: Stenographic court reporting and captioning is faster, more accurate, and more dependable than artificial intelligence-based alternatives and other alternatives solely based on technology, and, in addition, it is largely preferred by the consumers of these services. Stenographic court reporting is the backbone of the American court system, and stenographic captioning is an invaluable accessibility service to people who are deaf or who have hearing loss.

Recently, Sinclair Broadcast Group has made public their decision to abandon the use of stenographic captions in favor of the cost-cutting measure of implementing the automatic speech recognition (ASR) platform using IBM Watson. This decision is likely to impact hundreds of local news stations and affect millions of captioning consumers and providers. In a message to the public, IBM claims that Watson makes live programming “more accessible to local viewers, including the Deaf community, senior citizens, and anyone experiencing hearing loss.” We strongly disagree with the decision to abandon the human element of captioning in favor of automation, which invariably produces subpar captioning and will negatively affect accessibility to local news for millions of Americans.

NCRA’s Government Relations Department and Captioning Regulatory Policy Committee, our own member-formed Federal Communications Commission (FCC) watchdog, are working hard to address this issue, to register our concerns with the FCC, and to implore them to uphold important captioning quality standards in light of this new transition to ASR captioning.

But the FCC needs to hear from you, too!

  1. Complain online here about subpar captions.
  2. Sign our petition and tell Sinclair you want live captioners.
  3. If you have evidence of captioning failures, photos or videos of terrible captioning, we want to see it. You can send them to Matt Barusch, NCRA’s Government Relations Manager.

With your help, together we can ensure that live programming utilizes the best captioning that can be offered: Captioning by a live, trained, and certified captioner.

Marcia Ferranto is CEO and Executive Director of the National Court Reporters Association. 

Dreaming of earning the CRC?

Realtime captioning is an in-demand skill for court reporters. Earning the Certified Realtime Captioner certification will allow those who possess it to present themselves as among the most elite and qualified captioners.

To earn a CRC, candidates must:

  • Take the CRC Workshop, which is now offered online as an on-demand e-seminar and can be taken anytime
  • Pass the CRC Skills Test (literary matter at 180 wpm) at 96 percent accuracy, which is offered online and can be taken anytime
  • Pass a 50-question CRC Written Knowledge Test, which can be taken at a Pearson VUE testing center in October (registration opens in September)

Throughout this process, CRC candidates will gain a solid foundation for understanding what it takes to be a captioner.

Interested? Registration for the online CRC Workshop, Skills Test, and Written Knowledge Test are currently open. More information is available online at NCRA.org/testing.

VITAC becomes pre-approved captioning vendor for California community colleges

Sports Video Group reported on Aug. 21 that VITAC is now a pre-approved vendor for the Distance Education Captioning and Transcription (DECT) grant for the California Community Colleges system.

Read more.

Realtime captioning aids founder of nonprofit for deaf youth in college classroom

The September issue of San Antonio Magazine features an article about two-time Miss San Antonio and founder of Aid the Silent, Emma Faye Rudkin, and how she has succeeded despite suffering a profound hearing loss.

Read more.

Captioning word of the month: .500

Steve Clark

Below is the fourth in a series of monthly featured words to help captioners build their dictionaries and knowledge. The words for this series are being provided by Steve Clark, CRC, a captioner from Washington, D.C. Clark captions for Home Team Captions and covers the Baltimore Ravens NFL team  and the Washington Nationals baseball team. Clark also co-chairs NCRA’s Broadcast and CART Captioning Committee.

Our term this month, .500, comes from practically every sport. While this is a pretty straightforward term and an easy definition, the added definition of 1.000 usually trips us up. The definition of 1.000 is included at the end.


.500

(baseball, NASCAR, basketball)

Definition

Having the same number in both one category and its opposite category; for example, having the same number of wins as losses.  A team that has won six games and lost six games has a .500 record.  A basketball player who has shot the ball four times and made two of those shots is shooting .500.

Usage     

“After a very shaky start, this team shows promise and is now playing .500 ball.”

“Rodriguez has been up to bat 10 times in his career against this pitcher, hitting the ball five times.  If you can hit .500 against this guy, you’re doing all right, I’d say.”

“Johnson has tried to pass Gordon on that outside lap twice and succeeded once.  You could say this racer is sitting at .500, I guess.”

1.000

This is heard quite often in baseball, as in “He’s batting 1.000.”  This is often spoken as “he’s batting a thousand.”  For clarity when captioning, I tend to write “he’s batting 1.000” even when spoken as “he’s batting a thousand.”   This is one of those terms that has become a part of our everyday jargon, meaning someone has been perfect at something.

Realtime captioning listed as one of several ways museums can serve disabled visitors

An article posted July 30 by The Sentinel, Carlisle, Pa., noted that realtime captioning is just one of several ways museums can assist visitors who are deaf or hard of hearing, and notes that the 9/11 Museum and Memorial and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York offer this service.

Read more.

Red Bulls score with scoreboard closed-captioning initiative

The Jersey Journal reported on Aug. 4, that the New York Red Bulls, the major league soccer team, is now using closed-captioning on the scoreboard of its Arena in Harrison, N.J.

Read more.

STUDENT PERSPECTIVE: Six Students Shadow Captioners During HLAA Conference

By Deanna P. Baker

Student captioners at 2018 HLAA

Six students, all from Anoka Technical College, attended the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) conference I was captioning to learn more about the practice of captioning. It was wonderful to get to know this group of students. I had captioned this event for 25 years in a row, and I loved sharing my experience with the students that came out those days.

Since the HLAA conference was held in Minneapolis, Minn., two of the local captioners on the team, Angie Sundell, RMR, CRR, CRC, and Lisa Richardson, RPR, CRR, CRC, who are also on the advisory board of Anoka College, worked with Anoka Tech reporting instructor Jennifer Sati, RMR, CRR, CRC, CRI, to invite local students to shadow at the annual HLAA conference. We thought it was a great chance for the students to write some sessions – for their own personal benefit – and see CART captioners and their team at work. And several of them really jumped at the opportunity.

The captioning team for the 2018 HLAA Conference: back row: Megan Stumm, Angie Sundell, Lisa Richardson, Lori Morrow, and Whitney Riley; Front row: Kristi Artzen, Lisa Johnston, Deanna Baker, Lori Yeager Stavropoulos, and Sharon Vivian. (Not pictured: Jayne Carriker)

The captioning team for the 2018 HLAA Conference. Back row: Megan Stumm, Angie Sundell, Lisa Richardson, Lori Morrow, and Whitney Riley; Front row: Kristi Arntzen, Lisa Johnston, Deanna Baker, Lori Yeager Stavropoulos, and Sharon Vivian. (Not pictured: Jayne Carriker)

My thanks go to all of the people on the captioning team who not only rocked the HLAA conference this year but made this a great experience for the students. In addition to myself, Angie, and Lisa, our team consisted of:

  • Kristi Arntzen, RPR, CRR
  • Jayne Carriker, RPR, CRC
  • Lisa B. Johnston, RMR, CRR, CRC
  • Lori Morrow, RMR, CRR, CRC
  • Whitney Riley, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI
  • Lori Yeager Stavropoulos, RPR, CRR, CRC
  • Megan Stumm
  • Sharon K. Vivian, RPR, CRR, CRC
  • Scott Smith, who provided technical support for our CART captioning team

When I reached out to the students after the HLAA conference, I asked them several questions, from why they volunteered to what they expected and what they learned from the day. All of them said that it was a true learning experience, and for several it either reinforced for them why they were working so hard to graduate or it gave them new insight into the opportunities that lay ahead for them.

Here is a little of the experience through their eyes.

Expectations vs. reality

I asked the students what they expected and how the actual experience matched or differed from their expectations.

“I anticipated a lot of stress and not much interaction with the CART provider because of the nature of the job,” said Kaurie Jeske, one of the Anoka students. “That was not the case! Before the job I was introduced to the CART provider, who seemed very happy to let me sit in and learn. Other members of the team providing services elsewhere also came and went before the ceremony started, and I came to understand what a close-knit group of people this group really is. Everyone seemed genuinely excited that students were coming in to shadow them.”

“I was expecting everyone to be talking so fast that I wouldn’t be able to keep up at all, and I was a bit nervous about the whole experience,” said Ryan Judge. “We were told beforehand that nobody was going to be seeing our writing, which helped a lot with the anxiety. When I got there, everyone was so nice that all the leftover jitters faded away.”

“When I got to the convention and started writing, the professional calm that the captioners exuded immediately put me at ease,” said Samantha Robinson. “They assured me that with practice and dedication that I would be able to do this after graduation.”

“It was mostly in line with what I had heard about captioning, except both the ability of the reporter and speed of the dictation she had to write was very impressive,” said Megan Bidney. “I was expecting more drops or paraphrasing, but there was nearly none of that.”

A test of skills

Because the point of the students coming out was to learn more about themselves, I wanted to know what they were going to put into action moving forward. All of them found that the experience reinforced what they already knew they could do, and many of them responded with plans to double their efforts on certain aspects of their training.

“It was a true test of my endurance level,” said Davis Wille, another one of the students. “Seeing firsthand the stresses involved with handling technology at a live event was definitely somewhat anxiety-inducing. I expected this issue might be a deterrent for me wanting to explore the CART field, but watching Lisa and Angie remain calm and level-headed reiterated that it’s simply part of the job. It’s manageable when you’ve had plenty of experience behind you. It’s a field I’d be much more curious to explore now.”

Judge agreed: “I think the biggest thing I am going to do is work on endurance. There were certainly some points where I was getting quite uncomfortable and wanted a break, but you can’t just stop when you’re on the job.”

“I will be focusing on accuracy! I have never been the cleanest writer, but I can read through my blunders,” said Jeske. “Now I am tailoring my practice more to focus on being accurate and getting a lot more out of my practice time.”

“The biggest difference I noticed was that the captioner I worked with would include flourishes such as ‘applause’ and ‘laughter’ to convey the reaction of the audience,” said recent graduate Tom Piltoff.

The big take-away

When I asked what they had learned by attending the convention, the students’ replies were varied.

“That the steno community is huge and welcoming,” said Piltoff. (I think this is my personal favorite, and I’m glad that these six students were able to experience the camaraderie that is part of this profession so early on in their careers.)

“I learned that I need to continue practicing more to be at that level, but also that it is actually possible to write at that level,” said Bidney.

“The most valuable lesson I took away was that it isn’t impossible to keep up with the speaker if I just calm down and focus on writing,” said Judge.

“I heard so many stories from the award presenters and the recipients about the need for these kinds of services,” said Jeske. “I want to be part of something that makes me feel like I’m making a positive impact in the world. This profession definitely does that.”

“The most valuable lesson I took away from the convention was just how thrilled everyone was to see us in attendance and in action,” said Wille. “The attendees were so clearly grateful that I was given an overall boost of confidence in what career path I’ve chosen to enter. It was very exciting.”

“The most valuable thing I took away from this experience is more confidence in myself. I thought it would take me years to get to the point of being able to provide near-flawless captions, but I feel now that I can and will be able to do this sooner than I thought,” said Robinson. “After sitting in with these amazing reporters, I feel like this is exactly what I want to do.”

 

Deanna P. Baker, RMR, of Flagstaff, Ariz.

Deanna P. Baker, FAPR, RMR, is a realtime captioner and captioning consultant based in Flagstaff, Ariz. She can be reached at dpbaker@mindspring.com.

Captioning word of the month: Tape measure home run

Steve Clark

Below is the third in a series of monthly featured words to help captioners build their dictionaries and knowledge. The words for this series are being provided by Steve Clark, CRC, a captioner from Washington, D.C. Clark captions for Home Team Captions and covers the Baltimore Ravens NFL team  and the Washington Nationals baseball team. Clark also co-chairs NCRA’s Broadcast and CART Captioning Committee.

Since the Major League Baseball All-Star Game was this month, our term this week, tape measure home runcomes from baseball. The link below contains a short video which further describes this term and its very interesting origin.


Tape measure home run

(baseball)

Definition

In baseball, a home run is a hit that allows the batter to run the bases and reach home plate safely. Most often this occurs when the ball is hit fairly over the outfield fence or wall. A tape measure home run is a home run that travels an exceptionally long distance.

Usage     

“The pitch, and Mickey Mantle connects with that one. See you later! Into the upper deck. Talk about a tape measure home run.”

Link

Tape measure home run

 

HLAA members embrace NCRA at annual convention

Marcia Ferranto

Attendees at the 2018 Hearing Loss Association of America’s (HLAA) annual convention held June 21-24 in Minneapolis, Minn., welcomed NCRA as an exhibitor to the event and shared with Executive Director and CEO Marcia Ferranto how much they appreciated the services of captioners and CART providers.

“Working with the end user of CART captioning was an enriching experience, and many of them shared with me their love for the service and their willingness to help advance the profession,” Ferranto said.

Ferranto also held a breakout session onsite where she explained to attendees how NCRA is working toward attracting more people into the profession. She also shared that NCRA members who are CART captioners represent the highest standard of skill and excellence in the profession. Ferranto also offered information about what is involved in becoming and working as a CART captioner, how NCRA is the national certifying body, and why users should be looking for NCRA certifications when hiring a provider.

“Marcia’s presentation on the future of CART captioning was very well-received and shed light on how NCRA is working with HLAA to raise awareness of and to proliferate CART captioning,” said Matthew R. Barusch, NCRA’s Manager of State Government Relations, who also attended the event.

Overall, said Barusch, the whole experience was a huge success and was a prime example of the importance of working with the deaf and hard-of hearing community. People with hearing disabilities are the main consumers of CART captioning services, and they value and appreciate the services that NCRA members provide, he added. Working with HLAA to enhance and protect captioning and captioning policy cultivates a huge population of advocates for NCRA members and, ultimately, will make NCRA stronger.

According to Barusch, there was a huge interest by attendees in the NCRA Sourcebook, since so many attendees were interested in finding CART captioners in their area. In addition, he noted that many chapter leaders thanked NCRA for its new partnership with HLAA, which is helping to identify and provide CART captioning to their members.

Left to right: Matt Barusch, Caitlin Albrecht, Merilee Johnson, Jennifer Sati

“We could not be more thankful to HLAA for putting on such a great convention, and to our wonderful volunteers, who represented in such an amazing way,” Barusch shared.

NCRA Board of Directors member Jennifer Sati, RMR, CRR, CRC, CRI, from Dayton, Minn., assisted in recruiting a number of volunteers to demonstrate captioning at the NCRA booth. Those volunteers included:

  • Caitlin Albrecht, a freelance court reporter from Plymouth, Minn.
  • Kristi Arntzen, RPR, CRR, a captioner from St. Louis Park, Minn.
  • Elizabeth Gangl, RPR, a freelance court reporter from Minneapolis, Minn.
  • Staci Heichert, RDR, CRR, CRC, a captioner from Shakopee, Minn.
  • Merilee Johnson, RDR, CRR, CRC, a captioner from Eden Prairie, Minn.
  • Heather Schuetz, RMR, CRR, CRC, a freelance court reporter from Woodbury, Minn.
  • Angie Sundell, RMR, CRR, CRC, a captioner from Hopkins, Minn.
  • Jean Whalen, RDR, CRR, CRC, a captioner from Apple Valley, Minn.

“I want to give a shout-out to Marcia on her presentation at HLAA. I was lucky enough to be in the audience since it was in my neck of the woods. She has such a talent at engaging the audience, and they were engaged! I never tire of hearing CART captioning consumers express how much they love NCRA and their captioners,” Sati shared with members of NCRA’s BOD.

“Seeing us in action this weekend, I think this is a must to continue with our participation at HLAA each year to take advantage of the exposure and opportunities,” she added.

“Engaging in professional relationships with like-minded organizations such as HLAA not only showcases the services our members provide to assist members of the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities, but it also creates a strong bond and vital support for our common issues,” Ferranto added.