Broward County wrestles with court reporter shortage

NCRA Director Max Curry, RPR, CRI, a freelance court reporter from Franklin, Tenn., was quoted in an article about the shortage of court reporters in Broward County, Fla., and the critical need for the human component in capturing the official record. Curry addresses the issue of the national shortage of court reporters and captioners.

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Candidates urged to provide captions on all televised campaign messages

The Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, S.D., posted an open letter on June 3 urging current and future candidates running for local, state, and national offices from the state to provide captions for any televised campaign messages, commercials, and debates so that members of the deaf and hard of hearing community can clearly understand their positions.

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Steno on the go!

What’s the strangest place you’ve had to tap-tap-tap away on your little machine, knowing that people are relying on your speech-to-text output? A bus perhaps? No? Well, Michelle Coffey, RPR, CRI, CPE, has done just that, and she shared her story with the British Institute of Verbatim Reporters. Coffey owns Premier Captioning & Realtime Ltd in Wicklow, Ireland, and is a seasoned reporter. To know what it was like to caption on a moving bus, read her story below. Sounds like a whole heap of fun!


By Michelle Coffey

We all know that every day in the working life of a captioner is different and can be a challenge, and then there are days like Tuesday, November 26! It began like any other day, with a booking for a regular client at a conference they were holding to discuss accessible tourism in Ireland.

But then I was told we wouldn’t be needed till after lunch as the morning was being spent on an ‘accessible bus tour’ to some of the accessible sights of Dublin. Hold on a minute, though. If I’m there for access for the deaf/hoh tourists and I’m not needed, then how accessible is this tour going to be for them? So I asked how they’d feel if we tried to make the tour bus accessible. Without hesitation, we got a resounding yes! If you can do it, the organizers said, let’s go!

On the morning of the job, I arrived at their office with laptops, screens, projectors, extension cables, etc. I could see the perplexed expressions as they tried to work out how best to break it to me that I wouldn’t be able to plug in my extension lead on the bus or indeed my projector! But once I reassured them that I did really have some clue about what we were about to embark on and that the screens were for our final destination, everyone relaxed.

And I have to say, it was by far the most fun job I’ve done.

Three double-decker Dublin Buses pulled up outside the office, where everyone was given a name tag and allocated a bus. The idea was that as the buses traveled between destinations, the facilitator would lead discussion and debate onboard; and then in the afternoon all three busloads would feed back their information to the group at large. As our bus was now equipped with live speech to text, the occupants of the other buses could see what we were discussing or joking about! The tour very quickly descended into a school tour mentality (we were even given some snacks) with lots of good-natured joking, and one of our blind facilitators even scolded me for shielding my screen from him which meant neither he (nor Cookie his guide dog) could copy my answers to the quiz.

It soon became apparent that our driver was quite new to the concept of braking in a timely fashion and had probably never passed a pothole he didn’t enter! This being the case, I was finding it increasingly difficult to stay upright myself, much less my machine; with that in mind, the guys and gals on our bus decided to take bets on when the next bump in the road, traffic light, or such thing would cause me and/or my machine to slip! It really lightened the mood, everyone had a laugh, and it brought home to people in a very real and tangible way that accessibility for everyone is not just a soapbox topic. In fact, it became something that everyone on our bus played an active part in (even if some of them were “accidentally” bumping into me to get an untranslated word — and a laugh).

But it showed that access matters, and that it should matter to us all!

What I didn’t know before that morning was that not only were we doing a tour on the bus, but we also had two stops; one at a brand-new and very accessible hotel and one at a greyhound race track. Initially, it was suggested that I would stay on the bus and not transcribe the tours, but where’s the fun in that? And more importantly, where’s the accessibility in that? So, I picked up my steno machine, laid it against my shoulder like a carrying hod, and off I trooped to join the fun once more.

Once we got off the bus, the bets turned to how many different positions they could get me to write in; standing (we weren’t in the lobby of the hotel long enough to procure a chair); sitting (in the bar I managed to find a stool); balancing on a bed (with a busload of people crammed into even the most luxurious of hotel rooms, it tends to get a little cramped; never before had I cause to utter the sentence “Any chance a few of you guys could move over a little, I’m nearly falling off the bed!”); squatting (trackside at a greyhound racing park); machine stand on a bar table (at the betting counters in the racing park), and finally, my machine held by another tour member in the lift — it was a truly interactive tour.

And to finish the day off, we went back to the Guinness Storehouse for our panel discussion and debate about accessible tourism in Ireland (and free pints of Guinness, of course). All in all, a brilliant day. An important topic discussed, debated, delivered, and demonstrated in our different locations — the best job ever.

 

On any given Sunday: Volunteer live-captioning on Sunday service

The Sun Sentinel aired a story on its website on June 6 that features NCRA member Ninette Bulter, RPR, CRR, CRC, a freelance court reporter from Orlando, Fla., talking about volunteering to live-caption Sunday church services.

Watch the story.

New Orleans to host largest gathering of court reporting, captioning, and legal professionals

A press release announcing NCRA’s 2018 Convention & Expo was posted on June 7 by Global Newswire and Networking@IT Business Net.

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NCRA member interviewed by News-Gazette

On June 6, the News-Gazette, Champaign, Ill., posted an interview with NCRA member Melissa Clagg, RDR, CRR, CRC, supervisor for Champaign County’s court reporters, about her mission to promote the profession.

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Casting call for stenographer

On June 6, Fox Channel 5 Good Day Atlanta posted a casting call for a stenographer for a film entitled Mule, being directed by Clint Eastwood.

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Stephen King’s ‘Mr. Mercedes’ seeks stenographer for finale episode

The final episode of Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes is being filmed at the Manning Courthouse in Manning, S.C., according to an article posted June 8 by the postandcourier.com, and the production company is seeking a stenographer with their machine as an extra.

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Grand Theater provides open captioning for movies

On May 31, Channel 8 KLKN-TV, Lincoln, Neb., aired a story about the Grand Theater offering moving showings with open captioning on Wednesday and Saturday evenings throughout the summer. The Nebraska Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing spearheaded the action.

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PROMOTING THE PROFESSION: Passion for captioning and court reporting showcased at high school career day

Cindi Lynch

Earlier this spring, Cindi Lynch, training program manager for Stenograph, based in Elmhurst Ill., and Sharon Vartanian, RPR, a district sales manager for the company, spent a few hours promoting the captioning and court reporting professions at a career day held at Prospect High School in Saratoga. Calif. Lynch, who is well-known for her enthusiasm for the court reporting profession, has a sister-in-law who teaches English at the high school. She passed along Lynch’s information to one of the school’s career specialists. Lynch was asked if she would give a presentation to a group of their students, and she readily accepted. Vartanian, who represents Stenograph in the area, and Lynch also enlisted the help of NCRA member Maggie Ortiz, manager of the court reporting program at West Valley College in Saratoga, Calif., and Tobi Giluso, a high-speed student from the program.

Sharon Vartanian

 

JCR | What did you do to prepare?

SV | Cindi put the word out on social media and spoke with people working with the A to Z program and with Project Steno to get their input on similar presentations they had done in the past. Cindi took that information and then put together a brief presentation based on the information she had gathered.

CL | Sharon thought it would be a great idea if we asked the court reporting program at the local college to also participate in the presentation, and she took on the task of gathering representatives from West Valley College to join us.

 

JCR | What was the event like?

SV | Cindi’s presentation focused on what a court reporter is, where and how reporters, captioners and CART providers work, and the basic principles of machine shorthand.

Tobi captioned the presentation. She did an excellent job, and the high school students were able to see firsthand the skills of a reporter/captioner. (Tobi has passed all her qualifiers and will be taking the state exam this July.)

Maggie Ortiz, court reporting program manager, talked about West Valley College’s specific program and gave current information about earning potential in the local area. In 2017, West Valley also started offering a free court reporting course through Silicon Valley Adult Education. Maggie explained how the high school students could immediately take advantage of this free course before graduating high school to learn the theory of steno writing. The course is designed to give students a head start in the West Valley court reporting program.

There was a small, but very interested, group of juniors and seniors in attendance, as well as parents, teachers, and teacher aides. We were pleased that we had a wide range of panelists to answer questions during the Q&A session. Maggie addressed school questions, Tobi answered student and CART questions, and Sharon was able to address working as a freelance court reporter.

 

JCR | How did it go? Did people seem interested?

CL | We were really pleased with the presentation and how warmly it was received. Both the students and the adults were very interested. We were asked a lot of thoughtful, smart questions and it was clear to us that they had paid close attention to the information they’d been given.

We brought a few Luminex writers with us. At the end of the presentation, the students eagerly waited in line to have their first experience of writing on a steno machine.

 

JCR | You are both such professionals, you’re probably prepared for anything. But did anything surprise you? Can you tell us about that?

CL and SV | No surprises. We put a lot of effort into being well prepared. We were delighted we had male and female attendees.

One person we had consulted while preparing for the presentation advised us to bring food, especially candy for the kids. We rewarded the attendees for asking questions by giving them candy bars. While we know rewarding for candy works, we were amazed at how well it works.

 

JCR | What advice would you give others about telling people about careers in court reporting and captioning?

CL and SV | Show your passion for the profession; it’s infectious. The attendees appreciated the fact that all of us who spoke at the event had been around the profession most of our lives and were excited to talk about it. When you love what you do, it definitely comes through. Convey how much support they can expect from the court reporting community. Communicate how much we need them and want them to join us in this fabulous career.

 

JCR | Is there anything else you would like to share?

CL and SV | We were well-received by the teachers and career specialist at Prospect High, and they expressed an interest in having us come back in the future to talk to additional students. They also asked for more information from Maggie so that they could partner with West Valley College. This made us very happy. We couldn’t have asked for a better outcome from our presentation!

 

Cindi Lynch can be reached at CLynch@Stenograph.com. Sharon Vartanian can be reached at SVartanian@Stenograph.com.