The Ledger, Memphis, Tenn., posted an article on April 20 about the need for closed captioners that features NCRA member Linda Hershey, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, a broadcast captioner in Chattanooga.
Depo International launched a nationwide marketing campaign to raise awareness about the need for court reporters and captioners to fill jobs, according to a press release issued April 20.
The Cuyahoga Community College, Cuyahoga, Ohio, announced in a press release issued April 17 that it will hold an open house on April 25 to showcase career opportunities in the growing field of captioning and court reporting.
By Jason Meadors
I’m pretty sure you won’t find what I’m about to say in any Board policy or finding by NCRA’s Committee on Professional Ethics (COPE), in which I have the honor of serving this year. No, what follows are my own views of foundational bases of our ethics, in looking at the ethical frameworks in the Code and Advisory Opinions, and with a few decades of experience in this all-consuming career. I also have a regular ethics seminar that I present, and my views are woven into that as well, and I haven’t been seriously challenged. Yet.
“What are these views?” you might ask. Or you might not. I suspect the latter has the higher probability. But I’m going to tell you anyway. The ethical construct of our sacred court reporting profession has a foundation of three legs. Because Dave Wenhold, our preeminent lobbyist, has taught me that clever acronyms help people better identify and remember concepts, let’s call them the CIA.
Those three foundational legs of our profession are:
There you go. Our CIA.
Our Code of Professional Ethics (In a slight bit of acronym confusion with the committee, also named COPE), Number 4, addresses this directly. “Preserve the confidentiality and ensure the security of information,” and so on.
This makes eminent good sense, does it not? When we work, we hear dreadful events, shameful secrets, and financial goings-on from hosts of people. If we want the process to have integrity when it comes to the record, if we want our clients and consumers to see us as trustworthy professionals, if we want our profession to continue, we have to ensure that information that we hear doesn’t go where it’s not supposed to go.
It’s so easy to get caught up conversation among ourselves, with our clients, with members of the general public, because sometimes we hear some pretty darned interesting things. May I suggest a little self-administered test when you’re talking with someone and you get the impulse to sneak out a detail from a case, ask yourself: If this person says, “Oh, the reporter told me,” how will that reflect on you?
(There’s actually a simpler practice that doesn’t require retrospection: Just shut up.)
They bring us, outsiders, in to the proceedings, secure in their belief that we will not be the conduit of information to the rest of the world. Let’s keep it that way.
But that’s not the only reason we are called to our professional tasks. There’s the second foundational leg of:
Five of the ten items in the NCRA Code of Professional Ethics encompass impartiality. Indeed, Number 1 of the Code starts with, “Be fair and impartial…”
And this concept really is the linchpin in working at our professional heights, and its existence flows directly to the reliability of the record that we’re preserving.
In the litigation arena, in one certain sense, our presence might seem a bit odd. The parties are presenting their own weighted view of evidence. The attorneys are advocates for their clients. The judge is protecting the public interest. Everyone has taken a side. And still they bring us in, with our mandate of being both disinterested and uninterested, because it’s the only way that the history that they read later has been kept and delivered without bias, without favoritism, without an eye to supporting one side or the other.
“I love a job where I’m actually paid to not be interested in anyone.”
That’s how it must be. Even while immersed in their advocacy, they are paying us to be emotionally distant and removed from the proceedings that we report. All sides have to be able to rely on the integrity of the transcript without a second thought about whether the reporter might be bringing other interests into the legal game.
Sure, there are times when that “not caring” thing gets pushed and emotions run high. We all have our stories. My memorable one, and not in a good way: Within a couple weeks after a family member’s death, I was taking a deposition about a case that involved a fatality, and the grief of the deponent was open and unyielding. Because of my father’s so-recent death, my own emotions were pretty raw at the time, and I struggled to keep my expression impassive. I’m not sure how well I fared.
But the transcript that resulted from that deposition did not, could not, be weighted toward the grieving deponent, toward my client, toward the attorney who represented the sobbing witness, or anyone else in the room. That’s what all parties expect and what they deserve when they hire us, the professionally detached historian in the room.
(At this point, the alert reader may say, “Hey! You just told us not to talk about our cases!” And that is why I kept it so nonspecific as to time, place, parties, and even the type of case.)
Sometimes at introductions in the deposition room, one attorney will tell the witness, “I represent the plaintiff.” The other one will say, “I represent the defendant.” When the deponent looks at me, I introduce myself and say, “I represent the paper that comes out of this.” The integrity of the record is, indeed, the focus of our own advocacy.
But our confidentiality and impartiality aren’t the only reasons we’re being hired, which brings us to:
This leg is the surprisingly more tenuous one to talk about, because nowhere in the Code of Professional Ethics does it actually state that the reporter has an ethical duty to provide an accurate record.
I’m going to pause a moment to let that sink in. Let me know when you’re ready.
The reliability of the record is a principle woven into the fabric of our professional product. If the record of proceedings isn’t accurate, the participants might as well be home reading a good book and sipping their favored beverage. The need for accuracy is why we’re so darned impartial; likewise, impartiality helps to guarantee accuracy. The other factor to accuracy, of course, is the combination of skill, conscientiousness, and record-consciousness that we bring to the table.
Putting it all together
So when we’re faced with an ethical issue, we can generally fall back on our CIA to help resolve it.
- Does the issue compromise Confidentiality?
- Can it be perceived as a breach of Impartiality?
- Could it degrade the record’s Accuracy?
If the answer to any of these is “yes,” the issue must be resolved in a way that keeps those principles intact.
My dear colleagues, what we do is important. Way back when, about to finish Marine reporting school and enter my life as a voice reporter in the Marines, a military judge came in to talk to us wide-eyed new practitioners about our importance. I haven’t forgotten the gist of his talk since, and that was early 1975. He told us about U.S. v. Albright, where the Court of Military Appeals stated that the record “imports verity.” In other words, if we say it happened, absent some showing of fraud (so stay impartial!), then what we say goes. How we transcribe it is how history will see it. If we don’t get it right, history will not look correctly upon what went on (so be accurate!).
And really, we are not just important. We are vital.
If the adage is correct about what is the “oldest profession,” then we can look at cave wall paintings and see what the second oldest is. It is the people who make the record of humanity itself. We bear a direct lineage from those short, stocky folks facing the rock walls, ochre at their sides, painting what happened to Thag Simmons. That tradition carries on through the scribes of ancient Egypt, the courts of the Khans, through the ages of petroglyphs, obelisks, clay tablets, papyrus, rice paper, parchment, paper from pulp, and through the spectra of electronic media that we use today.
Our all-important record preserved through our grand legacy is the singular method by which society can learn from its mistakes and build on its successes. And so, through our near-incomprehensible skills, and with the guidance of our solid ethical foundations, let’s make that record a good one.
Jason Meadors, RPR, CRR, CRC, is a freelance reporter in Fort Collins, Colo., and a member of NCRA’s Committee on Professional Ethics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NCRA student member Abby Cook, a student in the court reporting program at the Community College of Allegheny County, Pittsburgh, Pa., was recently featured in an article about career changers. Cook is a cousin of Lisa Nagy-Baker, RDR, CRR, a freelance reporter from Annapolis, Md., and NCRA past president.
By Rachel Barkume
Freelance reporter Aimee Edwards-Altadonna, from Modesto, Calif., came to reporting as a second career, looking to blend her creative side with her interest in the legal field. She talks a little about how she entered the field, what she loves about reporting, and how she and her husband Vinny balance home, family, and work life.
What made you want to become a court reporter?
I came to court reporting in one giant full-circle moment. I wanted to be a lawyer in college and maybe become a lobbyist for the National Organization for Women (NOW) or work for NOW as an attorney fighting for women’s rights and equal pay. I even went so far as to have submitted my law school application and completed the LSAT. While wrapping up my college career, I started working for lawyers as a legal assistant/secretary so I could get a good feel for what that world would be like — and to be honest, I didn’t love it. Right about the time I had to make the call to start law school, I found a new hobby — glass fusing. I fell hard and my hobby quickly turned into an obsession. So much so that I decided to take a year off after college and just play with it. That year off turned into seven years, and I found myself running a full-time small business selling fused glass artwork and jewelry in my galleries in Monterey and Carmel, Calif. It was a great time, and I learned a lot about what it takes to be a small-business owner in California. I eventually closed the business when my first son, Owen, was born. I’ve always been an ambitious person and, for me, I needed to do more than be a full-time, stay-at-home mom. I started thinking about going back to school. I knew I did not want to go to law school anymore. I did some research and started considering court reporting. I started court reporting school online when my son was 10 months old, and it was the perfect combination of the legal world and artistry in becoming proficient on the steno machine.
What tips would you give to a new professional who is trying to maintain a healthy work/life balance?
Get a massage. Get a massage. Get a massage! Did I mention, get a massage? You have to take care of your body. I started out getting routine massages every month, and then every two weeks, and now I get one almost every week. It makes a huge difference in the discomfort I feel from sitting all day during depositions and driving all those miles.
I also think it’s important to always have something to look forward to such as a trip to a convention or a little ocean getaway with the whole family over a weekend. Having those plans in place reminds you why you are working so hard all the time and reminds you that there is life outside of work and a light at the end of the tunnel or editing cave.
What are your future goals for your court reporting career?
In the short term, I would like to complete the last leg of my RPR. When I am finally certified, I put it in my five-year plan to be a realtime reporter. The first two-and-a-half years have flown by, but I’m steadily improving my skillset.
What are some of your favorite time-saving practices, techniques, or gadgets?
I love Cozi, a calendaring app. Our whole family uses it, and it makes coordinating our life so much easier. It lets you set reminders for things on your calendar and manage your grocery list at the same time. I calendar out my due dates, and it dings and reminds me as they approach.
I also love the Expensify app. I use it to manage all my receipts and mileage log. I take photos of my receipts and then make reports for myself at the end of the year based on categories I chose. It’s fabulous during tax season. I love not having to keep a giant stack of receipts. You can even email the digital receipts for stuff you buy online right into the app.
Do you have a mentor?
Yes, I have a mentor! I found her when I was already nearing exit speeds, but her constant advice has been invaluable to me as I transitioned from a student, to a student and a proofer, to a student and a proofer and a scopist, and all the way out into the working reporting world. She has guided me and been the most amazing sounding board. She has talked me off many ledges and became one of my very best friends, too. One of the best things she instilled in me was to work hard and play hard. She has always said that some days you are the bird, and some days you are the statue. So when I have a fabulous day and passed a test or nailed readback like a boss, I am the bird flying high. And when I have a horrible, rotten, no good, very bad day, I am the statue below the bird. It has taught me to take each day as it comes knowing that the bad day will be over soon, and I will be back to a fabulous day very soon. Having a mentor is very important for a student and a new reporter. There are so many little things that will come up as you go along, and having someone who just gets it and can help you through will save your sanity.
Your husband, Vinny, has been a prominent supporter of you in your court reporting career. How do you feel that has helped you in your court reporting endeavors? What advice would you or Vinny give to a significant other of a court reporter?
Vinny has kept me sane and fed! He went to culinary school, so we eat really well. He celebrated every little victory along the way to me becoming a reporter and continues to be my biggest supporter and cheerleader. He also lets me vent on the bad days. I would not be a reporter if he hadn’t had my back from the very start. Plus, he doesn’t complain when I travel for jobs or conventions. He and the kids take it in stride, which makes it so much better.
Vinny’s advice for court-reporting significant others:
As the husband of a full-time court reporter, there are three things that I’ve had to learn:
- Keep it in perspective — Aimee is constantly dealing with all the little ups and downs of her career. She’s constantly juggling jobs, transcripts, scopists, proofers, daily travel schedules, invoices, cash flow, expenses, conventions — the list is endless — and sometimes she gets caught up in that. It can be a bit overwhelming. I try to look at the big picture and keep her motivated and know that by month’s end, we’ll be good.
- Be flexible — my depo lovin’ court reporter does not have a set schedule, and that means I need to be able to flex and adjust as needed. My work schedule can flex at times, and this allows us the ability for her to pick up that last-minute, out-of-town job. It also helps to have a support structure around us as well.
- Team effort — Aimee and I are a team, and as the husband-unit in this team, I often have to fill in when she’s out of town. We don’t break up our relationship into “things she does” and “things I do.” We just get it all done. Wash those dishes, clean those clothes, pick up/drop off the kids, go shopping, make dinner, go to that parent-teacher conference solo — it’s part of the game, so just get it done!
What do you like best about being a court reporter?
I love how every single day is different. I am a bit of a road warrior and love exploring new cities, so I will happily cover work all over California — Central Coast, Central Valley, the greater Bay Area, and Sacramento. I cover from Fresno to San Jose to San Francisco and love it all. Every day I am in a new location if I am not at home editing away.
I love the freedom reporting affords me as well. If I want to go to Monterey for a day or two, I can pick up a job by the sea and work a little, too. I also love the fact that if I have a terrible day with an attorney who won’t stop talking over the witness, I never have to go back and work with them again. I have total control in who I will and won’t work with, and that feels amazing!
Court reporting has also brought me the most wonderful group of friends and colleagues ever. I have never met a group of people who are so wonderfully supportive and always trying to lift each other up. I stand in awe of the tribe I have created and their accomplishments as reporters and in life.
What do you like to do when you’re not reporting?
When I am not reporting, I am home with my family, curled up with a book or binge watching a show with my menagerie of fur babies smothering me with love. We have three dogs, a cat, an 85-pound sulcata tortoise, and a baby sulcata tortoise. (The tortoises do not cuddle.)
We also love to take family day trips to Monterey, our happy place. Earlier this year, my husband and I started selling LuLaRoe clothing after I purchased a new wardrobe slowly last year. So now we can be found selling the LuLa in our Facebook group or out of our home boutique in our “spare time.” I even took it to the California Deposition Reporters Association conference in Napa a couple months ago and shared it with my fellow reporters. It was so much fun!
Can you tell us a little about your background and current position?
I have a B.A. from California State University Monterey Bay in human communications with a concentration in women’s studies. I did the majority of my reporting education online through Bryan College and College of Court Reporting. I qualified at West Valley College in Saratoga. I broke my ankle in three places and dislocated it the very same night I qualified so I didn’t return to West Valley to prep for the Certified Shorthand Reporter (CSR) due to my injury and the distance — up to three hours one way in traffic. I prepped for the CSR at Humphreys College in Stockton, 25 minutes from my home, after I recovered enough to do so. I passed all three legs of the CSR on the first try after I won my appeal on the machine portion of the test.
Vinny and I have been married for 17 years and have two pretty awesome spawn. Owen is 9 and loves science and math and karate and basketball. Chloe is 7 and loves all things artistic, from drawing to dancing to singing. They both devour books at a startling rate just like their parents do, and they are way into technology and computer and video games.
I currently freelance for multiple firms. I am a deposition reporter only. I do not cover court work or hearings. I go everywhere for work. I love to work full-day jobs a couple times a week and frequently cover video jobs. I have done everything from work comp at the beginning to doctors to asbestos work to prison jobs and construction defect jobs in a room with 17 attorneys. I am always up for a challenge and will try most any type of job at least once.
Rachel Barkume, RPR, is an official reporter from Oakhurst, Calif., and a member of the New Professionals Committee. She can be reached at email@example.com.
The board of trustees of the Neosho County Community College, Chanute, Kan., recently approved a certificate for court reporting. The 45-credit-hour program is for those who only want to pass the state court reporting certification, according to an article posted on April 12 by the Chanute Tribune.
NCRA has announced the 2017 class of Fellows of the Academy of Professional Reporters. The recipients will be recognized during an Awards Luncheon at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo in Las Vegas, Nev., being held Aug. 10-13.
The 2017 class of Fellows are:
- Jan Ballman, RPR, CMRS, a firm owner in Minneapolis, Minn.
- Jana Colter, RMR, CRR, CRC, a CART captioner from Atlanta, Ga.
- Judith Lehman, RMR, CRI, an official from Shelbyville, Ill.
- Philip Marrone, RMR, CRR, an official from Pittsburgh, Pa.
- Sarah Nageotte, RDR, CRR, CRC, an official from Jefferson, Ohio
- Breck Record, RMR, CRR, CRI, an official from Midland, Texas
- Doreen Sutton, RPR, a firm owner from Scottsdale, Ariz.
“Receiving the distinction of Fellow was one of the high points of my career,” said NCRA President Tiva Wood, FAPR, RDR, CMRS, a freelance court reporter from Mechanicsburg, Pa. “I am excited that NCRA is recognizing these extraordinary members for their contributions, which include publishing important papers, serving on committees or boards, teaching the next generation of court reporters and captioners, and other efforts. All of the candidates must have been active in the practice of reporting for at least 10 years and been nominated by their peers.”
Fellowship in the Academy of Professional Reporters is a professional distinction conferred upon a person with outstanding and extraordinary qualifications and experience in the field of shorthand reporting. Candidates for Fellows are required to have been in the active practice of reporting for at least 10 years and to have attained distinction as measured by performance (which includes publication of important papers, creative contributions, and service on committees or boards, teaching, and other activities that support the profession).
Join hundreds of NCRA members, court reporting students, teachers, and school administrators in Las Vegas, Nev., for the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo, Aug. 10-13.
Registration is now open for the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo being held Aug. 10-13 at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, Nev. Members can take advantage of special rates negotiated for their stay at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, the official hotel of the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo.
- Sunday, Aug. 6 – Thursday, Aug. 10: $109 per night
- Friday, Aug. 11 – Saturday, Aug. 12: $199 per night
Each year, Convention attendees note the many conveniences and benefits of staying at the event’s host hotel, including easy access to the Expo Hall and meeting spaces. This year’s host hotel promises the same and much more. Being connected to the Miracle Mile, guests of Planet Hollywood will also enjoy immediate access to some of the best dining, entertainment, and shopping opportunities that Las Vegas has to offer.
In addition, NCRA members who book their stays at Planet Hollywood & Casino also have a significant impact on helping to keep lodging and event costs down for future conventions by ensuring the Association meets its room block.
“NCRA is committed to supporting its members by providing the best value possible. One such member benefit includes lower lodging rates and registration fees related to annual events,” said Chris Willette, RDR, CRR, CRC, NCRA President-elect. “We appreciate our members who are committed to supporting their Association by taking advantage of the special room rates negotiated on their behalf with Planet Hollywood. The 2017 Convention & Expo — ‘Magic at Your Fingertips!’ — is sure to be an exciting and fun-filled event.”
As always, the Convention schedule is jam-packed with educational sessions, the latest in new products and services showcased on the Expo Hall floor, and an array of networking opportunities that can’t be found anywhere else.
NCRA’s Education Content Committee has planned a series of carefully curated sessions to support the growth of every reporter and captioner, featuring can’t-miss sessions on business, captioning, judicial reporting, realtime, and technology. There will also be specialized programs, including the student seminar, Teachers Workshop, and the Certified Realtime Captioner Workshop. In addition, Margie Wakeman Wells, CRI, will again present her Punctuation Workshop.
The Convention will also feature a number of networking opportunities that will help attendees make contacts with fellow professionals from across the country and around the world. Networking sessions include:
- the Opening Reception on Thursday evening
- Friday morning’s Premier Session
- the Saturday Awards Luncheon
- the President’s Party on Saturday night
Attendees can also participate in the governance of the association by attending the Annual Business Meeting held on Thursday, where members can offer their opinions on the direction of the association and ask questions of the board members.
For more information or to register, visit NCRA.org/convention.
- Engage in some lively competition with the national Speed and Realtime Contests, or just come to watch some of the top reporters in the world battle it out for the trophy. (The winners are announced during the Awards Luncheon along with other distinguished guests.)
- Participate in the governance of your Association at the Annual Business Meeting, where members can offer their opinions on the direction of the Association and ask questions of the Board members.
- Don’t miss this year’s Premier Session. The Premier Session includes the installation of NCRA’s incoming Board of Directors, the announcements of NCRA’s Distinguished Service Award recipient (the Association’s highest honor) and NCRA’s Educator of the Year, and — of course — the keynote. This year our keynote is big — think Vegas, think positivity, think about the magic that is at your fingertips every day.
- Find out what’s happening in each of the states during the National Committee of State Associations meeting. State leaders use this time to exchange information about the latest legislative and other issues affecting court reporting and captioning professionals.
Steno Speed Dating
Here is your chance to have a face-to-face conversation with a court reporter or CART or broadcast captioner in a round of Steno Speed Dating. You’ll have 15 minutes with each representative to ask the questions you’ve always wondered about. Ever wondered how a speed champ writes like the wind? How does a reporter get a witness to stop interrupting? Do captioners really wear their pajamas to work? How on earth do you prep to provide CART for a Computer Science 225: Pseudorandomness class?
This will be the perfect time to find out what keeps these professionals motivated and passionate, and what it takes to compete at high-speed levels while still maintaining their daily jobs as a court reporter or CART or broadcast captioner .
Presenters: Dee Boenau, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC; Jo Ann Bryce, RMR, CRR; Linda Christensen, RMR, CRR, CRC; Rich Germosen, RMR, CRR; Cheryl Haab, RPR; Melanie Humphrey-Sonntag, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC; Stanley Sakai, CRC; Jennifer Schuck, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC; Joe Strickland, RPR, CRR, CRC; and Doug Zweizig. RDR, CRR
Business of Being a Reporter
School may have prepared you to take down testimony, but what does it really look like when you’re on that deposition or court case? How do you conduct yourself around attorneys, witnesses, or even the judge? What do you do when things get crazy, and you’re about to lose the record? What does it mean to mark an exhibit? What’s it look like when you’re hooked up for a realtime job? If you consider yourself a visual learner, then this is the session for you! Our professional reporters will demonstrate real-world scenarios in a mock setting to show you the ins and outs of what it’s like on an actual job — play-by-play commentary included!
Presenters: Michael Hensley, RPR; Charisse Kitt, RMR, CRI; Jessie Waack, RDR, CRR
How to Compete with Some of the Best
Join the Fabulous Fraziers and realtime champ Ron Cook to talk about how they prepare for the Speed and Realtime Contests and how this preparation can benefit your progress in school. Come get encouragement and learn some fun tips to help push you through your school journey.
Presenters: Ron Cook, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC; Chase Frazier, RMR, CRR, CRC; Clay Frazier, RMR, CRR; Tami Frazier, RMR, CRR
Online Skills Testing — See It for Yourself!
By now you’ve heard that NCRA skills tests have been moved online. But, what exactly does that mean and how does it affect you, if at all? No doubt, you have lots of questions, so let’s try to answer them. In this seminar, Marybeth Everhart will review the entire online testing process, from registration to completion — soup to nuts, you might say.
What equipment will you need? Where can you test? Who is ProctorU and how are they involved? For answers to these questions and more, you’ll want to attend this seminar!
Presenter: Marybeth Everhart, RPR, CRI
Read the speaker bios here.