2017 Court Reporting & Captioning Week: It’s been a very busy week

Members of state court reporting associations across the country have spent the week celebrating their profession by participating in career fairs, visiting court reporting schools, hosting Veterans History Project events, and being quoted by local media, in honor of the 2017 Court Reporting & Captioning Week.

State associations and schools around the country promote the profession

For members of the Kansas Court Reporters Association (KCRA), however the week proved to be exceptionally busy. KCRA members kicked off the week by meeting with the state’s governor and securing an official proclamation recognizing 2017 Court Reporting & Captioning Week. In addition, representatives from the association were also invited to visit with members of the state’s Supreme Court where they also secured another official proclamation and pictures with the justices.

Left to right: Cayley Rodrigue, Kelley Morrison, Judge Michael Joyce, Brenda Highberger, Cindy Isaacsen, Judge Thomas Sutherland

Left to right: Cayley Rodrigue, Kelley Morrison, Judge Michael Joyce, Brenda Highberger, Cindy Isaacsen, Judge Thomas Sutherland

KCRA members marched onward throughout the week with other stops. They visited with members of the State Judiciary Committee where reporters provided a realtime presentation that left the attendees mesmerized. They also visited with members of the Johnson Board of County Commissioners complete with breakfast and another realtime demonstration that led to yet another official proclamation recognizing the week.

KCRA members wrapped up their celebration with a special write-a-thon at Neosho County Community College to help raise funds to aid students in its court reporting program.

“It’s been a very busy week,” said Cindy Isaacsen RPR, an official court reporter from Olathe and president of KCRA.

Kelley Morrison provides a demonstration

Kelley Morrison provides a demonstration

“I think I’ve said Court Reporting & Captioning Week about 1.75 million times. This week was just another way to spread the word about court reporting and captioning. It’s not just the young people we have to educate about what we do,” Isaacsen added. “My judge always says that I think court reporting is the best job out there … he’s right.”

2017 Court Reporting & Captioning Week also earned national recognition from U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (Wis.) in a floor speech before the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 14, and by state governors in Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin as well as by officials in Bexar County, Texas.

Presentation at Bryan University

Presentation at Bryan University

Other activities included visits with students at GateWay Community College in Phoenix and Bryan University in Tempe, both in Arizona. A number of members who visited with students were in the area attending the 2017 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference being held in Tucson. Students at both sites were able to ask the professionals questions and for advice. The panel discussion at Bryan University was open to both on-site and online students.

Members of the Missouri Court Reporters Association visited with state legislators in Jefferson City when they held their annual cookie drop. “We are always warmly received and welcomed, and this time was no different,” said Linda M. Dattilo, RPR, an official court reporter from Florissant, Mo., and the association’s executive director.

Students at GateWay Community College

Students at GateWay Community College

“They know when we’re coming, and we’ve had senators call our lobbyists and ask where the cookies are because they are waiting for them. At the end of the day, we’re always exhausted by all the running around, but satisfied, and hopefully they are too,” she added.

Members of the Wisconsin Court Reporters Association also promoted the court reporting and captioning professions at an open house held by North Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay.

Finding the spotlight: Court Reporting & Captioning Week in the news

As with all previous Court Reporting & Captioning Week celebrations, the efforts of NCRA members at the state and local levels were also successful in getting the word about the profession and its benefits as a career to media outlets in their areas. Among those:

NCRF Hard-of-Hearing Heroes oral histories project spotlighted

The Andrews Gazette (Easton, Md.) posted an article about the Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Veterans History Project event that NCRF and the Hearing Loss Association of America will host on Feb. 18 in Bethesda, Md., as part of NCRA’s 2017 Court Reporting & Captioning Week.

DMACC hosting activities for National Court Reporting & Captioning Week

The Newton Daily News posted an article on Feb. 9 announcing that the Des Moines Area Community College, Des Moines, Iowa, is hosting several events to mark 2017 Court Reporting & Captioning Week. Among the activities will be two information sessions where prospective students can learn about the court reporting and captioning professions.

Illinois governor recognizes 2017 Court Reporting & Captioning Week

In an article posted Feb. 13, the RegisterNews.com, Mt. Vernon, Ill., announced that Gov. Bruce Rauner has designated Feb. 11-18 as National Court Reporting & Captioning Week. The article also noted that several court reporters from the 2nd Judicial Circuit will promote the profession at an upcoming local career fair.

Planet Depos announces success of court reporter mentoring program

In a press release issued Feb. 13, Planet Depos reported that its Planet Institute, a student-to-career mentoring program, has had a successful first year.

Oklahoma court reporting firm launches education and advocacy effort

In a press release issued Feb. 10, NCRA member Ginger Baze, owner of Steno Services in Hugo, Okla., announced that her firm is launching an outreach and education campaign for National Court Reporting & Captioning Week.

Court reporting schools to exhibit at career day event in Texas

The Gilmer [Texas] Mirror posted an article on Feb. 13 about the Texas Supreme Court holding a formal court session to hear oral arguments in two cases at LeTourneau University in Longview, in conjunction with “Law as a Career Day” being held on campus. Numerous law schools, paralegal schools, and court reporting schools will have recruiting booths on-site.

Celebrating the silent keepers of the record

Star Levandowski, director of marketing at Stenograph, posted a blog on Feb. 3 highlighting the top three reasons to admire the stenography profession in honor of Court Reporting & Captioning Week.

But wait … there’s more

Read more about how national and state associations, schools, and vendors have celebrated Court Reporting & Captioning Week. You can also follow along on Facebook and Twitter.

Providing access in a crisis: Captioning with FEMA

By Deanna Baker

Sheri Smargon, RDR, CRR, CRC, has shared her experiences on social media working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and I thought everyone would enjoy hearing more about these adventures.

Sheri, tell us a little about your background as a CART captioner, I know it’s extensive.

I started captioning directly out of court reporting school in 1992, working for our local county commission. We were the first county in the nation to caption its government meetings, and it was in an open caption format, which means that anyone turning to the channel could see the captions, whether they wanted to or not. In the early days, it probably was more of a “not” situation. The people in charge figured if you could write “on that machine,” you must be able to caption. Boy, we proved them wrong!

After two years, I moved from Florida to Pittsburgh, Penn., and went to work at VITAC, the country’s largest captioning provider. I loved the job, but hated the weather. I’m from Massachusetts originally and thought I missed snow and seasons. Not so much! So after two years, I moved back to Florida and started freelance work for the local court reporting firm who had the contract with the county courthouse for court reporters.

During that time, even though we had a seniority system, I was the only one with any realtime or captioning experience, so I was given the opportunity to realtime a vice presidential debate with Al Gore and Jack Kemp. I was realtiming, and a transcript of my work was being printed every 15 minutes for the hundreds of national and international media that were in attendance. It was quite the experience.

I only did court reporting for a short time because then I got a job with Caption Colorado, captioning from home. I worked there for seven-and-a-half years. During my time with Caption Colorado, I captioned a lot of news, baseball games, and the Olympics a few times.

Then the opportunity to caption in Sydney, Australia, popped up. So I moved to Sydney to work for the Australian Caption Centre. While there, I captioned everything from news and reality TV to sports, like cricket and rugby. It was quite a learning curve because I had to adjust my dictionary to true English spellings (colour, favour, etc.) I worked there for six months and moved back to Florida, picking up with a few captioning companies and a court reporting firm.

I went to an NCRA Convention & Expo in New York City and ran into my old boss and former NCRA President Kathy DiLorenzo. She told me VITAC was hiring, so I should apply again. I did apply because now they were allowing people to work from home, versus having to move to Pittsburgh. I was hired on by VITAC in 2007.

While there, I captioned everything from CNN to the Stanley Cup Finals to the Olympics. I also captioned a couple of musicals on NBC: “The Sound of Music” and “Peter Pan.” Never having seen either the movie or the stage production of either tale, there was a bit of a learning curve for sure!

I left VITAC in January of 2016 to strike out on my own as an independent contractor, trying to find different CART and captioning experiences. My final job with VITAC was captioning the Golden Globe Awards. So I think I went out on a high point.

(August 18, 2007 Denver, Colorado)  FEMA's Denver based MERS leave for Texas to support operations ahead of hurricane Dean. Photo: Michael Rieger/FEMA

(August 18, 2007, Denver, Colo.) FEMA’s Denver-based MERS leave for Texas to support operations ahead of hurricane Dean.
Photo: Michael Rieger/FEMA

How is it you started working with FEMA as an independent contractor? What was the hiring process like?

I am the administrator of a group on Facebook called The Captioning Klatch. I started it a few years ago, just as a place to come and talk about all things captioning and CART related. One of our members posted that FEMA was hiring for CART writers, so I looked at the job description and decided to apply.

The hiring process involved a lot of paperwork … reams, it seemed like at times. Eventually, I was given an interview, but no one told me it would be a Skype interview. So I was in my pajamas, with no makeup on, because I was in the middle of my captioning day. I kept my webcam aimed pretty high that day for sure!

I was asked a lot of questions by interviewers, both hearing and Deaf, and then I was given a practical examination, where the interviewers could see me caption. The clip they played for me was a press conference from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Luckily, I had captioned the news from Louisiana during that time, so I had all of those cities and parishes in my dictionary.

A short while after the interview, I was offered the job, contingent on a thorough background check and security clearance. While I have nothing to worry about, having the FBI contact friends and family is kind of freaky!

You were deployed to an assignment in North Carolina. What was an average day, the good and the bad, and how you were helping in this emergency situation? How much notice did you have beforehand?

When there’s a disaster and the Joint Field Office (JFO) is opened, that becomes the hub in the state for FEMA employees to go and work. They go out in the field to different locations, called Regional Field Offices (RFOs) but in general, the main administration and IT, etc., are located at the JFO. They work a minimum 12 hours a day, seven days a week, in the first couple of months, just because of the sheer number of things that have to be accomplished to help the disaster survivors.

When I arrived at the JFO, the disaster was so new that in the first few weeks of the aftermath, staff was in a temporary location while they looked for a permanent location. FEMA remains on-site, with a state presence, for quite some time. There is still FEMA staff in Louisiana working on Katrina, if that gives you a timeline. So I was with everyone else in the temporary offices, basically, just finding a spot to sit where I could.

My first day at the temporary JFO, I was issued a FEMA computer, signed paperwork, got login information. All of the usual boring, but necessary, aspects of being on a temporary assignment with the government. I then had to be issued a projector and a portable screen for me to take to any realtime jobs that may be scheduled. When all was said and done, between my personal equipment, a FEMA computer, a projector, and a screen, I had more than 100 pounds of equipment to carry with me.

There are no average days when it comes to a disaster. The slogan is “If you’ve been to one disaster, you’ve been to one disaster.” Every day is different. I would go into the office at 7 in the morning, and see what the schedule was like for the day. If a disaster site wanted or needed sign language interpreters, they would put in a request and that was added to the interpreters’ schedule. And almost always, the meeting was at 5 or 6 at night with a couple hours’ drive to get to the location. Because I was the one and only realtime reporter, I was assigned to larger events, so that we could reach more people. Sometimes, it was a gymnasium with 200 people; sometimes, it was a city council chamber with 30 people. Every day was something different.

There were also days where we had no assignments to cover, but I would still go into work at 7. I would work on my dictionary, go through a recently written file to add acronyms or anything I may have gotten wrong. Eventually, on days where I didn’t have a meeting, I decided to hook up my projector and aim it toward the wall and practice to whatever I could find on the Internet.

I believe you were gone for two weeks. How were you able to manage your own clients and regular work at home?

Because I work with a great court reporting firm, they were able to take me off the books the week before I deployed. I was initially supposed to deploy to a staging area in Atlanta, Ga., because of the fact there was no office set up in North Carolina yet. So I was already off the books for my court reporting firm and wasn’t accepting or bidding on any CART or captioning work. I ended up not going to Atlanta and just having my deployment delayed a week, which was great for me because I had a court reporting training class in Washington, D.C., that I had scheduled months previous to my deployment. Gratefully, scheduling worked out for me.

Were you using your own equipment? What was your setup? Were you working with any other CART captioners?

I was mostly using my own equipment, yes. So I brought my Luminex, cables, cords, extensions, laptop, and cool table with me. FEMA provided the projector and the screen. I wrote a proposal for FEMA to buy everything they needed for the CART project, but as of this time, it’s still bogged down in purchasing … or somewhere governmental.

FEMA wants to hire 37 more CART captioners over the next three years. So far, they have hired myself and one other reporter in Ohio, Molly Adams. We both deployed once with the caveat we will use our equipment one time, and then FEMA would have to purchase what we needed. Our concern was if our personal equipment breaks while in the field, we can’t work while deployed and we can’t work when we get home. It’s not like you can go buy most of our gear at Best Buy. So, Molly and I continue to wait.

Are there any unique skill sets that are needed for this type of work?

You have to be okay with not being home for an extended period of time. I did 30 days, and that was a lot. Most people do 60- to 90-day deployments and can rotate home for two weeks at a time.

You have to be okay with being in a strange place and not having your creature comforts of home, potentially. I was in a rural area, and I’ve never traveled behind so many tractors! You’re staying in a hotel, most likely. And while the hotel I was in was nice, there was no oven. It had a stovetop and a fridge and microwave, but no oven. What I wanted most was a roast. I learned tips and tricks on how to find rooms with full kitchens, so next time I get deployed, I am hopeful a roast will be in the offing.

Would you recommend this type of work to other CART captioners?

I would totally recommend this to CART captioners. While there were never any people who were Deaf or hard of hearing at any of the meetings I went to, I was thanked quite a bit by people in attendance, who either were taking notes and missed what was said or just thought it was nice to have access. Most didn’t even realize how the “words were getting up there” on to my screen. They didn’t realize it was a real person. So the education aspect was especially nice.

Is this a long-term assignment?

We have a two-year contract, which may or may not be renewed when that time comes. Hopefully, I will be able to report a positive update in the next few months regarding our equipment. Obviously, if you get deployed, it means someone, somewhere, is having the worst day of their life. You wouldn’t want that, but you also want to be there to be helpful, if you can.

I wouldn’t want this to be my full-time job due to the traveling and being away from home, but branching out and helping people, actually one on one, is quite a rewarding experience.


Deanna Baker, RMR, is a broadcast captioner in Flagstaff, Ariz. She can be reached at dpbaker@mindspring.com.

Hear from a veteran captioner why earning your CRC is important

The JCR Weekly reached out to NCRA member Carol Studenmund, RDR, CRR, CRC, Chair of NCRA’s Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC) Committee, a broadcast captioner from Portland, Ore., to talk about why captioners should consider earning the CRC.

Tell us a little about your background. How did you get involved in the captioning profession?

Our company, LNS Court Reporting is celebrating its 30th anniversary this month! We expanded into the captioning world back in 1992. It was a natural progression for our business. My first big gig was helping to caption a regional conference of Self-Help for Hard-of-Hearing People here in Portland, where I met NCRA member Deanna Baker, RMR, a broadcast captioner from Flagstaff, Ariz.

Who would you say would benefit most by earning the CRC in this profession?

Our company is seeing more and more contract opportunities that specifically ask for proof of our captioners having the CRC. We only schedule captioners with the CRC for court work we caption in our state. We work both on-site and remotely for our court system. All of that adds up to the fact that we need more captioners who have the CRC.

Do you see an increase in the demand for certified captioners in the near future and if so, why?

More and more contract opportunities will have this requirement. Our potential clients know there is a wide variety in caption quality. They can’t afford to spend their tight public money on services that are not provided by a qualified captioner.

How has earning the CRC helped you professionally?

I earned my CRR back in 1993. I took the Written Knowledge Tests for the Certified Broadcast Captioner and Certified CART Provider in 2009. [Members who held the CBC and/or CCP before Jan. 1, 2016, were automatically transitioned to holding the CRC.] Certifications always give the person who earns them confidence in his or her skills. I haven’t looked for a job in 30 years, but I have hired many people in that time. And when I see a certification, I know a good deal about the captioner’s capabilities right off the bat. And maintaining my certifications has led to me knowing captioners and court reporters across the country, and exposed me to the latest trends and technology for our professions.

What do you advise someone considering earning the CRC to encourage them to do so?

Get busy! This certification has three legs: the Written Knowledge Test, the Skills Test, and a Workshop. They’re all essential to the certification program. Our captioning profession has grown for more than three decades. And during that time, we’ve gone from a community of pioneers, who truly did make it up as they went, to a profession that is depended upon by millions of people all over our country. Our consumers want a way to know they are working with a qualified service provider.

Are you eligible for the CRC exception? Learn more here.

Are you eligible for the CRC exception?

Candidates who passed the Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR) test prior to November 2011 are eligible to earn the Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC) upon successful completion of the CRC Workshop and Written Knowledge Test. These candidates are not required to take the Skills Test to earn the CRC under a recent exception approved by NCRA’s Council of the Academy of Professional Reporters (CAPR) that recognizes the Skills Test requirement of the CRR certification as equivalent.

Note: The exception to use the CRR Skills Test history towards earning the CRC expires Dec. 31. Any CRC candidate who has not fully earned the certification by that date will be required to pass the CRC Skills Test, regardless of prior testing history.

CAPR’s recent action to exclude the Skills Test requirement for the CRC for candidates who earned the CRR prior to November 2011 was based on the findings that prior to November 2011, the Certified Broadcast Captioner (CBC), the Certified Captioning Provider (CCP), and the CRR Skills Tests were the same: five minutes of literary matter at 180 wpm.

Anyone who passed the CRR during or after November 2011 will need to take the CRC Skills Test, the CRC Workshop, and pass the Written Knowledge Test to become certified.

The requirements to earn the CRC are the successful completion of:

  • CRC Workshop — either in person in August at the NCRA Convention & Expo or online through NCRA’s e-seminar catalogue
  • CRC Written Knowledge Test — offered in April, with registration open March 1-31, on-site in August at the NCRA Convention & Expo, or in October with registration open Sept. 1-30
  • CRC Skills Test — unless using the CRR exception by Dec. 31

Candidates wishing to use the exception for the CRC Skills Test must successfully complete the CRC Workshop and the CRC Written Knowledge Test. Candidates must then notify testing@ncra.org upon successful completion of the Workshop and Written Knowledge Test in order to reflect their CRC status. Only current members in good standing can hold the CRC status.

Hear from a veteran captioner why earning your CRC is important.

For more information, contact testing@ncra.org.

Dictionary Jumpstart launches new website

jcr-publications_high-resDictionary Jumpstart, a dictionary-building software company for court reporters and broadcast captioners, announced in a press release issued Jan. 16 that the firm has launched LearnToCaption.com, a new website that offers training, software, and resources to court reporters seeking to make the jump to captioning.

Read more.

SVG venue initiative white paper adds section on in-venue closed captioning

jcr-publications_high-resThe Sports Venue Group announced on Jan. 12 the release of its latest section of a white paper that summarizes closed captioning regulations, reviews technical and operational requirements, and offers examples of quality in-venue captioning from several professional and collegiate teams.

Read more.

County and state agencies launch program that helps deaf and hard of hearing

jcr-publications_high-resThe Foothills Focus reported on Jan. 11 that Maricopa County, Ariz., Emergency Management has teamed up with state agencies to launch a pilot three-day program that includes training for American Sign Language interpreters and Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) captioners.

Read more.

On-air Collier County, Fla., Commission meetings now captioned

jcr-publications_high-resThe Naples Daily News, Naples, Fla., posted an article on Jan. 18 that announced closed captioning of Collier County Commission meetings that are aired on local television. “I was amazed at how much [the captioners] put into this. I’ve been very impressed with how much they pick up,” said Troy Miller, manager of television operations for the county.

Read more.

The sweet path to the top of the captioner cake

Captioner cakeBy Anissa R. Nierenberger

Broadcast and CART captioners comprise only 4.3 percent of NCRA’s membership. That’s a pretty tiny sliver! So why should you consider crossing over into these realtime career options? Because the growth rate for these careers will outpace the growth for court reporters past 2018. Benefits of these jobs include getting to live wherever you’d like because these jobs can be done remotely as long as you have access to reliable Internet. Transcript pages will no longer hang over your head like a dreadful gray cloud. A consistent work schedule that you’ll know up to a month ahead of time will reduce the stress of last-minute changes. And commute time?

Let’s see, how long does it take you to walk into your home office? Most important of all, many court reporters who have walked away from the courtroom or a deposition find that the change to captioning makes them feel that they have contributed to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. The rewards of opening doors to a world that wouldn’t exist without translation is incomprehensible until you get to experience it yourself.

The question is: How does one get from point A to point B? It’s like following a recipe — we follow the steps in the proper order. We use the right ingredients. Let’s get cookin’!
1. Edit for your dictionary
2. Create a solid realtime foundation
3. Enter prefixes, suffixes, word pieces
4. Build up the dictionary
5. Learn broadcast and CART captioning styles

Editing for your dictionary is a trick I was taught almost 25 years ago by captioner Janet Cassidy Burr, RDR, CRR, CRC, CPE. She would look over my shoulder as I edited my television practice files. When I would select a three-syllable word to define, she’d say, “Ah, ah, ah, no! Define every stroke first by itself.” I will admit that it took me weeks to catch on to this, but I’m forever thankful for her strictness. As an example, if I wrote <PHABG>/<TKAEUPL>/<KWRA>, instead of defining this as macadamia, I would define mac, then dame, then ya, just as words. Then I can define it all together as macadamia. Just editing in this way will improve your realtime. Try defining every single untranslate all by itself. In as little as two weeks, you’ll see what I mean.

A strong realtime theory is the foundation of a successful CART or broadcast captioner. If you’ve been struggling on your own to clean up realtime, you are not alone. How can you teach yourself something that you do not know? How does a figure skater become an Olympian? Certainly not on his or her own; very often, that person has a coach. Creating a strong foundation involves resolving word boundary issues and updating dictionary entries to reflect these changes. Do we have conflicts? Let’s create consistency, tackle them, and resolve them.

How are we going to commit these changes to memory? We’ll use FPP55 — focused phone practice, five things for five minutes. On Monday, choose five briefs you want to learn or five words that require a theory change, and dictate them into your phone. Create silly sentences using your five words. No one will hear them but you. Practice for five minutes one to three times per day and voilà; by Friday, they’ll be resolved. I was given six months to completely transform my theory into realtime. Focused practice is how I did it. It works. Once we’ve strengthened our realtime skills, we move on to the next layer in our captioning cake.

Entering prefixes, suffixes, and word pieces will help you to write the entire cake. Court reporters write part of the cake, but realtime captioners write the entire cake — every delicious piece. We need the ability to create words on the fly, and these three elements allow us to accomplish this task. There are approximately 450 prefixes and suffixes that you can enter into your dictionary. If a word piece is not a prefix or a suffix, we simply define it as a word. Yes, it is okay to do this. Examples of word pieces are pire, nom, journ, gam, drome, and dem.

Dictionary building is getting us closer to the top of our captioner cake. Every word you have ever learned in your entire life should be able to translate in your CAT software — and then some. We know the words baklava, ambrosia, gingerbread, true, brittle, and grasshopper, but are they in our stenographic dictionaries? Not only do we need to enter these words into our dictionaries, but it’s a good idea to enter words to prepare for every possibility of how we may write them. Enter slop shots, brief forms, splitting syllables differently, etc. Cover your bases.

In the January 1998 issue of the Journal of Court Reporting, Patty White and Kevin Daniel, RDR, CRR, CRC, supplied a list of vocabulary needed for “Developing your stenocaptioning skills.” This article is what helped inspire me to truly round out my dictionary. I took this very seriously and started copious amounts of research so that my dictionary and I could do the best job we could. A captioner with a well-developed dictionary is a confi dent captioner. Notice I did not say “cocky” captioner. There’s always room for improvement, and prep is never history for anyone until we put the writer away once and for all.

CART and captioning style is very different from court reporting. First, while we are not required to write verbatim, we try our best. We have a license to edit when and where necessary for speed and content. Second, captioning is most always displayed in all capitals, and ending punctuation starts a new line. Broadcast captioning descriptors use brackets, and CART descriptors use parentheses. We learn the style and we practice — a lot. We’re writing very different vocabulary than we’re used to, so repetition is key. To start introducing new vocabulary into your writing, log on to ted.com and choose a TED Talk. Hint: Write from the verbatim transcript first to enter the vocabulary into your dictionary, then write the live talk. Speed comes first, then accuracy, then we’ll get down to the nitty-gritty total accuracy ratio, which needs to be at least 98.5 percent to be broadcast ready. Captioning is needed for all sports, local and national newscasts, financial calls, legislature sessions, talk shows, religious programming, educational and business CART, to name a few. The list goes on and on.

If you follow the steps and are diligent in your efforts, the cake will be delicious. The icing on the top is you can live wherever you would like, ditch the transcripts, have a consistent schedule, and forego the work commute. Best of all, at the end of the day, you’ll have a warm, gooey feeling that you indeed
helped someone. After all, you’re an A+ captioner. Oh, how sweet it is.

Anissa R. Nierenberger, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI, is a 24-year captioner and is the creator of Dictionary Jumpstart, a realtime dictionary-building software. She has published Simple Syllables and A Jump Back in Time. Anissa is an instructor for EduCAPTION and provides online one-on-one realtime training, CART training, and Caption Masters broadcast captioning training. She can be reached at Anissa@LearnToCaption.com or through her website LearnToCaption.com.

Developing your stenocaptioning skills

Vocabulary is critical to your success as a stenocaptioner. You must have a well-developed court reporting dictionary, containing all of the specialty terminology for whatever you will be captioning, plus general terms that might come up. Here is a list, offered by Patty White of Caption Colorado and Kevin Daniel of Bay Area Captioning, of some (yes, I said “some”) of what should be in an American news captioner’s dictionary:

  • Presidents (past, present, and potential)
  • First Ladies
  • Cabinet members
  • Senate
  • House of Representatives
  • National figures (government, religious, entertainment, criminal, etc.)
  • All the countries in the world and their capitals
  • All major U.S. cities and some of the smaller ones
  • Geographical information such as mountain ranges, mountain peaks, oceans, rivers, lakes, local creeks
  • Meteorological terms, weather terms
  • World leaders, including United Nations leaders
  • World history terminology, as in Tet Offensive, Bolsheviks, Chairman Mao, etc.
  • Major wars, domestic and international
  • Terms related to world organizations like NATO, OPEC, etc.
  • Nationalities and languages for foreign nations
  • Supreme Court Justices and important Supreme Court decisiosn
  • Military leaders; Joint Chiefs of Staff; military bases, weapons of war, like A-10 tank killers, F-15s, Tomahawk missiles, Scuds, etc.
  • National parks
  • Colleges, universities, and their team names
  • Local stuff for the area you plan to caption in: landmarks, hospital, junior colleges, prominent people, etc.
  • All the professional sports teams, their nicknames, players, and coaches
  • Sports terminology, awards and organizations, both amateur and professional
  • Makes and models of automobiles
  • Major businesses, brand names, trading organizations, stock terms
  • Currencies and major banks around the world
  • All the colors, and their shades and hues
  • Dog and cat breeds
  • Food and their measurements and the spices that go with them
  • Holidays: Christian, Jewish, and all other faiths
  • Special events, like Kwanzaa, Cinco de Mayo, etc.
  • Religious structures, like mosques, temples, etc.
  • Books of the Bible and of religions around the world
  • Basic chemicals
  • Drug names and manufacturers, both legal and illegal
  • Common first and last names
  • World literature, philosophy, and religious terms, like Aesop, orthodox, Buddhism, Eucharist, the brothers Grimm, etc.
  • Political terms, like glasnost, apartheid, anarchy, propaganda, caucus, espatriate, Kremlin, Parliament, etc.
  • Computer terms
  • Commonly used foreign words and phrases, such as adieu, aloha, de rigeur, fait accompli, modus operandi, etc.

This list was originally published in the January 1998 Journal of Court Reporting.