NCRA MEMBER PROFILE: Shaun Young, RPR

Shaun Young, RPR

Shaun Young, RPR

Currently resides in: Jacksonville, Fla.

Employment type: Freelance reporter in criminal court

Member since: 2002

Graduated from: Stenotype Institute

Theory: Thyra Ellis

What are your favorite briefs?

Instead of making briefs for two-stroke words, I try to make briefs for longer words, especially since criminal court uses a lot of the same jargon. One of my favorite briefs that I use is BEX (beyond and to the exclusion of all reasonable doubt).

Why did you decide to enter this profession and how did you learn about the career?

After graduating from college, I wanted to pursue a career in computers, but it was hard finding a job with computers as a recent graduate, especially since I had no experience. One day I was talking with a friend who was a clerk at a courthouse. I told her I wished I could find a job where I could just type all day and make money doing it. That’s when she mentioned that I should take up court reporting, so that’s how I got started in the court reporting field.

What has been the best work experience so far in your career?

I enjoy my career for so many reasons. When people ask me how I like being a court reporter, I usually jokingly tell them I love it because I get paid to be nosy. But in all seriousness, the best part about being a court reporter for me is the friends that I have made along the way. There is nothing better than having a great work family and a job you enjoy going to every day.

What was your biggest hurdle to overcome and how did you do so?

When I was a new court reporter, I did mostly civil litigation, so sometimes transcripts, in my mind, seemed to be a little bit challenging for me, especially when I would get a 100- or 200-page transcript. I felt that was a lot for me, that is, until I did a week-long trial by myself with six attorneys on the case and expert witnesses, etc. When the transcripts were ordered from all of the proceedings, I had over a thousand pages to transcribe. Needless to say, ever since then, there’s been nothing too great for me to overcome transcript-wise.

What surprised you about your career and why?

The greatest surprise I’ve had in my career is meeting my husband through court reporting. I currently work in criminal court. Sometimes I would have to go to our first appearance courtroom. My husband worked as a uniformed bailiff in that courtroom, and that’s where our happily-ever-after story began.

Have you had challenges to overcome in your profession? If so, what was the challenge and how did you overcome it?

I’m sure most court reporters have probably felt this way as well, but reading back was my biggest fear. No matter how confident you feel when you’re writing on your machine, when they ask you to read back, panic kicks in — at least for me it did. Fortunately after court reporting for so many years, I’ve been able to overcome that fear by telling myself to stay focused and pretend that I’m reading out loud to myself. Now the fear doesn’t set in until after I’ve had to read back.

Is there something else you would like to share?

Court reporting is an awesome job for me, but sometimes it can get a little hectic. One thing I enjoy doing, when the weather is right, is driving around in my convertible with the top down. A nice long drive with the family is very relaxing for me and it allows me the opportunity to spend quality time with my family as well.

New professional spotlight: Jessie Frey

A young blond woman standing in front of the reflection pool with the Washington Monument in the backgroundBy Jennifer Porto

Jessie Frey has just celebrated her first year working as a freelance deposition reporter. She was a stellar student with infectious enthusiasm. Have you ever met someone who exudes positivity and makes you want to run the extra mile? That is Jessie. She was not immune to the struggles that every court reporting student faces, but she had the will to achieve. By surrounding herself with other mentors who matched her optimism and tenacity, she was able to stay on her path to her goals. Hard work has paid off, and she is living her dream.

What was life like as a student?

Time goes by fast when you’re having fun and loving the career that you worked so incredibly hard for. I just celebrated my one-year anniversary as a California CSR. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and I decided to begin my court reporting journey at South Coast College in Orange, California.

As a new student, my biggest stumbling block was learning how to prioritize getting out of school. Getting through court reporting school is a whole ‘nother ballgame versus getting my undergrad degree. I quickly learned that in order to get out of school, I needed to center my life around classes and practice, and I made sure my friends and family knew it. My mission was to get out of school and not get buried in student loans.

Speedbuilding was an exercise in realigning my attitude when I’d reach the inevitable plateaus. The roller coaster of passing a test and then getting bumped into a class where you immediately started to fail again was the strangest and most difficult mental battle I have ever endured. The idea of quitting or giving up was never an option. I had to constantly remind myself to keep pushing past the negative self-talk and the self-doubt. To burst through these plateaus, I made sure to transcribe every single test. I always analyzed my (sometimes many, many) mistakes to see what I was doing wrong, and eventually the amount of those errors would get smaller and smaller until I passed.

What did you do to remain positive and motivated?

One of the most valuable and important decisions I made as a student was to start getting to know working reporters in my state associations. I went to as many functions and networking events as I could. By taking advantage of student discounts, I was able to go to conventions, English seminars, student picnics, and even small networking happy hours that were hosted by some amazing court reporters.

One of the coolest things I experienced as a student was sitting in a seminar listening to reporters who worked at Guantanamo Bay. I left the seminar feeling exhilarated because of the possibilities and options that I would have. I didn’t have to limit myself to one path. That same day was a seminar presented by four CART captioners. It was the first time I truly grasped that side of reporting. I’ll never forget their stories about how grateful their students were to be able to follow along during class because of the captions these reporters were providing.

The beauty of doing these things as a student is that so many of these reporters are willing to help you. As a student, school feels like it is never going to end, but by surrounding myself with actual working reporters, I was able to visualize myself out in the real world too, and I knew there was light at the end of the court reporting school tunnel. By their association, I was able to keep the spark I needed to stay motivated.

It is all about staying positive. When I felt down about a test, I had people I could reach out to for words of encouragement or advice. As I passed more and more tests, these same reporters were just as excited about it as I was (maybe even more so). These are the same reporters that I now consider to be some of my closest friends. I can rely on them when I have questions that come up about depositions, procedures, or when I just need someone I can vent to about having to cancel plans to get out an expedite.

After you passed the CSR, what reporting path did you choose?

When I got my license, I decided to be a freelance deposition reporter. I find it thrilling to be in a new place, with new people and a new case every single day. No two days are alike. I never know what to expect.

As a freelance reporter, I am able to work for multiple agencies. I am completely free to pick up jobs when I want, take additional work, or enjoy a few days off when I feel overwhelmed or buried with pages — or simply want a long weekend. I love that I have that flexibility. I love not having a boss. I have complete freedom to pick and choose my own schedule, where and when I want to work and how much, but I do miss having the benefits that an official would have. There are no limits to what the reporting road may lead to. I’m happy as a freelancer for now, but I find comfort in the fact that I have a variety of career paths to choose from within court reporting.

What has been an obstacle for you as a new reporter?

As a new reporter, I have struggled with time management and balance. I want to take every job that is offered and work every day, but I have had to learn to gauge the amount of pages versus the time it will take to edit so I can meet my deadlines. It is all about figuring out the balance and what is within reason. I’m still learning how to juggle working, editing, and trying to find the time to practice shortening my writing.

One of the biggest things I had to overcome and learn that wasn’t taught in school was how to interrupt and ask questions in a depo setting. It took me quite a while to feel comfortable being assertive with attorneys. I “faked it ‘til I made it.” Now I have no issue interrupting when there are multiple people talking at once or asking an attorney to speak louder when he thinks I can hear his whispering objection as well as the ongoing testimony.

I’m so thankful I put in the hours of practicing and studying in school to be where I am today. The struggles and ups and downs of court reporting school were worth it, and I’m part of a wonderful profession where I learn something new every single day. My career has only just begun, but I know I have the skills and ability to become a great reporter. There are so many wonderful opportunities in this field that I can’t wait to take hold of.

Jennifer Porto is a freelance reporter in Long Beach, Calif., and a member of the NCRA New Professionals Committee. She can be reached at jenn0644@gmail.com

Reporting the Keystone pipeline public comment meetings

By Sheryl Teslow and Lori McGowan

At a long skirted table on an auditorium stage sit five people in professional attire; at a skirted table on the floor sit two court reporters; in front, with their backs to the camera, are a father and his two young sons, all three dressed in jeans, plaid shirts, boots, and ball caps

Lori McGowan, center left, and Sheryl Teslow, center right, write the public’s comments on the Keystone pipeline. Photo courtesy Omaha World-Herald.

In 2013, the U.S. State Department held a public comment hearing in Grand Island, Neb., as part of the presidential permit application. The pipeline is designed to carry tar-sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast for refinery and export. Because it crosses the border with Canada, the presidential permit is required.

Latimer Reporting was hired to report the day-long hearing. Lori and I took on the assignment ourselves. We knew it would go all day and into the night, so we knew we wanted two reporters. At first, we thought one would do the first half and the other would cover the second half. At the last minute, we decided to ride out together, so we were both there from the beginning. That turned out to be incredibly helpful. I took the first section of testimony. The first few witnesses were Native Americans who spoke in both Lakota and English, using many unfamiliar names of people and places. When the first speaker finished, Lori had the presence of mind to approach him before he sat back down and asked for the notes he was reading from. We continued that practice throughout the entire hearing. We were not always able to convince the speakers to turn over their notes, but most of them did cooperate. The hearing began at noon and ended at 11 p.m. The transcript was 494 pages.

The pipeline and its route are highly controversial and in 2015, President Barack Obama denied the permit. In 2017, President Donald Trump revived the project, and the responsibility for siting the pipeline through Nebraska now rests with the Nebraska Public Service Commission. They scheduled a public comment meeting to be held in York. Latimer Reporting, and Lori in particular, has a great deal of experience with the Public Service Commission, so they asked us to cover this hearing. The hearing began at 9 a.m. and ended at 7 p.m. The transcript was 406 pages.

Since Lori and I had the experience in 2013, we, of course, took on the assignment again and used the same process. One of us would write the proceedings and the other would track down speakers as they finished and request their notes, and then we would switch off.

As far as preparation, we really didn’t do that much to prepare for the first hearing in 2013. We were familiar with the issue and some of the interested groups. We did do a little bit of internet searching for some possible technical terms that might come up, but there wasn’t much we could do to prepare. There was no list of witnesses and no appearances of counsel. Most of the speakers were concerned citizens and landowners, so there wasn’t a great deal of technical testimony.

The same things were true in 2017. We arrived at the venue two hours ahead of the scheduled start time and made sure that the sound system was in good working order and that we were directly in front of the speaker podiums. We had our job dictionaries from the first hearing and were now more familiar with the names of people and places and technical terms that were likely to come up.

The 2013 transcript was used by the State Department. We were told it would eventually end up on President Obama’s desk and was part of the official record used to deny the pipeline permit. The 2017 transcript will become part of the official record of the Nebraska Public Service Commission in their decision on siting.

Public comment hearings do present some interesting challenges. Speakers are given five minutes to present their testimony. Very few of them are used to public speaking. They are speaking to a very large crowd and in front of many television news cameras, so they are nervous and tend to read from their notes very quickly. The large crowd behind them at times reacts loudly, sometimes in support and sometimes in opposition to what they are saying, sometimes to the point of drowning the speaker out. There are speakers who cry and speakers who are angry and speakers who yell, so it can be a challenge sometimes to hear them. Again, most people were cooperative in turning their notes over to us when we explained it would help us prepare the transcript. When they were reluctant, we offered to give them an envelope and promised to return the original to them. Some speakers would let us take a photo with a phone.

Each speaker was required to register and received a number. They filled out a sheet with their name, place of residence, speaker number, and whether they were speaking in support or in opposition. Speakers were called up to the microphone in order. They had five minutes to speak. They were instructed to leave those sheets with us at the end of their time. So when we retrieved the notes they had read from, it was easy to keep the notes with the sign-in sheet and the speaker number.

Quite honestly, at the end of the hearing in 2013, Lori and I looked at each other and said, “Never again.” The experience was stressful and draining and a bit out of our comfort zone. But as is usually true, an experience that challenges you is rewarding in the end, and it was interesting and fun to be in the middle of history. So naturally, when our client asked us to do it again, we took a deep breath and said yes.

Sheryl Teslow, RDR, CRR, and Lori McGowan, RDR, CRR, are both owners of Latimer Reporting in Lincoln, Neb.

Cosby trial puts court stenographer in spotlight

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyIn a June 15 post on his blog, Carl Hessler Jr., a journalist who covers the Montgomery County (Pa.) Courthouse, praised the professionalism of NCRA member Ginny Womelsdorf, RPR, who reported the Bill Cosby trial. Hessler highlighted the extensive readback that Womelsdorf was asked to do and included positive reactions to her hard work from Twitter.

Read more.

NCRA member recognized for new certification

JCR logoThe Observer-Reporter, Washington, Pa., posted a press release on June 17 announcing that NCRA member Amanda Lundberg, RPR, CRC, recently has earned the nationally recognized Certified Realtime Captioner certification. The press release was issued by NCRA on behalf of Lundberg.

Read more.

Former NCRA member Alan Roberts passes away

JCR logoThe Sun-Sentinel reported on June 17 that retired NCRA member Alan Roberts, FAPR, RPR, passed away in Boca Raton, Fla. Roberts was a past president of the New Jersey Court Reporters Association and a former school owner.

Read more.

Former NCRA member Michael David Clepper passes away

JCR logoThe Houston Chronicle reported on June 14 that former NCRA member Mike Clepper of Houston, Texas, passed away on June 2, after a brief battle with cancer. He was a founding member and director of the Texas Deposition Reporters Association and served as president of the Houston Court Reporters Association.

Read more.

NCRA member in the news

JCR logoThe Fresno Bee (Calif.) posted an announcement on June 4 about NCRA member Lesia Mervin, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CRC, earning the Certified Realtime Captioner certification. The announcement was prompted by a press release issued by NCRA on Mervin’s behalf.

Read more.

NCRA members shares their role in judicial system with homeschool students

JCR logoNCRA members Cyndi Larimer and Mindie Baab recently explained their jobs as official court reporters as part of a mock trial that a handful of National Home School students participated in. The mock trial was included in an article posted by the Claremore Daily Progress, Claremore, Okla., on March 31.

Read more.

New professional spotlight: Shelley Duhon

By Danielle Griffin

Megan photoShelley Duhon, an official court reporter, was always interested in court reporting ever since she saw court reporters writing on their machines on TV and in movies such as Ghostbusters II. When she completed high school, she decided she wanted to pursue court reporting school. The only problem: There weren’t any schools available in her area. Without knowing a single working court reporter, she started and completed all of her schooling online! Shelley believes the discipline learned through playing flute and piano from when she was young all the way through high school was key to giving her the tools she needed to practice for many hours and to reach the goal of finishing court reporting school. She is so proud to be a newly working court reporter and loves being in this profession.

Where did you go to school?

I am so proud to say I graduated from College of Court Reporting online in 2015. I started and completed all of my schooling online! I started at the Court Reporting Institute of Dallas and finished at the College of Court Reporting.

Where are you from, and where do you work?

I am from Louisiana, but I have lived in Atlanta for the last seven years. I currently live in McDonough, Ga., and commute an hour each way to work.

I work at Macon-Bibb County Superior Court in Macon. I started working there in September of 2016. I am currently the only stenographer! I feel like this gives me an extra advantage to be able to produce rough drafts or daily copies. Because there is a shortage of court reporters in my area, I have also had the opportunity to travel to the local circuit courts with my judge and love getting the experience traveling.

What’s the coolest experience you have had working in the profession?

Currently, there are a lot of production companies that come out to Atlanta to shoot their films. While I was in school, I had the opportunity to work on the TV sets of:

  • A courtroom scene on the television series "Red Band Society" -- Shelley Duhon is the court reporter behind the bench.

    Shelley Duhon, to the left of the flag, in “Red Band Society

    Drop Dead Diva on Lifetime

  • Rectify on Sundance
  • Satisfaction on USA
  • Game of Silence on NBC
  • Red Band Society on ABC
  • The Jury on ABC
  • Tyler Perry’s The Haves and Have Nots on OWN Network

This all came about from a casting call that went out on the local news station. I sent in my information, and I got a call to work on the set of Drop Dead Diva! I was so excited to be there, and I ended up meeting and becoming acquaintances with the producers on the TV show. Since that time, they must have put me on their list because they have continuously called me ever since. It has been an experience I won’t ever soon forget.

What is something you wish you would have known before you started working as a new professional?

One thing I wish I knew is that it is okay to move my chair and sit closer to the jury during voir dire. Make sure you sit where you can hear. Get a digital recorder. It is nice to have a second or third backup just in case.

Never be afraid to interrupt and tell the judge to get a witness to speak up, especially when they are giving nods of the head.

Find out if there is a time limit on getting transcripts turned in, so you won’t have to rush last minute.

Get a mentor and work with them. Meet them for lunch on the weekends. Call and ask questions. There is never a stupid question.

Stay current with your national and state association policies. They are there to assist you.

What is your favorite part about working as a court reporter?

I feel most accomplished when I am writing clean. Some days, attorneys will request of me to get out a daily copy, and it makes me so thankful for the skill I have as a court reporter. This is truly why I went to school.

What are your next goals as a court reporter? What are you working towards next?

After I pass my last test of the RPR, I will be working on getting the CRR. I would like to provide realtime on a continuous basis in the future.

I am also trying to work on balance between my work and personal life. I knew coming into this industry that I wouldn’t have much of a life starting off, but now that I am settling in, I am trying to work on finding more balance. Meeting with other working reporters and mentors helps too. It is always so nice to be able to hear other perspectives.

I am planning on attending the NCRA Convention & Expo this year in Las Vegas and can’t wait to meet more reporters. I am so proud to be a working court reporter and a new professional!

Danielle Griffin, RPR, is a freelancer in Phoenix, Ariz., and a member of the New Professionals Committee. She can be reached at danielle.griffin@gmail.com.