President’s address to the membership at 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo

Willette_HighResThe following is the speech given by 2017-2018 NCRA President Christine J. Willette, RDR, CRR, CRC, at the 2017 Convention & Expo in Las Vegas, Nev.

Because some of my fellow board colleagues and I visited the Mob Museum earlier this week and since we are in Las Vegas, I have a strange question for you before we begin:

Show of hands, how many of you have heard of Jimmy Hoffa?

Jimmy Hoffa was the head of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, one of the largest labor unions in the United States. He did some time in prison for tampering with a jury, and he didn’t attempt to hide his ties to the Mafia and organized crime. Even as shady characters go, Jimmy Hoffa was pretty shady.

In July of 1975, Jimmy Hoffa mysteriously disappeared. His body has never been found. In the 42 years since his disappearance, there have been many theories about where Jimmy Hoffa’s body is buried: Perhaps the end zone of a sports stadium in New Jersey, underneath a tattoo parlor in Tokyo, a cement barn floor in Michigan, or in the Florida Everglades.

I can’t tell you where Jimmy Hoffa is buried. But I can definitively tell you where he is not buried.

You see, I grew up on a beautiful lake in northern Wisconsin. I lived on a resort: Whispering Pine Lodge, which four generations of my family owned and operated. It’s where people came to relax and unwind. Boating, fishing, tennis, snowmobiling … you get the picture. St. Germain, Wis., a town I can nearly guarantee no one in this room, outside of my family and Wisconsin colleagues, has ever heard of. It’s a small town. 1,500 people during the serenity of winter swelling to 15,000 in the summer. I no longer live in St. Germain, but it will always be home for me.

While none of you have heard of St. Germain, you know who has?

The investigative crime unit of The New York Times! That’s who!

Let me take you back to what promised to be like any other peaceful, cold Wisconsin winter night in 1976. My mom had taken me to ice-skating practice. Upon our return home, we were greeted in our kitchen by several men in dark suits questioning my dad and grandpa.

Take one guess what they were looking for!

You got it. Someone had fed The New York Times a tip that Jimmy Hoffa was hiding at a lodge in northern Wisconsin. Sorry, guys, wrong lodge. After several hours of persuading conversation, they moved on. And though it might be interesting to tell you that my interest in the legal field — and specifically, court reporting — was somehow related to my exposure to this strange encounter at the age of 11, that is not the case.

The truth is, however, that I did learn about court reporting at Whispering Pine Lodge. Whispering Pine Lodge was a resort much like the one where “Baby” meets Johnny Castle in the movie Dirty Dancing. If you haven’t heard of Jimmy Hoffa, you probably haven’t heard of Dirty Dancing, either.

There was a guest who returned to Whispering Pine Lodge each summer with her family. She would spend time proofreading while lounging on the beach. I remember asking her what she was doing. She shared her story and answered my many questions. I was immediately captivated. With encouragement from my mom and my favorite business teacher, Mr. Check, my court reporting journey began.

When I graduated from court reporting school in the spring of 1985, I was ready to take on the world. After 32 years in this profession, I am still amazed by our skill each time my fingers hover over my keys awaiting the first word. I have heard some people call it magic!

So, no, I didn’t learn anything about Jimmy Hoffa’s final resting place during my childhood at Whispering Pine Lodge. Instead, and even better, I learned about court reporting.

I’ll get back to that in a moment. What I’d like to do now is extend a sincere welcome to my colleagues, guests, and family.

I also want to thank and acknowledge our outgoing president, Tiva Wood.

Last year in Chicago, after her motivational speech, Tiva looked me in the eye, and said, “Well, only 52 weeks left!” The work that Tiva has done over the past year to support and advance our profession has been inspirational. Tiva, thank you for your dedication and leadership! You are an incredible mentor, colleague, and friend.

Last year, Tiva talked about how important it is for each of us to tell the story that lead us to court reporting and how fascinating our career can be. Tiva talked about how ridiculously hard court reporting is and that the challenges we face as a profession are, likewise, ridiculously hard.

While we have made progress, our challenges remain formidable. Our work as a profession and as an Association must rise to meet those challenges. Yes, we have challenges that were decades in the making, and we’re not going to fix those challenges overnight. However, if we are to achieve any level of success, we must meet those challenges together with hard work, service, and perseverance.

I also wish to congratulate and thank the new NCRA Board of Directors for their service and commitment to tackling these challenges. Our new opportunities for improvement will require hard work, service, and perseverance.

NCRA is an organization that relies heavily on the contributions of volunteers. An understood component of volunteerism is that you are giving your expertise and, of course, your time. Over the next year, I will invest my time and energy to do the best I can to make this profession and Association thrive. I proudly and gladly sacrifice this time and energy. But in so doing, I must first do something that for me will be ridiculously hard. There are some very special people in my life who are here today. They have been so understanding of the time I have sacrificed with them while I serve a profession I love.

These people are an indelible part of my story: my cousin Kari and her husband Geoff; my aunts, Kathy and Mary Kay, who have served as babysitters, role models, and friends; my parents, Rosalie and Gary, who exemplify the true meaning of love and dedication, who taught me what hard work, loyalty, integrity, and caring for others means. I’m so pleased that our children Shawn, a mechanical engineer, and Andrea, a CPA and financial analyst, are here this weekend. My husband, Mike, and I are incredibly proud of them.

And, certainly most important, and unfortunately sometimes last, Mike, my husband of 31 years. Mike, along with my dad, is one of the most patient and supportive people on earth. Whether I’m traveling, spending yet another night on a conference call or physically in Mike’s presence but with my attention glued to a computer on my lap, he takes it all in stride, respects my call to duty, and knows that this is a labor of love.

I love you all very much.

Now, let’s go back to Whispering Pine Lodge because it was at that resort where I was exposed to not only court reporting, but also hard work, service, and perseverance.

We lived in the main lodge at Whispering Pines. This required 24/7 availability to deliver the services our guests expected. It required that four generations work together as a team. I learned about being kind, thinking of others, and that anything worthwhile took time … that perseverance meant having the focus and patience to get there one step at a time.

I don’t have to tell you about perseverance. We all experienced it in court reporting school, making progress one step at a time. And our work as a profession and as an Association must be no different.

Early in my career, while I was getting established as a new professional, I was drawn to the concept of service to my profession, but I couldn’t immediately find a way to get involved.

Sometime in the ‘90s, I got an email from the Wisconsin Court Reporters Association president. She asked if I was interested in filling a vacated spot on the WCRA board. I thought, “Me? Really? What could I possibly offer?”

But here it was, my opportunity to serve. It was my time to give back to the profession that had given me so much. Did I have the spare time? Not really. I was busy working as a reporter, managing my firm, and raising two very active teenagers. Still, I felt the strong urge to step up and give back. I said yes!

At my first board meeting, I sat in awe of the talent in the room. I couldn’t believe the opportunity in front of me. Before I knew what hit me, I was asked to represent WCRA at NCRA’s Legislative Boot Camp in Washington, D.C. I thought, “Me? Really? What could I possibly offer?”

While there, I met state leaders from across the country, and my awe grew as I saw the lengths to which others would go to serve this profession. I was incredibly inspired by the passion of those who served at the national level. I shared their passion. I shared their pride for our profession.

I worked and persevered for the profession back home, doing what I could to advocate and serve Wisconsin court reporters. I was doing what I knew. You guessed it: hard work, service, and perseverance.

Then in 2010, the phone rang. No, it wasn’t The New York Times looking for Jimmy Hoffa. It was the NCRA President, who was asking me to fill a vacated position on the NCRA Board of Directors. And this time, I didn’t just think it, I said it out loud: “Me? Really? What could I possibly offer?” I humbly accepted.

In 2014, after four years of board service, I chose not to seek a leadership position on the NCRA Board. Mike and I were moving. We had two college graduates getting settled into their adult lives and scattering to different parts of the country. I wanted to spend more time with my family. And, of course, I had my firm; my reporters and my business needed my attention. I didn’t believe I had the time to serve at a higher level.

But a funny thing happened. That hard work … that perseverance … that commitment to serve my profession — I couldn’t just turn it off. I felt like I’d left something undone.

So, in early 2015, when I was a mere seven months into my NCRA Board “retirement,” and I was asked to run for NCRA Vice President, I didn’t hesitate. “Me? Really? Yes! I know I have something to offer.”

So, I stand here today, with equal parts pride and humility, as your NCRA President. “Me? Really? Yes.”

I have no magic wand like our keynote speaker Steve Wyrick. I have no innate ability to create change with a snap of my fingers. What I do have is you. And I’m asking you to join me on our journey. Engage. Volunteer. Take a stand for our profession.

We are all busy. You know who gets the most done? Busy people.

Our NCRA Board consists of 14 people. We have a staff of about 30. We have hundreds of volunteers serving on NCRA committees, serving at the state and local level, and volunteering at local outreach events. But the challenges in front of us demand that more people get involved. I ask each of you to summon something more to serve this profession during a time of intense need.

Are you thinking to yourself, “Me?” Yes, you. “Really?” Yes, really. “But what could I possibly offer?” That answer lies within yourself. Choose what part of the profession interests you. Choose how you want to serve. Find your passion and apply that passion in some meaningful way. We need your hard work. We need your service. And we need your perseverance.

Oh, and let me tell you a little secret about volunteer service: It’s not just about giving. You also get something in return. You learn new things. You make new friends. You open doors you never knew existed. You get an immense feeling of satisfaction knowing that you took part in changing our profession for the better and that when your profession needed you most, you stepped up.

Let’s talk about a few of the opportunities for you to get involved:

It’s no secret that our profession needs replenishing. Three years ago, we published a study that showed that within five years — two years from now — the demand for stenographic reporters would exceed supply by more than 5,000. Whether you’re one year from retirement or one year from graduation, the court reporting shortage will affect every person in this room.

Last year, we introduced NCRA’s A to Z steno program as one way to perpetuate interest in the court reporting field. It’s a way for prospective students to learn a basic court reporting theory before committing to school. We’re asking state Associations, firm owners, and individual reporters to take the time to set up a local A to Z program in your areas. Twenty-four hours is all it takes to make a difference.

Get out and advocate for our profession. This year, representatives of NCRA have attended numerous events. Among those have been state conventions, judicial conferences, and conventions for the Hearing Loss Association of America, the National Career Development Association, and the American School Counselors Association. This fall, NCRA will be represented at the Military Order of the Purple Heart convention, the Court Technology Conference, and the conference for the Association of Late-Deafened Adults. We’ll be looking for local volunteers. This is your opportunity.

More options? Take advantage of the ready-to-use resources available to members through Take Note, Discover Steno, and the NCRA websites to recruit students. Or how about mentoring a current student?

All of these choices, and we haven’t even touched upon the opportunities to improve your professional worth through additional certifications and educational offerings.

This year, we will be rewriting our strategic plan. We will be formulating a plan that will guide us through the next three to five years. Frankly, I don’t foresee much change in our key priorities and goals. The path is clear: We must examine our budget and live within our means with a realistic vision of what we can accomplish. We must grow our membership. We must recruit students and help them graduate. We must create value for all segments of our membership and make NCRA the place we all call our professional home.

We must find common ground, set common goals, and settle on nothing less than success. The future of our profession demands a new level of hard work, service, and perseverance.

I ask you now to consider where you are, where you’ve been, and where you could be. What do you possibly have to offer? You — yes, you — can make a difference.

Feel the pride. Embrace the passion. Make it contagious. And always remember: The magic is at your fingertips.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve.

Read all the news from the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo.

President’s address to the membership at 2016 Convention & Expo

The following is the speech given by 2016-2017 NCRA President Nativa P. Wood, RDR, CMRS, at the 2016 Convention & Expo in Chicago, Ill.

When you look at me, which type of athlete do you think I was in high school – a basketball player or a figure skater?

I ask because on many occasions, the Dauphin County Court Administrator would introduce me as “Oksana Baiul,” the slight, graceful Ukrainian figure skater who won the gold medal at the 1994 Olympics.

I know what you’re thinking, “How could anyone confuse Tiva with an Olympic figure skater?”

It’s because this court administrator was amazed –mesmerized – at what I did every day. What I did as a court reporter, she said, was the equivalent of landing a triple axel, triple toe loop combination — and I made it look easy. You and I know differently. We know that it can be ridiculously hard.

As I accept the responsibility to serve as NCRA’s president, I want to be clear: What we have ahead of us as an organization and profession is exactly that — ridiculously hard.

Think about how hard we worked to get through school. Think about the passion and the energy that is present among us. And think about what we can accomplish together if we can harness that passion and that energy  and then put it to practical use.

This isn’t figure skating. It’s not an individual sport. We need to be a team and no one can sit on the bench. Each of us has a role to play.

Earlier this year at NCRA’s Firm Owners Executive Conference, I was inspired by a speaker who talked about the power of storytelling.

People love stories. More than facts and figures, a great story can deliver a powerful message; it can inspire ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

Each of us knows what it is like to face something ridiculously hard, meet that challenge, and come out on top. It’s part of our stories.

There are three areas, three priorities, where we must excel, where our story can lead us to success. The first priority is getting more students enrolled in court reporting programs. The second is getting a higher percentage of court reporters to be NCRA members. The third is for all of us to improve our Business IQ.

Court reporters have played a vital role across history as guardians of the record.

  • Our story includes the court reporters in Nuremberg, Germany, who did the crucial work of keeping a verbatim record of Nazi war tribunals.
  • Our story includes the court reporters doing similar work during the Rwandan trials in Arusha, Tanzania.
  • Our story includes the reporters who provided realtime captioning on 9/11.
  • And our story incudes court reporters who today are taking down every word at terrorist proceedings in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

There is honor in what we do every day. We play a key role in ensuring that every person has access to justice, access to basic services. It’s not all glamorous. We have front-row seats for some of the most gruesome, most heartbreaking parts of life – murder trials, rape trials, child-custody battles, and every manner of civil proceeding. At the same time, many of us take part in depositions that have real impact on not just our legal system, but on the global economy. Captioning? We are in the center of the action.

Every day someone finds new applications for our skills, such as helping presidents and presidential candidates practice speeches and debate skills, companies providing instant-access to transcripts of press conferences, helping some of the world’s most interesting people capture their memoirs, sharing their stories.

None of this happened easily. At times, it has been ridiculously hard.

It has taken resolve, limitless patience, heroic fortitude, endless endurance, a sharp brain and – yes – those very nimble fingers.

And we do it in a seemingly effortless way with no grandstanding, no spotlight. We just do the job.

We have much to be proud of from our past. But if we don’t invest some real energy – some substantial effort – in our future, there won’t be enough reporters for our profession to continue playing such a substantial role in our society.

So, priority one – and this is critical – is student recruitment. Two years ago, NCRA commissioned a study, the Ducker report, which illustrates our challenge in stark terms. Just three years from now, there will be a gap of 5,500 between the population of stenographic court reporters and the demand.

Without a steady supply of new reporters, every facet of our profession will be negatively affected. The door will be opened for alternative means of capturing the spoken word to prevail.

After the Ducker report was released, NCRA launched an aggressive awareness campaign for the profession, known as the CRTakeNote program. It was effective in raising awareness, but it was only a beginning. We must cast even more attention on our profession and then convert those prospects into students.

NCRA has developed a toolkit to help schools do just that.

But converting prospects to students can’t just be the schools’ responsibility. If you and I truly care about our profession, it is our duty to play a role.

Here’s what we know: a working reporter reaching out to prospective students, and telling our story  – that scenario makes the biggest and best impression on prospective students. Using our individual stories as a marketing tool to high school students, middle school students, school counselor associations – any group from which we can get an invitation – that is what we need from all of you.

It’s our story, and it resonates. Talk about the remarkable places this profession has taken you – which we’ll celebrate Saturday night. Talk first-hand about how this is a technology-driven profession, how it has provided financial stability for your family.

Schools are eager to have your involvement, to access and leverage your story.

What’s my story about getting involved with court reporting? Well, it involves a water tower, several cans of spray paint, two very unhappy parents who paid for my prank, for which I had to reimburse to them, and the attorney who lived across the street.

Well, maybe we won’t use that story! But your story —your story will work. Your story will encourage someone like you to enroll in school.

We don’t have to do this. The easier route would be to say that time has passed our profession by. We could ride out our time in court reporting together and take no responsibility for the profession’s future.

But I don’t want to do that. Neither do you.

It won’t be enough to get energized here in Chicago. It won’t be enough to write a check and feel like you’ve made your contribution (although NCRF is always happy to take your check as a charitable donation).

This is going to be ridiculously hard. But, as an organization and as a profession, we must rise to the challenge.

It will take an urgent and sustained effort to repopulate our schools and replenish our ranks. It will take a full community effort.

For that community to be at full force to take on such a formidable challenge, we need more NCRA members. That is priority number two.

In the digital age, membership growth is a challenge for many organizations. But there is no question that the problem is more acute for NCRA than for other organizations. Our challenges require that we access the voices — the passion and the energy — of every court reporter.

You and I are in a unique position to lend a hand. Our stories about how NCRA has connected with us personally, how it has enhanced our careers in many different ways, those first-hand stories from fellow reporters can connect in a profound way to supplement NCRA’s efforts.

Some think one-dimensionally about NCRA. It’s just a magazine. But they are wrong. It’s so much more:

  • It delivers information you can’t get anywhere else,
  • It’s a community, yielding career and business opportunity,
  • It’s an advocacy body, protecting our profession,
  • And it’s a connection to best practices.

Your engagement shows that you care about your profession.

Why did I join NCRA? A seasoned reporter asked me to get involved in my state association, which then led to my involvement with NCRA. That’s all he had to do: He asked me.

He then mentored me for 30 years until his death last year. He showed me his love for the profession and how being connected could make a difference, but it also was my responsibility. His professional colleagues were his family, and so they became for me. His dedication was infectious; igniting a spark in me to get involved.

Now, I encourage you to share your stories about NCRA to convince others to join.

The third priority I’d like to talk about is Business IQ.

My siblings work in careers that involve sales either primarily or secondarily. They value their reputations, how their colleagues perceive them. They’re always looking to get better, to keep pace with the competition.

I used to thank God I’m not in sales. But I am in sales – and so are you. I’ve been in sales my whole career:

  • Convincing judges and commissioners that a stenographic record was best.
  • Encouraging colleagues to embrace technology.
  • And, now, as I have migrated to the freelance side of the business, using sales to acquire clients.

Whether you’re a firm owner, a contract reporter, official, or captioner, you can up your game with regard to your Business IQ. Come out from behind the machine and be better sales people. We should be out there every day promoting our skills, our repertoire of services, our profession. We should be looking at business metrics, aspiring to meet standards of best practices; exploring new types of services; making investments in technology; and finding new applications for our skills. We should care about how our profession is perceived among those we serve. Each time we go above and beyond to please a client, each time we find innovative solutions, we take one step forward in protecting and enhancing our profession as a whole, telling our story.

We have a great story to tell. Use that story to enhance your career. Use that story to help NCRA recruit a new member. Use that story to help our schools recruit more students, strengthening our profession at its greatest time of need.

Let me finish with one last story. Our son, Patrick, just graduated from high school in May. As a family, we were personally invested in Patrick’s experience in school. Patrick might say perhaps a little too much.

As it is with a lot of things in life, the day-to-day grind sometimes obscured the progress Patrick was making.

It wasn’t always easy; sometimes it was ridiculously hard. There were times when it felt like together we took two steps forward and one step back.

But he got there. And I don’t know that I have ever been prouder than watching Patrick receive his diploma. So, there I am, sitting at his graduation and the motto of the school keeps running through my head: Ad summum bonum. “For the greater good.” I couldn’t help but think about how that is such an appropriate motto for NCRA and for our profession.

Each of us needs to find new ways to harness our energy and passion, to utilize the immense pride that we have for our profession. We need to take active steps to protect, preserve, and advance our profession – not just for ourselves, but for those following in our footsteps. We need to summon our energy and passion to do those things that are ridiculously hard – and do so for the greater good.

 

ONE + ONE = WON!

2015-2016 NCRA President Steve Zinone sitting on courthouse stepsBy Steve Zinone

I am very appreciative and honored for the faith that you have in me to be your president. There isn’t a day that goes by that I am not thankful for this opportunity of a lifetime to serve in this role. But I need everyone’s help. That is, I’m asking every one of our approximate 16,000 members for help. It’s not an impossible task; in fact, it’s quite doable. I need everyone to get one — that’s right, one — new member to join NCRA. One. Not two. Not three. But if you want to find more than one person to join NCRA, that’s okay, too!

One new member. We all know a nonmember, whether at work or socially or in business, one person we can approach and ask to join. One + one = won! If we all get one new member, it will make an incredible difference for our profession and for our Association. So I urge everyone to get your one. We will have special recognition at our annual convention in Chicago for those who have brought in one new member, so that everyone knows that you got your one!

We all know that many of us will be retiring in the near future. Therefore, it is imperative that we act now and grow our membership, so that we can meet the future job demands that will be placed on our profession, as well as our Association.

Thomas Hughes of Florida, who left us too early in life, offered this quote from Theodore Roosevelt at the 2008 Tampa Bay Area Information Exchange: “Every man owes a part of his time and money to the business or industry in which he is engaged. No man has a moral right to withhold his support from an organization that is striving to improve conditions within his sphere.” I included it in my emails after Thomas’ passing for two reasons: One, I want to be constantly reminded of my friend Thomas and what he stood for. And, two, we all owe a debt of gratitude to our timeless profession. Thomas was the epitome of Roosevelt’s quote, always giving back, always there to help out, and always there to do whatever was necessary for anyone, at any time.

Now, it is our time. It is our civic responsibility and our moral responsibility as members to get one. Let’s have some fun and get our one. Let’s blow up social media with this effort and show off our one and show off ourselves that: I got my one!

And it’s not just reporters that you can reach out to: Videographers, scopists, proofreaders, paralegals, office managers, attorneys, judges, and court administrators can all be members of NCRA. It is time for us to ask them to help us and to join (or rejoin) NCRA because we are all in this together.

This is an organization that advocates for all of us. This past NCRA Legislative Boot Camp was an incredible success. Leaders from all over the country went up on Capitol Hill and advocated for the Training for Realtime Writers grants, which is part of the Higher Education Act. Our government relations team and our members are creating opportunities that will enable all of us long-term continued success in our industry. But we have to reach out to everyone and bring them into our Association.

So let’s turn everything around and grow NCRA to 32,000 members this year. Let’s everyone get one. Just one.

Stephen A. Zinone, RPR, is NCRA’s President. He can be reached at president@ncra.org.

Where will our profession go next?

Zinone,Steve_CroppedSBy Steve Zinone

What an incredibly diversified industry our profession has become over the years. I’ve heard of members captioning the pope’s visit here in America, and others working in Cuba and London or covering arbitrations in South Africa. Some members are commuting on a client’s personal jet from Colorado to D.C. for deposition work and returning home that afternoon. And others are providing access in the New York Giants’ stadium on a Sunday afternoon during an NFL game or covering press conferences after the Masters Golf Tournament to provide a transcript so that the news columnists have direct quotes for their stories. It reminds me of the quote from Pablo Picasso: “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”

Over the past few months, I had the opportunity to speak to several past presidents of NCRA. Some of those past presidents were the very same people who paved the way in many of the different facets of our profession and have enabled all of us to succeed. One of the best comments that came out of those conversations was this: Back in the day, the only person who had a computer in the courtroom was the court reporter.

That statement said it all to me. Even back then, court reporters embraced technology. We took risks and created our own high-tech future. And, throughout the years, we remained the guardians of the record and the providers of access. And I look forward to seeing where this will all lead in the years to come.

Happy holidays to everyone, and I wish you and your families and your loved ones a joyous, happy, and safe holiday season.

NCRA President’s speech embraces the past, celebrates the future

The following is the speech given by Stephen A. Zinone, RPR, NCRA’s President, during the 2015 NCRA Convention & Expo. He can be reached at president@ncra.org.

 

Good morning.

Thank you for all being here. I know many of you traveled great distances to be here today. I really appreciate your extraordinary efforts to be a part of NCRA’s 2015 Convention & Expo. As we all know, traveling isn’t what it used to be!

Also, I would like to thank my family for being here on this very special day. I wouldn’t be able to serve in the capacity I do without their unending support.

Additionally, we have a member here by the name of Norman Kagan, who is from Johannesburg, South Africa. Since the late 1990s, Norman’s ambition has been to introduce court reporting to South Africa. Norman has made significant progress to achieve his ambition. Thanks for being here, Norman.

This is a very humbling experience for me, because I’m just a hard-working reporter from upstate New York, who is very, very fortunate to be standing here as president of our Association. It’s stunning to think that I fall in a long, long line of leadership stretching back more than 115 years.

In recognizing our deep history of leadership which started in Chicago in 1899, with our first convention, our first president, Kendrick Hill from New York, said this to the 156 charter members of our association:

“Education, experience, and professional skill to a superlative degree are required in the practice of our art, and we are entitled everywhere to recognition and compensation to a degree commensurate therewith.”

For more than 100 years, we have been coming together and networking, continuing to sharpen our skills, our knowledge. We do this together, because we are all in this together.

As I mentioned, many of you traveled from afar to be here today. How apropos that we are gathered in the biggest melting pot in our great country, New York City. And how ironic that just a few miles from here is where many of our ancestors came to start a new life. Traveling from all over the world, traveling for much longer than it takes us to grab a connecting flight and oftentimes in tough conditions.

Why? Opportunity, not just for themselves, but for their families, in the pursuit of liberty, freedom, happiness, and prosperity.

Some came alone, some came with part of their families, some brought their entire families. Some traveled farther than others.

But the common thread interwoven in all of their fabric is that they aspired to prosper in America. Why America? Because it is as true today as it was then: land of opportunity. That’s America.

Everyone is entitled to a fair shake.

As stenographic court reporters, that’s where all of us come in. We guarantee that everyone gets a fair shake. Everyone is entitled to the Bill of Rights and everything that our great Constitution stands for. Everyone is entitled to access. Access to justice. Access to knowledge. Access to education. Access to the ability to succeed. Access to everything that guarantees that all of us get a fair shake.

Our profession dates back to 3500 B.C. with the Sumerians who recognized the importance of preserving thought and created written literacy. Then in 63 B.C., the time of Cicero and Tiro, where the scriveners developed the first shorthand system to record official Roman Senate proceedings, ensuring that the times of the Roman Empire were recorded for future centuries.

The Roman Senate scribes. Can you imagine what their lunchroom conversations were like? “Boy, that guy Caeser is really full of himself, and he talks too darn fast! What’s wrong with the guy? I’m trying to make a record over here!”

Just like the history of our great country is worth celebrating, so too is the history of our time-honored profession.

The Gallery of Shorthand. Words cannot describe the magnificent display of the deep and rich history of our profession, which is exhibited in the Senator Alphonse D’Amato Federal Courthouse in Central Islip, N.Y. I encourage all of you to plan a visit. I can assure you that you will not want to leave, but when you do, you will have such a deep appreciation for our profession that the smile on your face and the pride in your heart will be with you every day of your career when you think about the evolution of our timeless profession and that you are part of it.

Thank you, Dom Tursi, curator, for persevering over a number of years in making the dream of the Gallery of Shorthand a reality. A tribute to those who came before us, those who are here with us now, and those who will follow us, in the evolution of our timeless profession.

Who we are and what we do:

Preserving thought, preserving history, supporting the cornerstone of our justice system, making sure that everyone gets a fair shake, the right to appeal to a higher court, access for all people from all walks of life, regardless of race, creed, or religion. Access for those that, without our captioning and providing CART, would not be able to live the American dream, and the dream of so many others in every country in the world.

That’s powerful. That’s what we do. That is who we are and what we bring to the table.

We are all in this together. United we stand. And if we become divided, we will fall.

But we are not going to fall. Let me tell you why.

Look around you. Go ahead, take a look. We are a group of people who have that common thread woven in our being. Each of us has it. We don’t quit. We don’t accept failure. We continually strive every day, whether in the deposition suite in front of the camera or behind it, in the courtroom, in the CART captioning setting or the broadcast captioning environment, or in our schools where our future scriveners sharpen their skills for their journey in the evolution of our timeless profession.

That unique thread connects us all, brings us together through NCRA, our state associations, and our affiliate associations.

But most of all, it unites us as the evolutions of our timeless profession marches on.

Are there challenges that lie ahead? You bet there are. Will we meet them head on? You bet we will. And I can assure you that when we stand united, work together, and give it 110 percent, which is what all of us do, every day, we will persevere and conquer all of those challenges. It’s just how we roll. Just as we have for decades and decades.

I have been very fortunate to attend many state and affiliate conventions during my NCRA journey, and I would like to share with you some observations. First, court reporters like to talk! Videographers are all about the lighting! And all convention planners are hyperactive and suffer from lack of sleep.

All kidding aside, thank you to all of you who have and will continue to request an NCRA rep for your conventions. It’s an honor and a privilege to be a part of your conventions.

It is imperative that the Board of Directors interact and see our profession from your vantage point. To see and hear what is affecting your state, your affiliation. To hear what you think NCRA should be doing, as well as what you think NCRA should not be doing.

Also, for your NCRA rep to help you during your convention by presenting seminars that cover many different areas of our profession. Also, to inform you, our members, what NCRA is doing.

I can tell you that Vision 2018 is progressing well on all fronts, thanks to our hard-working Board and our hard-working staff. We have an incredibly brilliant and dedicated staff, led by our new CEO Mike Nelson. Always remember that NCRA is your association! NCRA exists because of you, the membership.

Let’s look where we are today. Online testing. Certification from the comfort of your own home or office. The ability to test more often and at your convenience. Shaking off those unnecessary test-day jitters. Using your favorite chair and with a cup of coffee! That’s progress.

Providing CART captioning to a dental student who deaf and performing dental work on a patient and reading his instructor’s lecture on Google Glass.

That’s technology, and it’s happening right up the street by one of our brightest colleagues, Mirabai Knight.

Advocating on Capitol Hill for quality standards for captioning. I can’t imagine a world without captioning. Can you? Of course not. And NCRA’s government relations team is up on that Hill making things better for us and for our consumers.

Our impressive and successful Take Note campaign, our job one:  Education and students.

Given that we are in New York City, let’s pause for a moment and remember a day in our history that none of us will ever forget: That one morning in September 2001 that turned our world upside down and brought all of us together – from New York, Shanksville, Pa., and Washington, D.C. – and beyond. We were all united on that day.

Every one of us remembers exactly where we were on that clear crisp September morning.

Imagine yourself as a person who is deaf or hard of hearing on the 30th floor of your apartment building, located in Anywhere, U.S.A. As you watch the assault on our country, our way of life, on the innocent people who died on that day. 2,977 heroes died within blocks of where you are now sitting.

If it wasn’t for the brave and outstanding captioners, working tirelessly for hours and hours, writing as the tears came down their faces, so that those individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing had access to what was happening. Otherwise, without that access provided by those incredible captioners, they would have thought the world was coming to an end.

That’s powerful. That’s who we are. That’s what we do.

So when you hear those naysayers about our profession, tell them that. Remind them of that day in September.

Our future is bright. I know it is. Will all the students here this morning please stand?

Right here. Our future. Thank you for coming here this morning and thank you for attending. Please don’t leave here without a mentor. If you have a mentor, great. If you don’t, stand at the back of this room at the end of this presentation and raise your hand.

All you veterans, when you walk out and you see a student with a raised hand, extend your hand. Become a mentor.

We are all in this together.

Job one, our students, who are our future.

These are examples of the incredibly talented people who will be standing up here some time in the future as president of this association. Great examples of how the evolution of our timeless profession is in good hands.

Just wait until you see what we have in store for you during the Premier Session. The talent that will be on this stage will bedazzle you in many ways, especially from the two young men who are unbelievably talented and gifted and driven.

I urge you to both embrace our history and celebrate our future at this year’s Convention & Expo. The educational sessions, the vendors in the Expo Hall, the networking opportunities—this is why you came. You’re ready to go to the next level. Drink it in and find ways to define and contribute to the future of this profession.

Preserving history, preserving through, providing access, assuring everybody gets a fair shake.

That’s who we are and I am very proud and very humbled to be standing here as your president. Thank you for the opportunity and I won’t let you down. And, of course, keep punching. Thank you.

 

2014-2015 NCRA President Sarah E. Nageotte passes gavel to new leadership

Sarah passes gavelIn her farewell speech, 2014-2015 President Sarah E. Nageotte, RDR, CRR, CBC, an official court reporter from Jefferson, Ohio, urged the organization’s membership to continue to work to engage more individuals to become part of the court reporting and captioning professions. Nageotte gave the speech during the NCRA Annual Business Meeting today at the Association’s 2015 Convention & Expo, being held in New York City, July 30-Aug. 2. She also acknowledged the hard work of her fellow board members, NCRA staff, and thanked the general membership for its support during her successful term before handing the official gavel over to 2015-2016 President Steve Zinone, RPR, an official court reporter from Pittsford, N.Y.

Read the entire speech.

President’s message: Rolling down the river … Destination: NCRA

 

 

In my March President’s column, I spoke about change and its inevitability, and how arising out of that change, there is opportunity and growth.

I received an email from a former colleague indicating “… there’s a lot going on, so I’m sure you’ve been crazy busy!” And while I say that crazy busy is an understatement — insanely busy may sum it up better — it has been an honor to be at the forefront of the growth over this year within NCRA and our profession, and to see the reward that hard work, determination, and dedication brings forth.

At this time, we welcome our new Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director Michael (Mike) Nelson to the NCRA family. You probably read a bit about his background in the news release, and his first column as CEO/Executive Director is in this issue of the JCR. He is a talented executive with a strong background in association management, financial stewardship, and strategic thinking. We are lucky to have him to take the reins at NCRA, and I know I speak for the entire Board when I share that we are excited about what the future holds under his leadership.

To the Search Committee members, my wonderful Board of Directors, to our esteemed legal counsel, and our unbelievable Interim CEO/ED, Wendel Stewart, and the rest of the NCRA staff:  Thank you for a job well done and for the tremendous effort you put forth to make Mike’s arrival a reality. I know NCRA, our membership, and our profession are in good hands, and we should be proud!

Along with welcoming Mike onboard as our new executive leader, I want to announce another celebration underway. In early 2014, the Board approved placing our NCRA Vienna, Va., headquarters building on the market for sale. The time was right. Experts advised that with the expansion of public transportation in that area, it would be wise to consider selling the investment that we made in the headquarters building in the early 1990s. Indeed, it was. With five solid offers, negotiations continued well into the fourth quarter of 2014, and the sale was finalized late in the year.

With the sale behind us, we evaluated the future needs of NCRA and began searching for a headquarters that would speak to our forward-looking, contemporary association and its staff. We wanted something impressive, a headquarters location that would make a statement. Let me tell you what, the process has been insanely busy, but the end result, without a doubt, is going to be stunning.

The new NCRA headquarters will be located in a contemporary area of Reston, Va., just down the road a bit from our Vienna location and not too far from Dulles International Airport. The architects have dreamed up an office that captures the essence of stenographic court reporting, and our long, proud history will be on display for all those who visit.

Speaking of visiting, it is my privilege to extend to each of you an invitation to the “grand opening” at our new location and building, 12030 Sunrise Valley in Reston, Va.  With construction already underway and a late-summer move-in date expected, the NCRA Board of Directors and our dedicated staff and leadership will host a grand opening in conjunction with our November 2015 Board Meeting, which is scheduled for the second weekend in November. The exact date and time will be conveyed in the near future, but please save the date now and plan to attend.

In addition to being a showpiece for the profession in general, our new NCRA headquarters will allow us to conduct a wide range of meetings and events in our own space. It will be a headquarters we can all be proud of and we’re looking forward to conducting the business of committees, the Board of Directors, and other strategic alliances in a place we plan to call home for many years.

Excitement. Energy. Focus. Those are just three words that sum up my feelings about Mike joining our family, about the move to a new location, and about where our association and profession stand today. Has it been insanely busy? Yes. Would I change it for the world? Heck, no. I know for certain that we are moving down the road by uniting together and embracing the opportunities as they come our way. Actually, we have done better than that. We are creating the opportunities, and we are the driving force behind our futures, the future of NCRA, and the court reporting, captioning, and legal videography professions.

Sarah E. Nageotte, RDR, CRR, CBC, is NCRA’s president. 

NCRA President responds to editorial calling closed captioning “often fiction”

NCRA President Sarah E. Nageotte, RDR, CRR, CBC, responded to an editorial that appeared June 20 on Ohio.com, and written by Akron Beacon Journal columnist Bob Dyer, which is critical of the quality of captioning provided by local television stations in the area. In her response, Nageotte notes the process involved in captioning, including the technology used and NCRA’s work with the FCC addressing issues surrounding quality captioning.

Read President Nageotte’s response.

Read the article.

Turning the tide to support the reporters of the future

As your president, I receive hundreds of emails every week and many of them are positive and optimistic. But not long ago, I received an email that left me staring at my ceiling well into the night. The email highlighted the story of a recent court reporting graduate who works at a small firm with four or five other reporters. While the new reporter is grateful for the amount of work coming her way, she notes that it’s not without cost to her psyche – the scheduling administrator doesn’t really understand the profession, and the owner is dog-tired and is making a beeline toward retirement. At the holiday party, colleagues questioned the new reporter’s choice in entering the profession, indicating that digital recording is going to replace steno reporters. Not to be deterred, the new reporter is working to pass the last leg of her RPR and she’s starting to look for an officialship. She’s still in love with the profession, but she asks, “Where should I turn to look for employment with people who aren’t so negative about the profession?”

In many of the seminars that I have given around the country, I have said that we are our own worst enemies. Whether it be the nitpicking, the negativity, the apathy, we are the root of so many of our own problems. Plenty of Facebook comments, emails, and cocktail party conversations can still make me cringe, but I, like that new reporter, will not be deterred. I know we can be better. More supportive of each other. More positive in public. And while we cannot go back and change the thinking of those who are set in their ways, I have noticed in the last couple of years a positive swing in the overall morale of the profession. I think the naysayers are slowly being overshadowed by those who love our profession and see all the good it brings to the environments in which we work and to those to whom we provide service.

Did you know that NCRA has garnered more positive press and publicity for the profession in the last six months than it has in the previous six decades combined? Did you know that hundreds of leads are flowing into NCRA-certified court reporting programs, where previously a few dozen trickled in? Did you know that young teenagers are not only aware of court reporting as a profession, but are starting to think of it as cool?

As you probably know, NCRA commissioned an independent firm of analysts in 2013 to study the five-year outlook for our profession. The results that came back were somewhat scary, but also incredibly positive from a messaging standpoint. We have jobs. A lot of them. We’re not a dying profession. Stenographic court reporting isn’t going away. And we’re going to need new professionals – as many as 5,500 more than what current projections are saying will enter the marketplace – in five short years. Oh, wait, make that four.

NCRA is promoting the profession, targeting school counselors, parents, and most importantly, potential students. The messages are working. They are interested. And the perception is shifting.

Equally important to getting students to come into the career is supporting them once they begin their professional journey as working reporters. We cannot let the past rain on the future’s parade. As I said, there’s a lot to be positive about at NCRA and in the court reporting and captioning profession. I know we have had our fair share of challenges throughout the years, but now is not the time to allow our new reporters – the future of our profession – to be discouraged. Their future is bright, and it’s our job to promulgate that message among those who will carry the torch long after we’re gone. And more importantly, it’s our job to mold our future and teach them the longstanding history that we know so well.

As an established reporter, what are you doing to encourage a positive outlook among students and new reporters? Are they hopeful about the direction of the profession? Do they have a support network to carry them forward? We should hold our professionalism standards very high. It’s time to stop complaining about clients on public pages on Facebook. It’s time to put on a brave face for the students and new reporters and acknowledge the greatness there is from within. Perhaps the power of our positivity will, indeed, overshadow the negativity that still exists in the profession.

I can feel the tide turning. Can you?

[Excerpts of this column have been taken from President Nageotte’s address at the NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference held in February.]

 

From NCRA’s President: Change is …

By Sarah E. Nageotte 

We are all familiar with popular quotes concerning change: “Change is the law of life,” “There is nothing permanent except change,” and “Change is inevitable.”

I will be the first to admit, change is scary; the unknown can be even scarier. At the same time, change means progress and hope, and it opens doors to new and exciting possibilities. We’ve all experienced change at varying levels in our personal lives and during our professional careers. Change is constant.

Never did I envision I would be writing my March President’s column while in the midst of a search for NCRA’s next CEO and Executive Director. When Jim Cudahy informed me that he had accepted the position as the President and CEO of the National Investor Relations Institute and would be leaving NCRA at the end of February, I initially had a moment of panic and unease. Change? Why does there need to be change? Why can nothing stay the same?

That moment turned into the realization that, yes, change happens. While Jim will be missed at NCRA, an opportunity has arisen that will allow us to find our next executive leadership and boldly progress into the future. This opportunity comes at a time when NCRA and our profession are engaged in an aggressive marketing campaign following the release of the 2013-2014 Court Reporting Industry Outlook Report produced by Ducker Worldwide. Launched in September 2014, the Take Note campaign thus far has proven a success. We are in a position to go into the marketplace with a strategy in play that is positive and offers an area of growth and innovation. Change is good.

The NCRA Board of Directors has secured the services of a professional search partner, Vetted Solutions, to manage the process of identifying the best candidates to consider for NCRA’s CEO and Executive Director. I have appointed a Search Committee consisting of individuals with an array of backgrounds and experience from our profession and association. Those members are Stephen Zinone, Nativa Wood, Michele York, Jan Ballman, Jay Vettickal, Karen Yates, and myself. The Search Committee’s task is to work alongside Vetted Solutions and narrow down the pool of qualified candidates for the NCRA Board of Directors’ ultimate consideration and selection.

Change is movement, and moving forward in the search and selection process is a top priority for Vetted Solutions, the Search Committee, and your Board of Directors. Though it’s difficult to nail down a concrete time frame during which we would select and welcome our new CEO and Executive Director, we’re moving swiftly, wasting no time in identifying qualified candidates, and we’re hopeful that we will be nearer a selection by mid-April.

NCRA offers significant opportunity to the right candidate. We are poised to grow, and we have positive momentum because of the leadership and direction we’ve taken as an association in the last few years. The new CEO and Executive Director has dedicated volunteers and a best-in-class staff ready to help him or her succeed, and for that reason, I’m beyond confident that the change that lies ahead for us will remain positive.

Likewise, because NCRA is an excellent leadership opportunity for the right individual, we are also in a powerful position in terms of our selection process. We have a clear image of who we are as a profession and we’ve identified the critical areas within our five-year plan with the Vision 2018 roadmap. We can be selective. We can take the time and care we need to find a leader who is committed to our cause, and can forge ahead with a dedication to the bright future we all envision and deserve. The search process has been marked with great focus on finding a candidate who has the right experience in the areas that matter most to NCRA, that being experience with a professional membership, financial acumen, a strong leadership and development background, and fresh ideas about how to shape and support the evolution of our longstanding and proud profession.

Looking back over my time on the NCRA Board of Directors, I have been fortunate to experience positive change, both personally and professionally. Was the change expected? Not always. In fact, some changes were unwanted or otherwise placed before me to accept. And that’s not a bad thing, because each modification and shift has guided me and made me stronger. They have been positive for me, much like NCRA’s change in association leadership just two and a half years ago has strengthened its focus on the future of a profession. In addition, the profession, like each of us, is adjusting and aligning our services to meet the marketplace’s needs and demands, yet another area of advancement.

I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to recognize Jim for his leadership as NCRA CEO and Executive Director since June 2012. Jim, thank you for dedication to the stenographic court reporting profession and to NCRA. Your vision and commitment have been instrumental in creating an atmosphere that has allowed for a positive change within a profession and association. Good luck to you as you embark on your new professional journey.

Progress. Growth. Hope. Opportunity. I am excited to embrace and be a part of the changes taking place at this time, and I look forward to seeing what the future brings. Change is welcome!

Sarah E. Nageotte, RDR, CRR, CBC, is NCRA’s President. She can be reached at president@ncra.org.