NCRA member shares how teenage intern inspires court employees while chasing her dream

Television station KRQE, Albuquerque, N.M., aired a story on Sept. 17 that features NCRA member Diona Gibson, RPR, an official court reporter for the Bernalillo County District Court, sharing her experience with a summer intern who was born blind and plans to become a court reporter.

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CASE scholarship winner in the news

Ann Marie Gibson

Mycentraljersey.com reported on Sept. 13, that Califon, N.J., resident Ann Marie Gibson, a student at the College of Court Reporting (CCR) in Valparaiso, Ind., was awarded a $250 scholarship by NCRA’s Council on Approved Student Education (CASE) during its Convention & Expo held in August in New Orleans. The story was generated by a press release issued by NCRA on Gibson’s behalf.

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New Professional Reporter Grant awarded

Sidnee Baum

NCRF presented the 2018 New Professional Reporter Grant to Sindee Baum, from North Massapequa, N.Y.  Baum said that receiving the New Professional Grant means a lot to her and that she plans to use the funds toward paying off her school loan and to cover the expense of starting out with a professional machine and software.

NCRF awards the annual New Professional Reporter Grant to a reporter who is in his or her first year of work, has graduated within a year from an NCRA-approved court reporting program, and meets specific criteria, including a grade point average of 3.5 or above, a letter of recommendation, and current work in any of the career paths of judicial (official/freelance), CART, or captioning. The grant is in the amount of $2,000.

“For 21 years, I was a federal probation officer. I wrote the pre-sentence reports and sentencing recommendations for the judges and had to be present at sentencings. I was always fascinated by the court reporters and always made sure I stood near them to watch them work their magic on their machines,” Baum said.

“When I was getting close to thinking of retiring and what I wanted to do as a second career, the thought of becoming a court reporter popped in my mind one morning. I spoke to NCRA member Anthony Frisolone, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, CRI, one of the court reporters in my courthouse and a court reporter instructor, who thought the idea was an awesome fit for me. He even offered to be my mentor and helped me through the emotional roller coaster that court reporting school entailed. Well, I’m happy to share that I retired from my career as a federal probation officer as of September 1, 2017, and passed my last mentored exit speed tests that same week and graduated from school,” she added.

Baum, a graduate of the online program at College of Court Reporting (CCR) in Valparaiso, Ind., is the 14th recipient of NCRF’s New Professional Reporter Grant. She was recommended by Jessica Vivas, client services manager and reporter liaison for Magna Legal Services based in New York.

“If Magna could only choose one goal, it would be to support and serve our clients to the best of our ability. Sindee Baum embodies this philosophy and is respected by our clients. We consider Sindee to be an asset to our court reporting team, and we look forward to working with her well into the future,” Vivas said.

For court reporting students getting ready to finish their programs and start their professional careers, Baum offers the following advice: “Practice like your life depended on it. Getting those last speed tests passed takes the most work and dedication out of all the tests you will take in school. Also, while completing your internship hours, make sure you are asking lots of questions and gaining as much experience as you can in various settings so that you will be able to hit the ground running at graduation and become a working reporter.”

To learn more about NCRF’s scholarships and grants, visit NCRA.org/NCRF/Scholarships.

NCRF announces winner of the Robert H. Clark Scholarship

Sydney Lundberg

Sydney Lundberg, a student from Des Moines Area Community College in Des Moines, Iowa, was named recipient of the 2018 Robert H. Clark Scholarship. This $2,000 scholarship is named for the late Robert H. “Bob” Clark, a court reporter from Los Angeles, Calif., who was dedicated to preserving the history of the profession. Lundberg is the fourth recipient of this scholarship.

In 2015, Clark’s family made a generous donation to NCRF to honor him, and NCRF created the new Robert H. Clark Scholarship. Students are nominated by instructors or other officials at their schools. To be eligible, nominees must be NCRA members, must be enrolled in an NCRA-approved court reporting program, must have passed at least one of their program’s Q&A tests at 200 words per minute, and must possess a GPA of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 scale, among other criteria.

“Receiving this scholarship means to me that I will be able to finish school and begin working as a reporter even sooner. I am currently in the last part of my program, and this support will allow me to purchase professional equipment that will give me the last boost I need to graduate,” said Lundberg.

Lundberg heard about court reporting as a career through a family member. “My aunt is a captioner, and I was inspired by how she was able to capture the spoken word, work from home, and be so successful. After I graduate, my plans include working for a freelance firm in Des Moines, Iowa. I also plan on continuing to learn things about the profession, building my dictionary, and continuing to work on speed,” Lundberg said.

To learn more about NCRF’s scholarships and grants, visit NCRA.org/NCRF/Scholarships.

Firm owners donate Convention swag

The NCRA Student/Teacher Committee is grateful to the many people who generously donated to the student swag bags at the 2018 NCRA Convention & Expo in New Orleans, La. Last February, the Committee sent out a call to the NCRA Firm Owners email list, asking firms to donate a little something extra (or “lagniappe” in New Orleans-speak) for the bags. Planet Depos sent in a great backpack, and the goodies kept pouring in to fill them up. Other Firm Owners donated pens, travel mugs, mouse pads, hand sanitizers, pens, sticky notes, keyboard brushes, pencil cases, candy, and more!

The Student/Teacher Committee would like to thank the following donors who contributed to this year’s student swag bags:

  • Alaris
  • Benchmark Reporting Agency
  • Doris. O. Wong & Associates, Inc.
  • Hanson Renaissance Reporting & Video
  • Jack W. Hunt & Associates
  • Kay Moody, MCRI, CPE
  • LNS Court Reporting & Legal Video
  • Memory Reporting, Inc.
  • O’Brien & Levine
  • OrangeLegal
  • Planet Depos
  • Rider & Associates, Inc.
  • Schmitt Reporting & Video, Inc.
  • Streski Reporting & Video Service
  • Summit City Reporting
  • U.S. Legal Support
  • West Coast Court Reporting & Video
  • Wood & Randall
  • YOM

A glimpse of the action

Last month’s NCRA Convention & Expo in New Orleans, La., was a great success. Student attendees were treated not only to some fun and informative seminars, but also a meet-and-greet with the NCRA Board of Directors. Student sessions included “Student Steno Speed Dating,” “Good Reporter/Bad Reporter,” “Online Skills Testing,” and “What I Didn’t Learn in Court Reporting School.” View the Complete Coverage of the 2018 NCRA Convention & Expo article with many links.

Interning is a window into the real world

Nicole Johnson

by Nicole Johnson

When I first began my internship journey, I was scared. I was stepping out of my cozy comfort zone of court reporting school and into the “real world” (school is real too!) of lawyers and judges. I was also very close to some dangerous folks who’ve committed serious offenses, as well as funny witnesses who put the jury at ease. As a more introverted person, being around strangers every day is a bit stressful in itself. Then I realized I’m not the official reporter yet. I’m only here to learn how a real reporter handles situations, study how a courtroom works outside of television, and practice talking to unfamiliar faces in an environment that I am slowly easing my way into. Most importantly, I’m here to gain experience past what school has taught me and to put what I’ve been studying for the past six years to good use.

The first day I interned was a calendar day, and it went by really fast. It’s a room full of people and a judge going over all of their cases; the defense attorneys usually said their names at breakneck speed sans spelling. Lucky for me, I had a reporter who would give me a list of names when I would sit in with her. Those days are the most intense but still not as difficult as trying to pass all my 200 wpm speed tests.

Here in court, the bailiffs were cordial, the attorneys respectful, and the judges more than happy to talk court reporting shop with you. Everyone always seems genuinely interested in what you’re doing with that “funny looking machine.”

On top of interning in a courthouse, I’ve also participated in a few mock trials given by University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. Those were honestly terrifying, and I didn’t know what I was walking into. In a mock trial, I was the reporter. Though I had a mentor who would occasionally come in the deposition room to see how things were going, this felt real. I had to produce a rough draft transcript, constantly interrupt an attorney who always spoke at 260+ words a minute unless he was addressing the jury, and had to keep track of all the different soon-to-be lawyers coming in and out of the room. It was a dizzying but great experience. The student lawyers were always happy to have a court reporter there. Once I was asked by an attorney for read back (thank goodness I had it), and she actually used what “Madame Court Reporter” said in her closing arguments (and won). It was gratifying to feel this job’s importance. It’s also satisfying to know that others rely on the words I’m taking down. I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world.

I gained a lot of confidence doing mock trials and sitting in with reporters, gaining their knowledge, and learning new briefs. The real world, I realized, isn’t as scary as it seemed. It was actually better than I imagined. While I’m not a perfect writer, here is the perfect place to make mistakes, to try again the next day, to overcome any mental roadblocks, and to ask all the questions you want. You’ll end up working with the same attorneys, clerks, judges, and so forth, and everything will slowly fall into place.

I’ve realized that court, especially a trial, feels easier than school. I mean, school definitely prepares you, but nothing beats being there. You get accustomed to the way certain people speak, and there are a lot more pauses than in speed class.

I’m almost finished with my hours, and I’m going to continue sitting in with reporters even afterwards; because it’s fun, because I know I can do it, and because I can see myself in the reporter’s chair. My internship has given me more fire and motivation, and it’s the last step that will help me reach my full potential towards becoming an official reporter.

Nicole Johnson is a high-speed student at West Valley College in Saratoga, Calif.

2018 Realtime Contest winner Mark Kislingbury shares his story

2018 NCRA Realtime Contest Winner Mark Kislingbury

NCRA member Mark Kislingbury, FAPR, RDR, CRR, owner of Magnum Steno from Houston, Texas, won the 2018 National Realtime Contest held during the Association’s Convention & Expo in New Orleans, La. It is his fifth Realtime Contest win. This win ties the record for most wins in the NCRA Realtime Contest with 2017-2018 Contests Committee co-chair Jo Ann Bryce, RMR, CRR, of Castro Valley, Calif. Kislingbury’s overall score was 99.24 percent.

Kislingbury placed second in the literary leg with a 99.20 percent accuracy rate, and first in the Q&A leg with a 99.28 percent accuracy rate.

The JCR Weekly recently reached out to him to find out more about what motivates him, how he prepares to compete, and how he learned about court reporting as a career.

JCR | In what area of the profession do you work?
KISLINGBURY | What I do does not actually fit into any of those groups! Most of my professional writing is for a national political radio program where the Web team for that program wants instant transcripts so they can post verbatim transcripts on their site. This demands accurate realtime so that I only have to make a few edits/corrections on commercial breaks and send that segment at the end of the commercial break. I also work for that same program before each particular show transcribing “sound bites” taken from television so that the host may have verbatim transcripts of those sound bites. Occasionally I still do broadcast captioning and will take a freelance job or a remote CART job.

JCR | How long have you been in the profession?
KISLINGBURY | 35 years.

JCR | How did you learn about the profession?
KISLINGBURY | I was a junior in high school in a Gregg shorthand class when a rep from the nearest court reporting school visited our class and showed us a brand-new olive green steno machine with shiny black keys. She told us you could graduate in two years, make a high salary right away, and that 95 percent of the students were girls. What’s to not like?

JCR | How many national contests have you participated in?
KISLINGBURY | I competed in NCRA Speed Contests from 1995 through 2010 (16 of them), and since 1999 I have competed in 18 of the 20 NCRA Realtime Contests.

JCR | Do you compete both in the Realtime and the Speed contests??
KISLINGBURY | I used to compete in both, but from 2011 through today I have not competed in an NCRA Speed Contest. I do enjoy competing in the California DRA Realtime Contests.

JCR | What motivates you to compete?
KISLINGBURY | I suppose it’s the pursuit of excellence. The pursuit of excellence seems to be a universal human value that contributes to overall happiness, self-esteem, and well-being. Since I love teaching court reporters and students to help them improve, I think that winning contests (where I have been fortunate enough to do so) lends added credibility to what I am teaching.

JCR | How did it feel to win this year?
KISLINGBURY | It felt great because it was the culmination of a lot of hard work in the practice room. There are so many amazing realtime competitors out there nowadays that it is extremely hard to win! And it’s so easy to “have a bad day” in the realtime contest. I believe only nine different individuals have won the NCRA realtime contest in its 20 years of existence! And only four have won it multiple times.

JCR | Do you plan to continue to compete at the national level?
KISLINGBURY | Absolutely!

JCR | What advice would you give someone who is considering competing at the national level?
KISLINGBURY | It’s fun! Do it for the experience, for the pursuit of excellence, not “to win.” It takes the pressure off if you have the attitude: “I just want to try my best and see what happens.” The other competitors are friendly and encouraging. Your first goal may well be to simply “qualify” in one of the two legs. (Qualifying means 95 percent accuracy or above.) Qualifying means you get ranked in a group of elite Realtime (or Speed) Contest reporters!

JCR | How far in advance do you begin to practice for the national contests?
KISLINGBURY | When I was competing in speed contests, I would start at least three months ahead of time. For the realtime contest, I start practicing 365 days ahead of the contest!

JCR | What is your practice routine to prep for these contests?
KISLINGBURY | For the realtime contest, generally I write a 5-minute take at around 280 and keep slowing it down in 5 percent increments until it’s about 225. The whole time I’m striving to write each stroke instantly, without ever getting behind. The “instant” takes precedence over “accuracy.” I generally write the take 7-8 times. By the time I quit, I’m realtiming it virtually perfectly. That takes 35-45 minutes. Then I take a break. The next time I practice, it’s a new take, same routine.

If I were doing the speed contest again, I would do the same practice regimen except start much faster than 280 and slow it down incrementally until it reached 280, doing each take 7-8 times before moving on.

JCR | Do you compete at the state level as well?
KISLINGBURY | Currently, only at the California Deposition Reporters Realtime Contests, which tend to be every February. I used to compete in the Texas Speed Contest in the 1990s. For many years I have chaired the Texas Court Reporters Association Realtime Contest and continue to do so to this day.

JCR | Is there anything else you would like to share?
KISLINGBURY | I have started a court reporting school, the Mark Kislingbury Academy of Court Reporting, in Houston, Texas. We opened in 2011. We have both on-site and online programs. Our first nine graduates (who started brand-new with us) have averaged one year and 10 months! Four of the nine were online students. I teach students my very short Magnum Steno Theory. There are several dozen happy and prospering professional reporters in the field who learned my theory. Many of them are providing realtime and/or captioning. I am attempting to do my small part to try to fix our nationwide court reporter shortage.

NCRA Retired Member Leroy James Peterson passes

The Oskaloosa News reported on Sept. 4 that NCRA Lifetime Member Leroy James Peterson of Oskaloosa, Iowa, passed away on Aug. 30.

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Former NCRA Member Richard M. Metschl passes away

The Buffalo News reported on Aug. 19 that former NCRA member Richard M. Metschl, founder of Metschl Court Reporting, passed away in Buffalo, N.Y.

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