A broadcast captioner sees the future in realtime

A woman sits in front of a steno machine, set up to work from home. On her desk is her laptop and paper notes propped up for easy viewing. On the wall is a television screen with a news show.By Cathy Penniston

I live in Iowa, but I make my living listening to the Canadian news. I work for The Captioning Group, Inc., based in Calgary, Alberta, as a remote broadcast captioner four days a week. But every Thursday, I take a break from the news and travel to Newton, Iowa, to teach court reporting students at the Des Moines Area Community College. My goal is to share my wealth of experience with my students. I have worked as an official shorthand reporter, a freelance reporter, a CART captioner, and a broadcast captioner, and I bring this real-world experience to my classes.

As a busy broadcast television captioner and an instructor of court reporting students, I encourage my students to embrace realtime. If my students comment that it is difficult to learn realtime, I remind them that when I went to court reporting school, there were manual Stenograph machines and typewriters. Long vowels? That would be taken care of when reporters sat down at the typewriter to type each page into English from their paper shorthand notes. Nowadays, this is all done instantaneously through high-tech machines.

But more so, I believe that realtime is vital to the continued successful future of the court reporting profession. A digital recording in a courtroom cannot accurately provide a real-time speech-to-text feed of the live proceedings to the judge. And a digital recording cannot provide live captions of breaking news or emergency information broadcast over television stations where realtime captions are needed to save lives.

At first, realtime stenography can seem quite daunting. But excellent instructors and programs can get students on the path to achieving their goals and becoming successful in the field of realtime captioning. Here are seven tips from a broadcast captioner and court reporting instructor to get started on your journey to learning realtime.

  1. Enjoy realtime and the great feeling of success when steno words translate into English correctly. Do not be afraid of realtime.
  2. Analyze and correct every word that does not translate from steno to English correctly. There is a reason for every untranslated word. Why did that word not translate? What can you do to correct that word to make it translate properly for your next transcript? Do not ignore untranslates!
  3. Know your dictionary and how words are going to translate with your dictionary. Finger combinations that work well for one student may not work well for another student. Try the suggested way to write the word. If the finger combination does not work for you, try writing it in a way that will translate for you. Define the word in your dictionary that way and write it down. Practice that word until you have memorized it.
  4. Briefs are good only if you memorize them and remember them quickly. A bad brief is worse than no brief at all. Your goal is a good realtime translation.
  5. Write out every word and add it to your dictionary for the time when you forget your brief. Do not hesitate to remember briefs.
  6. Your goal is great realtime translations, not winning a race for having the most briefs and then hesitating during speed tests trying to remember those briefs. Briefs can be your best friend or your enemy in realtime reporting.
  7. Back up your dictionary every week. Email a copy of your dictionary to yourself and back it up in the cloud.

Realtime reporting is the key to the future of our profession. Embrace realtime as you strive to achieve your goal of graduation from school.

After working for many years as an official shorthand reporter in the State of Iowa, Cathy Penniston, RPR, CRI, CSR, “retired” to pursue her dream of completing her master’s degree in teaching and working as a remote television broadcast captioner and teacher. She can be reached at cpenniston@gmail.com. This article was originally published, in a slightly different format, on the blog for The Captioning Group as “7 Things Your Instructor Wants You to Know About Realtime Writing!”

Meeting the demand: The CRC experience

Attendees at the CRC Workshop at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo in Las Vegas

By Carol Studenmund

At the NCRA Convention & Expo in Las Vegas, the Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC) Certification Committee hosted the third annual CRC Workshop. For one-and-a-half days, six members of the CRC Committee taught 68 registrants both beginning and advanced lessons regarding broadcast and CART captioning. The Written Knowledge Test was offered immediately following the workshop. The CRC Workshop is one of three requirements of the CRC program, along with a Written Knowledge Test and a Skills Test.

NCRA members are seeing more and more requests from clients that captioners hold national certifications, and many of these clients want to see copies of certifications. This demand comes from local governments, educational institutions, and judicial systems that need to meet ADA requests from the public.

Instructors Heidi Thomas, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC; Deanna Baker, FAPR, RMR; Karyn Menck, RDR, CRR, CRC; LeAnn Hibler, RMR, CRR, CRC; Stacey Potenza, CRC; and myself had way too much fun sharing our decades of experience in the captioning world. Our collective experience covers broadcast, education, theater, sports, stadium, high-tech, business, and web-based captioning. The purpose of the CRC Workshop is to provide both beginning and experienced captioners exposure to all aspects of this exciting field. Even though captioning is a well-established field, it is still relatively young compared to court reporting. Some captioners may be well versed in local news captioning and know nothing about educational or religious captioning, and vice versa.

Since the first CRC Workshop in New York City in 2015, the number of attendees has increased each year. This year, the increase was influenced by the Dec. 31, 2017, deadline for a large group of Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR) holders. Members who passed the CRR Skills Test before Nov. 1, 2011, can earn the CRC by attending the CRC Workshop and passing the Written Knowledge Test before Dec. 31, 2017. Through November 2011, the CRR Skills Test consisted of literary material, just like the CRC Skills Test (the CRR Skills Test is now testimony material). The last opportunity in 2017 to take the CRC Written Knowledge Test is in October. Registration closes Sept. 30.

The CRC Workshop is also available online as a package of nine modules. Members who earned the CRR before 2011 and want to earn the CRC by Dec. 31 may watch the online workshop.

Our team of instructors knows only too well how quickly technology changes in the world of captioning. But the one aspect of captioning that remains the same is the need to write cleanly and conflict free. The CRC Workshop includes instruction about basic realtime writing for captioning. We cover the need to use prefixes and suffixes along with basic root words. We also talk about the never-ending need to prepare for upcoming assignments.

Technology has expanded the field of captioning from TV encoders to the internet. New platforms for online meetings develop every year. Competing caption streaming services bring new solutions that expand our capabilities all the time. Our instructors tried to cover the various methods of displaying our captions with an eye to future developments.

The captioning world grows every year, and the demand for qualified captioners is stronger than ever. Our committee looks forward to welcoming more and more Certified Realtime Captioners in the coming year.

Carol Studenmund, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, is a broadcast captioner in Portland, Ore., and co-chair of the NCRA Certified Realtime Captioner Certification Committee. She can be reached at cstudenmund@LNSCaptioning.com.

NCRA member honored by school with Alumni Award of Distinction

RenaNCRA member Rena Nathanail, a broadcast captioner and owner of National Captioning Canada, Calgary, Alberta, was recently honored by her alma mater, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), with its Alumni Award of Distinction. She was recognized in May for her outstanding career as an entrepreneur and her support of the community.

Nathanail’s firm is the largest Canadian-based provider of live closed captioning. With more than 100 employees working from home studios across Canada, the company provides 1,800 hours of closed captioning and realtime transcription services a week for news, sports, political commentary, entertainment, and government proceedings. Their clients include major broadcasters across the country like Rogers, Bell, Shaw and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, as well as the Alberta Legislature and the House of Commons.

According to the press release announcement, when Nathanail started working in Toronto in the 1980s, the field of closed captioning was a fledgling industry. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission had just begun to mandate that broadcast stations provide closed captioning for a certain amount of hours of programming per day as a condition of license. Nathanail, who graduated from NAIT’s court reporting program in 1984, was one of only two realtime closed captioners in Canada working for the sole not-for-profit captioning provider; it was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

“I started the business in 1988, captioned full time at all hours of the day and night until 2001,” said Nathanail. “I hung up my captioning gloves then and focused solely on building the e-business. We have more than 100 employees stationed from Australia to France and everywhere in between,” she added.

Nathanail said she learned she was being nominated for the award by faculty of NAIT’s court reporting program, who she and her firm work closely with.

“We are on the NAIT advisory board, and we were instrumental in having the program changed to the broadcast captioning and court reporting program. We have our own captioners teaching continuing education using their knowledge of closed captioning and work with NAIT and other advocacy groups to set a standard and maintain the quality of closed captioning in Canada,” she said.

“I was honored to have been chosen, but the most important thing was it allowed me to recognize and give credit to my employees that helped build the business and provide such a valuable service to the hard-of-hearing community in Canada,” Nathanail added.

Online live and near-live captioning deadline nearing

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyTVTechnology.com posted an article on June 23 written by Heather York of VITAC, about the FCC requirements mandating that all live or near-live programming on television be captioned when delivered via internet protocol, which take effect July 1.

Read more.

VITAC joins Sports Group Video as a corporate sponsor

JCR logoA press release issued June 13 announced that VITAC, based in Canonsburg, Pa., has become a corporate sponsor of the Sports Video Group.

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Cloud service to insulate media and entertainment industry from caption outages

JCR logoIn a press release issued April 25, VITAC Corp announced VTAC Power Connect, a new cloud service that hardwires continuous programming from realtime captioners to live broadcasting encoders.

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NCRA members represent captioners at captioning quality meeting

JCRiconOn June 3, several NCRA members, along with NCRA Director of Government Relations Adam Finkel, participated in a caption quality meeting in Washington, D.C. The members were:

  • Carol Studenmund, RDR, CRR, CRC, a broadcast captioner from Portland, Ore., representing LNS Captioning
  • Darlene Parker, RPR, a broadcast captioner from Reston, Va., representing the National Captioning Institute
  • Phil Hyssong, CMRS, a firm owner from Lombard, Ill., representing Alternative Communications Services

In addition, Gerald Freda represented CaptionMax, Heather York and Bob Beyer represented VITAC, Jill Toschi represented the National Captioning Institute, and Quang Pho represented the Media Access Group at WGBH. Other attendees were advocates for the deaf and hard-of-hearing organizations and representatives from the cable and broadcast industry.

The meeting covered the steps that the programming industry and the captioning industry have taken to implement the FCC’s best practices and consumer impressions of caption quality since the best practices have been adopted for both live and prerecorded programming. The captioners pointed out that, in general, they have seen an increase in prep material and audio quality provided to the captioners. Also, in general, more stations have been complying with efforts to prerecord captions for prerecorded content, which allows for higher quality captions for the consumer in regards to placement and accuracy.

Members Jeanette Christian, RDR, CRR, CRC, from Topeka, Kan., and Deanna Baker, RMR, from Flagstaff, Ariz., provided CART captioning for the event.

The changing role of closed captioning for PEG channels

A post on April 27 by Government Video, part of NewBay Media, features an interview with NCRA member Carol Studenmund, RDR, CRR, CRC, a broadcast captioner from Portland, Ore., about the impact recent FCC rules have had on companies that provide captioning services. Studenmund serves as chair of the Mount Hood Cable Regulatory Commission in Oregon. She also serves on NCRA’s Broadcast and CART Captioning Committee.

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How Prince once saved VITAC’s captioning of his songs

A post on April 26 VITAC’s blog by broadcast captioner Brittany Bender recalls her quest to obtain the lyrics to two new songs that the musician Prince, who passed away April 21, was to perform on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in 2013.

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A captioner’s day – what it takes to succeed

A blog posted on March 30 by The Captioning Group based in Calgary, Alberta, and written by NCRA member Susan Hahaj, RPR, provides an inside look at what it’s like to work as a broadcast captioner. Hahaj, who is based in Nevada, Texas, is a broadcast captioner for The Captioning Group.

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