REPORTING: The D’Arcy McPherson story

By Aimée Suhie

When D’Arcy McPherson stepped out his door in Trinidad and Tobago in the early 1990s, he could pluck a mango off a tree before heading to work at court and plan some beach time at the end of his day. But once he moved back to his native Canada, he had to worry about frozen eyeballs on a winter day in Ottawa’s minus 20 degrees.

Contrasts like these are what make a court reporter’s life so fascinating, and, like many of us, McPherson has stories to tell. He covered circuit courts throughout the province of Manitoba in the late 1980s. “That often meant flying into remote communities in the middle of winter and huddling around a wood stove with the judge while reporting testimony,” he remembered. “I also had gloves that I had cut off the fingertips to write in colder rooms – a necessity!”

He reported many of the committee hearings when same-sex marriage was before the Senate of Canada in 2003. “There were certainly times when it was difficult to hear some of the things being said,” McPherson said, who is gay. “Luckily, as reporters we are trained to distance ourselves from testimony that we might find emotionally charged. Overall the discussion on same-sex marriage was very positive and seemed to demystify many of the stigmas. Since becoming the law in Canada, same-sex marriage has become part of daily life, and institutional barriers to equality are less accepted.”

McPherson originally intended to go to law school, “but most of the new lawyers in the 1980s were working in restaurants,” he said. “There was a big demand for court reporters, and I was a pretty good typist, so I thought it might be a possibility.” He graduated in 1986 from Langara College in Vancouver where readers from the drama program at the college read dictations in different accents, which he said “could be pretty amusing.”

He earned his RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP, CRI, and CMRS certifications and is now in his 20th year in the Senate of Canada with the title managing editor of debates. Even though he no longer reports, he does broadcast captioning in his spare time.

As managing editor, he is in charge of budget, staffing processes, editorial policy, and ensuring that production deadlines are met. “We must coordinate with partner agencies such as the Translation Bureau — everything said in English must also be produced in French and vice versa,” McPherson explained. “In addition, I edit the final version of the debates in English, as well as some committees. I manage a team of four supervisors, one executive assistant, 18 reporters (nine English, nine French), and five scopists. We also have a system of revision for senators. If they have misspoken or misread something, they are able to request a change to the transcript. The debates are not strictly word for word. We prefer to call them ‘polished verbatim.’ In these instances, I have the final say on what is or is not an acceptable change.”

McPherson called his job at the Senate “a unique opportunity to be not only part of a highly skilled and talented team of reporters and editors, but also to have the best seat in the house to watch the political history of Canada unfold. Even before I became a reporter, I had always wanted to work in Parliament. And when I was offered the job, I accepted it without hesitation.”

Even though his job sounds different from what we’re familiar with in the United States, McPherson said the profession faces the same challenges. “Most court administrators in Canada have succumbed to the economic allure of digital reporting and have downplayed the negatives of not having a qualified professional who can report proceedings as they happen,” he said. “However, this has meant that some reporters have applied their expertise on the transcript production end of the process and continue to make their living that way while ensuring that litigants receive their transcripts. Other reporters focus on freelance, captioning, legislative, arbitration, or international reporting work. Canada offers many options for the qualified and skilled realtime reporter.”

When he isn’t working, McPherson plays piano, cooks and travels. But his current passion is helping to settle refugees from war-torn countries into the Ottawa community. “My church, First United Church, has helped to sponsor several families and individuals from Yemen, Syria, Eritrea, and Sudan,” he said. “I have found it incredibly fulfilling. It is amazing to share stories and to introduce new possibilities to people who have known such unimaginable hardship and violence. To see the joy on a child’s face as they play in the snow for the first time when only a year prior they were begging for food in a refugee camp helps to put everything in perspective. We have made incredible friends, laughed and cried, and have had the rich experience of being able to see Canada through the eyes of others.”

Tips for Students

“Love shorthand. Love the process. Love your fingers when they fly, and forgive them when they don’t. Keep breathing.”

Also: “I have learned a lot from others in the reporting field. Mentors, colleagues, conferences, even going through the library of old JCRs have been and continue to be sources of inspiration and guidance. I have also benefitted greatly through certification and professional development training that is offered by NCRA and our provincial association.”

Aimée Suhie, RPR, is a freelance reporter from New Fairfield, Conn., and a regular contributor to the JCR. She can be reached at suhieaimee@gmail.com.

COPE: Like, share, post

By Marianne Cammarota

One of the first things I do when I log on to my computer is check my social media pages. I like to see the beautiful pictures of the flora and fauna of Nevada my friend Karen Yates has posted. I can’t wait to see the Case CATalyst tip Cindi Lynch has posted. And of course, all my stitching friends have posted their wonderful handiwork for me to ooh and aah about. I like to read about what my friends are doing because they keep me on a positive path, they inspire me, and they bring joy into my life.

Social media and technology have brought us all closer together, even though we may be thousands of miles apart or in another country. We are just a click away from our best friends 24/7.  It’s so easy to say whatever is at the forefront of our minds, sometimes without thinking about how it may appear to thousands of others who may be reading it.

I have been a reporter for a long time, longer than I like to say. Attorneys in New Jersey know me, and they talk to me about all kinds of things. It is distressing to hear them speak about court reporters texting while reporting a deposition – and I don’t mean during a break. No one would like a plastic surgeon to be texting while getting a rhinoplasty.

I have seen some reporters post messages that are less than courteous responses to others simply because they think their opinion is more worthy. And at the worst end of the spectrum, I’ve read some grievous posts that could be considered criminal in nature.

The profession doesn’t look good when an attorney says, “Do I now have to have a paralegal scanning the court reporter forums for posts about what may have happened during my deposition that he or she feels is unfair, unjust, or just plain doesn’t like me?”

We are sometimes caught up in the nitty-gritty of our everyday reporting life, keeping up with the latest and greatest technology. We must learn all the rules and regulations of our local, state, and national associations and boards. Sometimes all this information bears down on us so heavily that we forget the simplest rules that do us the most good.

Our Code of Professional Ethics states: A member shall maintain the integrity of the reporting profession. Sounds simple and easy. But every time we write an angry response, post a nasty, ill-natured complaint, or do a discourtesy, we chip away at the profession.

A Mexican proverb says, “Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.” If we can keep our posts positive, we can do no harm.

Marianne Cammarota, RDR, CRR, is a freelance reporter in Bridgewater, N.J. and a member of the NCRA Committee on Professional Ethics.

TEACHING: Lighting the fire

By Josée Boisvert

As the approaches and methodologies applied to instruction and teaching have evolved over the centuries, so too have the challenges. Students today are very different than they were a century ago, or even 20 years ago. Cultural and socio-economic diversity, a rapidly evolving job market, and ever-changing technological advances continue to shape the teaching environment, its institutions, clients, and students.

As a parliamentary reporting teacher, this prompts me to reflect on the attributes I must possess as an instructor in order to adapt to the evolution of various societal aspects and to achieve my ultimate goal: delivering exceptional instruction to aspiring parliamentary reporters.

First and foremost, we expect our teachers to be knowledgeable in the subjects they are teaching and to have acquired the ability to properly plan and structure course delivery. I will therefore strive to be adequately prepared for every course by devising clear learning outcomes, such as speeds to be attained, which will be structured into parts, and supported by the appropriate delivery methods and a variety of resources. Assessment activities, such as assignments, realtime practice, and tests will also be planned to ensure that students are achieving their learning goals. By preparing a detailed syllabus for the course, stating the course outcomes, the resources to be used, and the required assignments, along with session plans and rubrics, I will be more likely to produce concrete learning results for my students as they progress towards their targeted speeds and conflict resolution.

In addition, these tools and strategies play an important role in communicating essential course information to students. A teacher’s ability to communicate effectively with her students is key. For example, by sharing the course syllabus with my students and discussing it with them, I will give them the opportunity to reflect on the learning outcomes, to preview the resources I plan to use, to prepare for assignments according to the course structure, and to understand how they will be assessed and what is expected of them. Providing them with immediate feedback, for example, after dictation practice and readback, will also help ensure that they stay on track at critical steps of the course.

Communication, however, is not a one-way activity. To become an exceptional instructor, I will need to listen to my students and tune into their world. Performing a class survey at the beginning of a session will help me assess the knowledge level of the students and determine possible gaps in theory application, gain insight into their areas of interest, or identify obstacles they might be facing individually, whether they are struggling with speed levels or with specific theory notions. Another effective way for me to gain valuable information and plan next steps will be to obtain their feedback regularly, with the help of tools such as the One-Minute Paper, where students are asked to list an important element they have learned in a class and what notions were lacking.

Of course, the logical consequence of establishing meaningful means of communicating with my students is the necessity to adapt my teaching methods to their needs, interests, goals, and expectations. Adaptability, for a teacher, means that I must strive to create learner-centered courses that will take into account students’ communication preferences to devise activities that will promote their participation in class, as well as in other learning activities, such as projects, tests, and field work. Giving students the opportunity to work in groups on reflective assignments will appeal to learners who are more at ease with social and verbal interaction, while setting aside time for practice and speed contests will motivate kinesthetic students.

I will also aim to offer them a choice of activities according to their individual or group learning styles, and provide them with authentic and relevant context that will foster their ability to retain information, to apply what they have learned in real-life situations, and to achieve higher-order thinking. For example, a field trip to the Senate Chamber will give my students a glimpse of the environment they will be working in. It will reinforce the importance of achieving a conflict-free method and will hopefully motivate them to persevere to acquire realtime and captioning skills.

Adapting to ever-evolving technology will also prove an asset in delivering instruction to students and promoting learning in a modern environment. Both in and outside the classroom, I will tap into the wealth of resources offered by the Web and online applications, whether to provide supplementary reading and practice material, research activities, quizzing and testing opportunities, or to take advantage of more effective means of communication, such as blogs, online discussion groups, or bulletin boards.

Last but not least, drawing from a variety of resources, tools, and activities will also help me create a more dynamic and engaging learning environment for my students. Undoubtedly, making efforts to engage students in their learning and to help them achieve their learning goals can yield rich dividends. As an instructor, I can engage students by incorporating variety in all aspects of teaching. I will plan a mix of instructor-led and instructor-facilitated activities, such as demonstrations and class discussions, or field work and group work that will give students an opportunity to learn according to their preferred styles. Inviting a guest speaker who works in a related field to attend class and read dictation will help challenge students and allow them to learn more about their future working environment. I will also offer them an assortment of textbook, Web, and media resources appropriate to the chosen topics and learning activities, and I will vary the tools used to assess their progress, by offering both cognitive and performance-based tests, such as papers and written exams or quizzes and speed tests. Finally, I believe that by creating a positive and respectful environment, while setting high expectations of students, I will be able to motivate them to persevere in attaining their goals.

Notwithstanding these far-reaching goals and best intentions, the quest to become an exceptional instructor must include a self-assessment strategy. Drawing from the results obtained by my students, their evaluation of the course, and the analysis of my peers, I will strive to adapt and improve my courses as I move forward in my teaching career, with the aspiration of lighting the fire of learning in the heart of every parliamentary reporting student.

Josée Boisvert can be reached at Josee.boisvert@sen.parl.gc.ca. This article was written as part of the requirements for NCRA’s CRI course.

MEMBER PROFILE: Randi C. Friedman, RPR, CRR, CRC

Profile - FriedmanCurrently resides in: Montclair, N.J.

Position: CART provider, open captioner, remote CART provider

Member since: 1978

Graduated from: Heffley & Browne

Theory: computer compatible

Favorite tip:

Practice every work day. Use book practice to gain rhythm and to enter the zone of concentration; then do speed practice. I like YouTube interviews, as they give the flavor and experience of real people’s rhythms, tones, cadences and pauses.

Breathe and relax when it gets fast.

Glue yourself to the speaker like a great dance partner; move with them.

Write rhythmically.

How did you learn about the career?

Don Depew, a New York freelance court reporter, was donating his services pro bono. He provided open captioning for the Paper Mill Playhouse, which preceded his doing open captioning for Broadway shows. He also was open captioning for MoMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and was covering a law student at New York University. He asked me (for two years until I went from terror to just scared and finally said yes) to cover the student. Two years later I “debuted” at the Met.

Do you have a favorite gadget? A salt rock that plugs into my USB port – it turns different colors and reminds me to smile and breathe.

What book are you reading right now? Prison Diary.

Have you accomplished something not related to your career that you would like to relate? I did my first aquabike event this past spring. I hope to do a 3-mile swim next summer.

 

STUDENT REPORTING: Scoping through school and beyond

By Gretchen House and Roanna L. Ossege

Scoping can accomplish many things for a budding reporter, but there are pitfalls to avoid, lessons to be learned, and trust to be earned. Scoping can be a great way to make money, stay in steno mode, and get on-the-job training. In addition, student scopists gain knowledge and ideas and begin to get an idea of the kind of reporter they may want to be. The issues scopists will likely face as a student are making the investment in CAT software, being careful to manage their time for school and practice while being available to their reporters, and getting the hang of the job so they can find and keep clients.

scoping1Our journey

We decided to start scoping to accommodate our mutual desire to stay close to the field. In addition, scoping gave us more control over our schedules than a traditional job would offer. We both feared that jobs outside of the court reporting world might mean less time focused on our ultimate goal.

Roanna bought her software by taking from a retirement fund, and Gretchen used a leasing option. Both avenues accomplished the goal of allowing us to scope professionally. Some reporters have access to a scoping or editing key that may allow students to scope for them without additional costs. In reality, the best opportunity to have access to a lot of clients is to purchase one of the more popular CAT software options.

scoping2Finding clients

There are several ways to find potential clients. Several websites, including Facebook, have job boards where scopists can meet reporters. Scopists need to be prepared with a well-written, correctly punctuated introduction or ad. This first impression matters to the reporters looking for scoping help. Scopists shouldn’t be afraid to mention that they are court reporting students. Student scopists present a promising option because of the resources they have access to through their school, including an education delivered by reporters. Also, scopists who have attained their scoping certification through their NCRA-certified court reporting program should let their potential clients know. Highlight anything and everything that demonstrates competency and promise. A good opening is to show the reporter that student scopists require less training than someone else.

Another way to find clients is to attend seminars and conventions to network with local reporters. Gretchen attended a CAT class given at an annual convention and was the only student in the class. During introductions, she took her chance to mention that she would like to scope and gave out her email address. She met a reporter who she has been scoping for ever since, and this reporter has become a cheerleader for her as well as she finishes up certification testing.

Roanna found one particular long-term client who was a perfect fit. The reporter was new but not too new. This reporter knew enough to guide a new scopist, and Roanna knew enough to be of value to her. In the end, it was the experience with that reporter that got Roanna her first opportunity as a new reporter. She joined her client’s firm about a year later.

From the writers’ experience, the in-your-face, unavoidable, and most important parts of scoping in order to build and maintain a client list are:

  1. Improve skills with every job
  2. Ask for and take criticism
  3. Apply the criticism
  4. Show progress so the reporter sees the value in training

scoping3The learning curve

Many reporters are so appreciative of scopists who are dedicated, careful, communicative, and loyal, and especially those who always meet their deadlines that they will work with new scopists on what they don’t know. We made up for our inexperience by showing a fierce dedication to impress in any way we could. Did we impress every client? No. Some reporters and scopists are not the right fit. That’s just the way it is. Did we make a ton of mistakes? Yes, we did. But we just kept plugging along.

A common thing heard among reporters is that finding a good scopist is like finding a needle in a haystack. Many reporters are weary of even trying anyone new because anyone can buy software and call themselves a scopist. Student scopists have to demonstrate that they have the special knowledge, skill, focus, and dedication to be an effective scopist. Don’t miss words, and insert basic punctuation. If student scopists lag on the other skills in putting together a transcript, most reporters will value someone who goes word by word with the audio. Reporters can train their scopists much more easily on format, etc. So if the best student scopists can offer in the beginning is incredible attention to detail, they are well on their way to being a value to many reporters.

One of the challenges new scopists face is that they will only be able to scope a few pages an hour at first. This is a good thing. Student scopists need to take their time and get it right. They will build up speed as they go and thus increase their earnings per hour.

Put together an organized system to accept work, complete work, and bill work. This means that scopists communicate that the job was received, it was downloaded into the software, the audio is clear and usable, and that they are ready to go. When Roanna was first starting out, she would stop every 20 pages or so and just text or email an update. It seemed to be an effective way to put reporters at ease until they got to know their new scopist. This kind of communication is very attractive to busy reporters. When the job is complete, reporters should be able to reach their scopists in case there is an issue with the file.

Don’t be upset when a reporter offers feedback on areas of improvement. This is a gift. Find out what reference guide that reporter uses, pull the guide out, and study it. Each reporter and firm has punctuation preferences that may contradict what students learned in school. Respect their preferences, be sure to take notes, and keep a preference sheet for each reporter to tailor their jobs to their preferences.

As student scopists improve and get their name out there, they may find reporters contacting them out of the blue because the reporter heard that the scopist is easy to work with, is dependable, and can produce a transcript. The reporter may not always be the right fit, and that is okay. Scopists need to be comfortable communicating that this is the case.

Before working with new reporters, scopists should clearly communicate in writing their rates, expectations, process, and billing schedule before they take any work. Their billing and invoicing must remain organized. There should be a system in place that clearly states any payment expectations, i.e. check, money order, pay in two weeks, etc. They can also, for example, list a late payment fee, but all that needs to be clear and upfront.

If a new reporter client sends a 300-page video depo of a forensic pathologist, it is okay for student scopists to say they would feel more comfortable with something smaller to start. Starting with 60 to 100 pages of what may be a simple motor-vehicle accident to a seasoned reporter may still challenge a newbie scopist. It takes practice and focus to be able to pick up on small punctuation and formatting issues that our brains sometimes unconsciously autocorrect. At the end of the day, it is okay for scopists to turn down a job that is over their head. This will protect their reputation as they gain experience. Taking small jobs from new reporter clients is the best way to build up a system of trust. By starting small and communicating zealously, scopists will grow and increase their business as they improve and expand their skills.

scoping4Facing your fears

Jumping into scoping and facing the fear of failure is tough to overcome, but student scopists have to conquer these fears if they want to be in this industry. Don’t fear the software. Learn to use it. Don’t fear punctuation. It’s important to master these skills, and it takes time and practice. There are resources everywhere to get help with software, punctuation, and a host of other issues student scopists will face.

Don’t fear asking questions. You don’t know what you don’t know, and every reporter was a student once. Reporters want their scopists to ask questions, want them to get better, and appreciate their scopists seeking clarification as issues arise, rather than turning in an incomplete product.

As is always true in life, facing fears with action is often the best way to develop confidence, and as a future professional reporter, confidence in the ability to produce a great transcript is empowering. On the other hand, if scopists offer to take expedites and rushes before they are ready, they will quickly tarnish their name in this industry, and they could potentially harm their reporters’ reputations. Student scopists should take what they can handle and work up to the bigger stuff.

scoping6What you gain

Student scopists will learn how to research the craziest things. They will learn how to punctuate the unreadable. They will learn things about their software. They will learn how to effectively communicate with their clients. They will learn to ask for help, more help, and some more help. All these lessons become huge assets when student scopists take their first jobs as professional reporters and put together their first transcripts.

Roanna recalls the major advantage of scoping jury trials for her clients. When she faced her first jury trial as a professional reporter, she knew how she wanted to set up the pages and she knew what was coming her way. Without scoping, this process would have been more intimidating and much more difficult in editing.

scoping5Community benefit

The reporting community benefits from offering opportunities to those students who are on the verge of graduating or who have graduated and need to tackle certification. This is the toughest time for a student, as they likely need to work but also want to stay close to the field to maintain motivation to practice and keep moving forward toward their goal. They need our support.

Court reporting students are well placed to train as scopists. They have the medical and legal terminology necessary for success and experience with their software, and many have a good network of working reporters for support. They understand formatting and proceedings and deadlines.

In the end, scoping while we were students was a net positive for us. We got stressed out at times. We had to learn to balance life, work, and our commitment to practice. We both felt that all of our clients were willing to work with our schedules a little bit to accommodate practice and school. But we were both successful in earning money in a court-reporting–related field while able to keep focused on school and certification.

Students interested in scoping should start communicating within the community to see what opportunities they can find. Scoping may require missing a night out or weekend plans with friends, but that is a small price to pay. The insight, experience, networking, and income potential are worth the sacrifice.

 

Gretchen House, Mesa, Ariz., is a graduate of the Gateway Community College Court Reporting program. Roanna L. Ossege, Falls Church, Va., is a freelance reporter in Northern Virginia. Both are on the Student Community of Interest for NCRA.

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.

State leaders call on congressional members to reauthorize realtime writing grants

NCRA members representing 26 state court reporting associations met with their respective representatives on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., March 22, the final day of the Association’s Legislative Boot Camp, and urged them to support the reauthorization of the Training for Realtime Writers grants. The grants are part of the Higher Education Act passed by Congress in 2009.

NCRA’s Legislative Boot Camp is sponsored by NCRA’s Government Relations Department. It offers a two-day program with sessions that include an introduction to politics, grassroots lobbying techniques, effectively communicating with the press, understanding federal initiatives, building lasting relationships, and what to expect when visiting lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The attendees also participated in mock hearings and role-playing exercises that taught them tips about promoting the profession to external audiences and consumer groups and how to successfully testify before legislators.

DSC_0176_resizedFor Danielle Murray, RPR, an official court reporter from Olathe, Kans., this year’s event marked her first trip to NCRA’s Legislative Boot Camp, and the experience left her more confident in being prepared to testify before committees, build relationships with like-minded groups, and use an array of new tools to successfully promote the profession at the grassroots level.

“It was a great privilege to work with leaders from all around the country and to come together to grow as a profession. It’s crucial to get out there at the grassroots level and advocate for our profession. Court reporters and captioners are important. It’s a growing profession, and we’re not going anywhere,” said Murray, who serves on the board of directors for the Kansas Court Reporters Association.

“It’s important to build relations with special interests groups to build a coalition for when you need it. The deaf and hard-of-hearing community is an obvious ally, for example, and so it’s important to build those relationships,” she added.

For LuAnn M. Gill, RPR, vice president of finance for the Texas Court Reporters Association, and an official court reporter from Cleburne, Texas, not only did she learn how to speak to legislators and advocate for the profession during Boot Camp, but the experience also allowed her to connect with other court reporters from across the country.

“I met lots of reporters who I now count as friends. I had so much fun during the entire process, the type of fun that makes you exhausted both mentally and physically,” she said.

DSC_0203“I strongly encourage everyone to take advantage of your next opportunity to attend a legislative boot camp, whether it’s NCRA’s or TCRA’s, and get trained on how to advocate for our profession. We are the experts, and so we know the benefits of a live court reporter in all settings,” Gill added.

During Hill Day when attendees met with their state representatives or legislative staff, NCRA members emphasized the importance of accessibility and how captioning fulfills requirements for the Americans with Disabilities Act among other legislation, as well as the growing job opportunities in the court reporting and captioning field. Several explained the technological process behind realtime and CART, explaining how court reporters and captioners are related and how CART, captioning, and realtime are being used in increasingly new markets.

Rachel Waterhouse-Schwalm, RPR, a freelancer and firm owner in Dubuque, Iowa, and Kara Holland, RPR, an official in Sioux City, Iowa, commented that they felt prepared for their meetings on the Hill after the previous two days of training, a sentiment that was echoed by many other members.

NCRA Vice President Chris Willette discusses the Training for Realtime Writers grants with Rep. Sean Duffy (Wis.)

NCRA Vice President Chris Willette (right) discusses the Training for Realtime Writers grants with Rep. Sean Duffy

In addition to having the opportunity to visit with lawmakers, the participants also had the chance to put their newly learned skills to work when they attended a reception with Rep. Rodney Davis, one of NCRA’s legislative supporters, as well as a second congressman who paid a surprise visit to the event.

“We had the honor of having an unscheduled visit with Rep. Kevin Yoder, and he was gracious enough to make an appearance at our closing reception, but it was because of all of the skills we had learned during our session at Boot Camp that made that happen,” said Murray.

“As it turns out, he was very supportive of the reauthorization for the funding of the Training for Realtime Writers Grant as part of the Higher Education Act. It wouldn’t have been on his radar had we not pointed it out to him,” she noted.

When attendees shared stories from their day on the Hill during the reception, many commented on how receptive their representatives and staff were about the Training for Realtime Writers grants. While several representatives cautioned that Higher Education Act is not likely to come up in Congress this election year, the day showcased how important it is to make sure legislation that affects court reporting and captioning remains in the conversation. The attendees from Alabama, for example, made a point to visit every representative’s office for their state in both the House and Senate, even though they only had scheduled appointments for those representing their individual districts. Linda McSwain, RPR, a freelancer and NCRA board member from Mobile; Wendy Myhan, a freelancer from Muscle Shoals; and Ashley Davis Dickey, RPR, an official from Birmingham, all represented Alabama.

    Rep. Rodney Davis with Georgia Rollins and Isaiah Roberts at the reception following the NCRA Legislative Boot Camp

Rep. Rodney Davis with Georgia Rollins (left) and Isaiah Roberts (right) at the reception following the NCRA Legislative Boot Camp

“Go to Boot Camp. It’s a lot of work but completely worth it. I feel prepared to testify in front of committees, and now I know what to expect,” Murray added.

“It was stressful, no doubt,” agrees Gill. “But we all survived, not one drop of blood, and it was so worth it.”

NCRA’s Government Relations Department hosts its Legislative Boot Camp every two years. In addition, a number of state associations also sponsor similar events for their members. For more information, contact Adam Finkel, NCRA Director of Government Relations, at afinkel@ncra.org.

About the Training for Realtime Writers grants program: The program was created with funds earmarked by Congress to help train more captioners to meet the need of the estimated 48 million Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing. Under the program, court reporting programs were able to apply to the U.S. Department of Education for the grants to support recruiting more students and improving teaching technique. The grant program was rolled into the Higher Education Act in 2009, which was authorized for five years, after Congress stopped providing earmarked funds. From 2001 to 2009, more than $15 million in Congressional earmarks were awarded to court reporting programs. Court reporting programs were awarded between $900,000 and $1.2 million a year from 2010 to 2014.