NCRA member recognized

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting,, JCR WeeklyOn Sept. 3, The Journal Gazette (Fort Wayne, Ind.) announced the election of NCRA member Tonya Kaiser, RPR, CMRS, to the NCRA Board of Directors. The announcement was generated by a press release issued by NCRA on Kaiser’s behalf.

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Webster court reporter elected to NCRA leadership

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting,, JCR WeeklyThe Monroe County Post reported on Aug. 30 that Meredith Bonn, RPR, of Webster, N.Y., was elected to serve a three-year term on the Board of Directors for the National Court Reporters Association. The story was generated by a press release issued by NCRA on Bonn’s behalf.

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Self-doubt: A luxury our profession can’t afford

Like most professions, court reporting is a world unto itself. We are a tight-knit community of freelancers, officials, captioners, and the like, all bound together by the common language of shorthand. And like any other profession, this community lauds a handful of individuals who consistently perform at the top of their game. They are the people who inspire us, encourage us, and continue to set the standard for all achievements stenographic.

I am not one of those people.

So understandably, when I found my­self face-to-face with a handful of these paragons at November’s NCRA board meeting, I couldn’t help but reflect upon my presence there that day. I am a fairly ordinary reporter with a fairly ordinary set of skills, and my credentials struck me as woefully inadequate when faced with the collective genius of the body before me. Still, I sat down amongst the board with my head held high, acting as though I had rightfully earned my place at the table.

After the requisite niceties were ex­changed and formalities dispensed with, the meeting commenced. I was instantly struck by the rhythmic discourse amongst the many participants. Ideas and opinions flew back and forth seamlessly; conclu­sions and determinations were reached with natural precision. Lulled into the comfortable ebb and flow of a well-run think tank, I was caught unawares when all eyes unexpectedly landed on me.

“How did you fall into court report­ing, Cheryl?”

In my capacity as a representative of the Deposition Reporters Asso­ciation of California, I had arrived at the meeting that morning prepared to rattle off a verifiable laundry list of topics – Cali­fornia legislative updates, the ins and outs of our current membership promotion, the upcoming annual convention – but the opportunity to share a story about myself was a scenario I had not envisioned. However, the moment of truth was upon me, so I offered them a small slice of what I affectionately refer to as my steno journey.

The story is probably like many oth­ers you’ve heard: Suburban Canadian girl, hoping to escape the ravages of the snow, treks cross-country to sunny California the summer of her 18th birthday. Girl meets boy; girl makes a series of bad choices; girl ends up a divorced single mom a few short years later. Throw in a string of frustrat­ing, menial jobs coupled with a desire for a more promising future, and voilà! A court reporting student is born.

Being a single mom with no immedi­ate family nearby, babysitters were a scarce commodity. The fact that my son had to be dropped off at and picked up from school each day meant that traditional schooling was not an option. After toying with the idea of night school, I finally settled on a fairly new concept at the time: online class­es. The prospect was daunting. Time and self-discipline were in short supply at my household, but I knew I would have to rack up copious amounts of each if I wanted to see this venture through to the other side. The ensuing years would be difficult at best, but compared to a lifetime of finan­cial hardship and job dissatisfaction, the choice was very clear. I grabbed the oppor­tunity by the reins and dove headfirst into a routine of sleepless nights, interminable homework, and tired fingers.

After three long and arduous years of juggling online court reporting school, a full-time job, and the demands of a young child, I found myself reading the most beau­tiful letter I have ever laid eyes on: written confirmation that I had passed all three legs of the California CSR. However, the cel­ebration was short-lived. It was now time to plunge into the demands of the working world to pay off the mountain of student loan debt that had accumulated during my tenure in school. Luckily, the work-from-home ethic that I had adopted during my online stu­dent ca­reer provided a natural segue into the late nights spent editing transcripts in front of my computer, and I found myself settling very comfortably into my newfound role as a deposition reporter.

My first year reporting resulted in a handful of noteworthy events, the most significant being the opportunity to serve on the Deposition Reporters Association’s board of directors. DRA, for those who are unfamiliar, is the nation’s largest trade association dedicated exclusively to the freelance reporter. As freelancers make up a large contingent of the reporting popu­lation here in California, this organiza­tion proved invaluable in my networking efforts as a high-speed student and a new reporter. It was especially important for me to involve myself with a California-based institu­tion, in addition to NCRA, to keep myself abreast of the ever-changing rules and regulations to which California reporters hold themselves accountable. My passion for the work of this association, as well as the desire to continually promote ethical reporting practices, made board service a foregone conclusion. And not only did my position on the board allow me to interface with some of the best and brightest depo­sition reporters that California has to offer, but it was the very reason that I was lucky enough to be sitting at NCRA’s table that day, breaking bread with some of my court reporting heroes.

As I recounted my personal anecdote to the attendees, I reflected on my story as if I was hearing it for the first time. It be­came more and more clear to me that, de­spite my insecurities, I had truly earned my right to sit amongst equals. An acknowl­edgment of how hard I had worked and how far I have come was especially poign­ant when shared with other reporters who appreciated the tribulations of the journey. My story was met with warmth, praise, and true appreciation for the dedication I had displayed for this unique craft that forged our common bond. Every board member went out of their way that day to make me feel welcome, and I left that evening having made a handful of great new friends and colleagues.

I walked away from the meeting that day free from my lamentations of inade­quacy. Instead, I was charged with a better understanding of this fantastic institution and a renewed faith in myself and the fu­ture of our profession. Knowing the vast challenges that we court reporters face in this technological age, it is more urgent than ever that we pursue relevancy and ed­ucation in partnership with our state and national associations. However, if I had but one pearl of wisdom to share with you from my experience at November’s meet­ing, it would be this: NCRA is not success­ful be­cause its leaders are vastly superior to the average reporter. NCRA is successful because the individuals who run it continue to reflect the competency, values, and determina­tion that are at the heart of every working reporter across our great country. I am proud to say that I am one of those report­ers.

I would like to extend a special thank you to Nancy Varallo and the entire team at NCRA for their warmth and hospital­ity this past November. I have every con­fidence that 2014 has great things in store for the reporting profession with NCRA at the helm. See you in San Francisco!

Cheryl Haab, RPR, is a freelance reporter in Van Nuys, Calif. She can be reached at

NCRA’s Board of Directors moves forward with new strategies

NCRA’s Board of Directors addressed a number of issues when it met Nov. 8-9 in Vienna, Va. The board received updates on the Vision for Educational Excellence Task Force, MOOC (massive open online course) program, on-demand testing system, and 2014 Court Reporting and Captioning Week, which is scheduled for Feb. 16-22, 2014.

The board also approved the following:

  • NCRA will participate in the annual events of the Hearing Loss Association of America and the Association of Late Deafened Adults to educate people about captioning and CART;
  • NCRA will obtain a legal opinion as to how the new HIPAA regulations will affect the court reporting and captioning profession; and
  • NCRA will retain Ducker Worldwide, a firm based in Troy, Mich., to conduct and complete the Court Reporting and Captioning Industry Outlook as proposed by VEETF. Preliminary portions of the study are expected in the spring of 2014.

NCRA announces the selection process for the 2014-2015 Board of Directors

NCRA Board of Director nominations are now open. NCRA is in the process of selecting qualified candidates to serve as officers and directors for 2014 – 2015. The deadline to submit nominations is Jan. 10, 2014.  Nominations should be submitted to

Help lead the Association dedicated to advancing the court reporting and captioning professions. Join us for a Q&A webinar session on Thursday, Jan. 9, at 9 p.m. Eastern, to educate yourself about the rewards and commitments of board service. This briefing will help you gain a better understanding of the process and expectations of serving on the Board. Bring your questions and ideas as the Committee Chair, President, and Executive Director who will facilitate this session. Please contact Laura Butler at or 1-800-272-NCRA, to participate in this webinar.








You can shape the future of your profession

You can shape the future of your profession
The benefits to youHERE’S YOUR CHANCE

Help lead the Association dedicated to advancing the court reporting and captioning professions. Join us for a Q&A webinar session on Tuesday, Jan. 7, at 9 p.m. Eastern, to educate yourself about the rewards and commitments of board service.


Article III, Section 9 (c), of the NCRA Constitution and Bylaws states, “Only Registered Members who are verbatim stenographic reporters or Retired Lifetime Members who have been verbatim stenographic reporters or Honorary Members who have been verbatim stenographic reporters shall be eligible to hold an elective office of the Association.”

SERVICE AS AN OFFICER (executive committee of the board of directors)

These positions, as a rule, are filled by those who have served or are currently serving on the NCRA Board. Since NCRA has a membership of 18,000 and a budget of nearly $8 million, service as a director is essential in order for the candidate to understand and fulfill the duties that come with such responsible positions.


Only voting members of NCRA may submit individuals for candidacy. These include Participating Members who are verbatim stenographic reporters and Registered Members who are verbatim stenographic reporters, as well as Retired Lifetime Members and Honorary Members who have been verbatim stenographic reporters.

When recommending yourself or another for a directorship, remember that some of the criteria the Nominating Committee looks for are:

  • Dedication and commitment to the profession
  • Good team player
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Outstanding reputation and character
  • Strong leadership

Board service is uncompensated and requires significant time commitments. Most expenses involved in Board service are reimbursable.


If you are interested in serving or know someone who would make a great Board member, tune in to the webinar on Jan. 7, at 9 p.m. Eastern, and submit the Declaration of Candidacy/Candidate Recommendation form today!


As provided in the Constitution and Bylaws, the Nominating Committee will meet at least 90 days prior to the July 31- Aug. 3 San Francisco convention to draw up a slate of nominees for the following offi ces of the association to be elected at the Annual Business Meeting:

  • President-Elect
  • Vice President
  • Secretary-Treasurer
  • Three Directors



Tami Keenan, RPR, CPE


Jan Ballman, RPR, CMRS

Mary Burzynski, RPR

Early Langley, RMR

Cathy Phillips, RMR, CMRS


Mark Renzi, RPR


No elected officer shall serve for more than one full term in the same office except the Secretary-Treasurer, who may serve for no more than three consecutive terms. Directors may only be reelected if at least one year has elapsed since the end of their prior term.


Toni C. O’Neill, RPR, FAPR
Christine J. Willette, RDR, CRR, CCP
Nativa P. Wood, RDR, CMRS, FAPR

Secretary-Treasurer Steve Zinone is eligible for renomination as Secretary- Treasurer during 2013-2014. All current Board members, including those directors whose terms expire in 2014, are eligible for election to a higher office.

Director Nativa Wood was elected by the membership in 2012 to fill the two year Director vacancy created by Steve Zinone upon his election to the office of Secretary-Treasurer. Ms. Wood is eligible for nomination to a three-year Director term in 2014.


Take this opportunity to make a difference in the future of reporting. Declare your candidacy or send the names of your recommended candidates to Nominating Committee Chair Tami Keenan, RPR, CPE, c/o NCRA headquarters. Nominations must be received at NCRA headquarters by Jan. 3.

Webinar January 7

If you are interested in attending the webinar on Jan. 7, please send your name and email address to Laura Butler to be added to the webinar invitation list. You can contact her at or 800-272-6272.

Declare your candidacy or recommend a candidate.

Your nomination should include:

1) your name and address;

2) the name and address of the person you are recommending;

3) the offi ce to which you are recommending the individual; and

4) the qualifi cations of you or said individual brings to the Board of Directors.

Nominations should be submitted to by Jan. 3, 2014

NCRA Board members to attend state affiliate conventions

One of the most important and rewarding duties of a member of the NCRA Board of Directors is the opportunity to attend state affiliate conventions. These visits allow board members to meet one-on-one with attendees and discuss the profession’s issues and activities from a national perspective.

Be sure to view the Board’s schedule to see which members will be visiting state conventions.

NCRA Installs 2013-2014 Officers at NCRA Convention & Expo in Nashville

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Aug. 9, 2013 — The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA), the country’s leading organization representing stenographic court reporters and captioners, today announced that Nancy Varallo, owner of The Varallo Group in Worcester, Mass., was installed as 2013-2014 President during the association’s annual Convention & Expo being held in Nashville, Tenn., Aug. 8-11.

Nancy Varallo-cropped_sA 25-veteran of court reporting, Varallo is a well-recognized leader in the court reporting field, and owner of The Varallo Group, which she founded more than 10 years ago. The firm provides court reporting services, as well as a suite of business services to other court reporting firms.

Varallo, who served as 2012-2013 NCRA President-elect, holds the professional certifications of Registered Diplomate Reporter (RDR), NCRA’s highest reporting knowledge certification, and the  Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR). She is a Fellow of the Academy of Professional Reporters (FAPR), a nomination-only award that recognizes reporters who have contributed to the profession through leadership, publication, service, and professional certification.

Varallo began her court reporting career in 1979 and has worked as a freelancer, a court reporting educator, and a CART provider. She has been a continuous presence in national affairs for the association since the early 1980s.

2013-2014 officers also installed include:

Sarah - Head-Shoulder CropSPresident-elect Sarah E. Nageotte, an official court reporter from Jefferson, Ohio, holds the professional certifications of Registered Diplomate Reporter (RDR), Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR), and Certified Broadcast Captioner (CBC). Nageotte previously served as NCRA’s 2012-2013 Vice President. She has been an official court reporter for 15 years and is currently employed by the U.S. District Court in Cleveland, Ohio. She has also worked as an official reporter for the Ashtabula County Common Pleas Court in Ohio, and the Crawford County Common Pleas Court in Pennsylvania.

Poage_Glyn.jpegsVice President Glyn Poage, an official court reporter from Helotes, Texas, holds the professional certifications of Registered Diplomate Reporter (RDR), Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR), and the Certified Shorthand Reporter (CSR) issued by Texas. He is an official court reporter for the 166th District Court in Bexar County, Texas. He has also worked as a federal official court reporter, a freelance court reporter, and a court reporting instructor.

Zinone,Steve_CroppedSStephen A. Zinone, an official court reporter from Canandaigua, N.Y., will serve his second term as NCRA Secretary-Treasurer. Zinone, who holds the professional certification of Registered Professional Reporter (RPR), has served as an official court reporter for the New York State Unified Court System in the 7th and 8th Judicial Districts, and is now assigned to the Ontario County Courts. He began his career in 1983 as a freelance reporter and worked as a stenographer in the Monroe County Town Courts, and in the deposition arena. In 1989, he began work in the Monroe County D.A.’s office as a grand jury reporter, and in 1997 he began work with the Federal Court for the Western District of New York.

In addition, three new members of NCRA’s Board of Directors were also installed during the event. They were:

DebbieDibble-April2013sDebra A. Dibble, a 24-year veteran in the court and deposition arena, from Woodland, Utah, who has worked as a deposition reporter in Salt Lake City, since 2002, will serve a three-year term as a member of NCRA’s Board of Directors. She holds the professional certifications of Registered Diplomate Reporter (RDR), Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR), Certified Broadcast Captioner (CBC), and Certified CART Provider (CCP). Dibble has also worked as a reporter in Memphis, Tenn., and as captioner and CART provider since 2010.

York,MicheleSMichele R. York, a court reporter from Candia, N.H., will serve a three-year term as a member of NCRA’s Board of Directors. York, who holds the professional designation of Registered Professional Reporter (RPR), is a court reporter licensed in New Hampshire, where she works as a freelance reporter.

Terry,SueSSue A. Terry, a court reporter from Springfield, Ohio, will serve a three-year term as a member of NCRA’s Board of Directors. Terry holds the professional certifications of Registered Professional Reporter (RPR), and Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR). She has been a court reporter since 1975.

NCRA Board of Directors Re-cap

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – NCRA’s Board of Directors met at the association’s 2013 Convention & Expo being held Aug. 8-11 in Nashville, Tenn., and made significant progress on several key initiatives, including adopting Vision 2018, NCRA’s five-year strategic plan.

A year in the making, the strategic plan lays the groundwork for an ambitious agenda for NCRA over the next five years. The plan revolves around six areas of strategic priority, identified to address the challenges and demands that lay ahead for NCRA and the court reporting profession. Those areas include: Awareness and Outreach, Advocacy, Professional Development, Education, Resources, and Member Value.

Online testing

In addition to its regular course of business, the board made the decision to pursue a more contemporary online testing strategy in light of NCRA’s continued exploration of opportunities that would allow for more flexibility in its testing process. Several years ago, NCRA explored the possibility of offering online, on-demand testing but technology available at the time was unable to meet the high standards the association requires.

Diane Peratt, NCRA’s director of certification and testing, reported to the board that the association has recently re-examined opportunities for online testing, and specifically, the fool-proof mechanisms available now for online proctoring. Peratt reported that technological systems have evolved to the point to ensure that cheating and unfair advantages would be nearly impossible in the online testing arena.

The next step for NCRA’s testing and certification team is to secure a proposal with a firm that provides online testing and proctoring and to develop a hybrid testing format to evaluate the benefits of online testing.

Greater outreach

The Communications and Outreach Committee provided an overview of the 2014 NCRA Sourcebook, now available to all members and positioned as the 11th issue of the JCR magazine. The 2014 Sourcebook reflects a new format that provides membership information in more sleek, more contemporary fashion and ensures a wider distribution of vital information to all members. Complimenting the new Sourcebook is the newly designed NCRA Online Sourcebook, The committee also reported that, a website dedicated to reporting news about the court reporting profession in a timely manner, has also been launched.

Global outreach

Jim Cudahy, NCRA executive director and CEO, reported on his first time attending this year’s Intersteno held in Belgium. He said it was an impressive event and suggested that NCAR should consider hosting the 2017 event to provide members with an opportunity to experience how global the court reporting market can be.

New and expanded resources

Cudahy also provided an overview of new products and an update on future projects, including the new 17-month calendar, Men of Court Reporting, developed by the association’s Government Relations Department. Proceeds from the sales of the calendars will benefit NCRA’s Political Action Committee (PAC). The calendar is available for purchase at convention, as well as online.

The Seven Practices of Highly Profitable Court Reporters, a new resource being developed by NCRA’s Government Relations team, is expected to launch in Spring 2014, and will be provided to state associations to aid firms and freelance reporters in becoming more profitable.

Other new resources available to members through NCRA’s store and at convention include a new glossaries book, featuring more than 25 additional glossaries compared to the previous version, and an updated Realtime Troubleshooting Pocket Guide.

Financial health

The board approved the 2014 Fiscal year budget as recommended by the Executive Budget Committee. It was noted that expenses have been cut by more than 3 percent and that the budget came in at less than a 1 percent deficit. It was also noted that the game-changing initiatives proposed by the Vision for Educational Excellence Task Force were included in the approved budget.

A more detailed report of the board’s actions will appear in an upcoming issue of the JCR and on

By special assignment: Seeing the world

Last November, Heidi C. Thomas, RDR, CRR, a member of NCRA’s Board of Directors, boarded a plane armed with her equipment case and steno machine. Accompanied by a technical expert, Thomas, an independent contractor from Roswell, Ga., with 36 years of experience as a court reporter and 25 years of experience as a captioner, flew nearly 14 hours to an assignment in Dubai, one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates. Hired by a captioning firm, Thomas spent two weeks in Dubai, considered to be the most modern and progressive of the United Arab Emirates, providing CART services during an international conference.

Thomas, who has also completed assignments in Japan, Lithuania, Mexico, Africa, and Switzerland, says that while traveling overseas to work is an exciting opportunity to experience other cultures, it can also prove challenging, especially, she says, when toting along all of her realtime equipment, including steno machine, computer, and tables.

“I keep my equipment case with me at all times. I never check it with my baggage, and when I go through security or customs, I sometimes think the security folks want to detain me or jail me. Of course, it depends where you are and how the authorities view your work. In Switzerland, they are happy to see you and invite you right in,” Thomas says. “But sometimes it can be even more difficult getting your equipment out of a country. In Mexico, for example, there were discussions about taxing my equipment.”


Prior to arriving for an assignment overseas, Thomas says CART providers, captioners, and court reporters need to be sure that all of their equipment will work properly, since many countries have different electrical outlets and voltage requirements than the United States, not to mention different Internet regulations. Nothing is worse than being overseas for an assignment and finding out that chargers and adapters won’t work or that your feeds won’t interface with a country’s recording or video format, she explains. Typically, the captioning companies that hire her take care of letting her know what, if any, additional adapters, plugs, or interface software she’ll need prior to traveling to ensure a complete and quality assignment, she adds.

“When a company hires me, they have specific contract requirements, so they let me know what I’ll need, because no matter where you go, there are always equipment issues,” she says.

CART providers, captioners, and court reporters who travel abroad to work also need to be aware of the official documents a country requires. Thomas says that some countries, such as Africa, require a visa in addition to a passport to enter the country. Before traveling to Africa, she was also required to have certain vaccinations to protect against disease. And although lead time between being hired for an assignment overseas and the actual travel dates is typically about two months, there are assignments that come up more quickly, and reporters need to act fast to ensure they have all the correct paperwork completed and medical requirements taken care of.

“When I traveled to Switzerland and Africa, I had about a 10-day lead time to prepare. My passport was in place so Switzerland was pretty easy to prepare for. However, with Africa, I needed to obtain a visa, and because of the short lead time, several of the vaccines I needed did not have time to take effect before I got there,” Thomas says. “You need to read up on the country where the assignment is and understand what the requirements are to work there, especially if it is an underdeveloped or third-world nation.”

Prior to her traveling to Dubai, Thomas says she studied the country’s customs and was prepared when she arrived, knowing that women have a different place in society in the UAE than women do in the United States and that some behavior by foreigners could be mistaken as aggressive behavior. She recommends that CART providers, captioners, and court reporters visit the U.S. State Department’s website before traveling abroad to learn the latest information about a country’s political climate, any travel advisories that might be issued for Americans, and about the nation’s cultural differences.

“Years ago I traveled on assignment to Mali, and it was fine. Today, however, with the political unrest there, I could not travel there to work. By comparison, you’ve got to figure that an international conference that includes attendees from more than 190 countries, like the one in Dubai, had to be held in a safe place,” Thomas says.


CART providers, captioners, and court reporters who travel overseas to work are often part of a larger team that can include several reporters and technical advisers.

“Whether you are the only reporter going on the assignment or whether there are several of you, there should always be technical support available on-site. You typically spend between 24 and 48 hours prior to the start of the assignment dealing with equipment setup and troubleshooting, as well as acclimating yourself to any time difference,” she notes. That means you may want to be compensated for days that are devoted to travel and/or technical setup, as well as days you’ll be writing. Though Thomas was the only CART provider on-site at the Dubai assignment, she says there were many CART providers stateside providing remote services to the simultaneous breakout sessions held during the conference. Given the time difference between the two countries, many of those CART providers ended up working in the middle of the night to cover the sessions, she says.


According to Thomas, professionals interested in working abroad should reach out to the numerous reporting and captioning companies that specialize in working with clients overseas and start by accepting international assignments that can be done remotely, as a way to develop a feel for the work, especially for the writing portion of the job.

Thomas also advises those seeking work abroad to make sure that the company hiring them is diligent in doing its homework when it comes to providing the necessary information about the assignment’s location, special equipment needs, official paperwork, and medical requirements.

In addition, Thomas cautions professionals who want to go the overseas route as independent contractors without the backing of a company, to be sure to understand that the information a company would normally supply them becomes their responsibility to find out.

“If you plan to take an assignment on your own, you need to understand that there is a lot of homework on your part. If you have never worked overseas before and will not be working for a company, I would caution that the job might be a red flag. Take the time to really think it through, and be sure you have access to all the information you need and know the questions to ask to ensure you will be safe and be able to produce quality work,” Thomas says.

“One of the most exciting things for me working an overseas assignment has been experiencing the different cultures of the countries I have traveled to. But I will say each time I come back home, I count my blessings, and realize how lucky I am to be a citizen of the United States.”