2018 Court Reporting & Captioning Week kicks off in just over a week

NCRA’s 2018 Court Reporting & Captioning Week, Feb. 10-17, kicks off in just over a week, and state associations, individual members, and schools around the country are finalizing their plans to celebrate. From contests to open houses to showcasing realtime at courthouses and at career fairs, the quest is in full swing to raise awareness about the career opportunities available in the court reporting and captioning professions.

Students go for the gold

In celebration of the week, NCRA’s Student/Teacher Committee is sponsoring an Olympic-themed speed test open to all students at varying test speeds. The tests consist of five minutes of dictation at a speed level that each individual student is either currently working on or has just passed. In order to be eligible to win, students must pass the test with 96 percent accuracy. One Literary and one Q&A test will be offered, and the faculty at each school will be responsible for dictating and grading the material.

All students who pass a test are eligible for prizes; winners will be drawn at random for first (gold), second (silver), and third (bronze) prizes. Prizes will include a copy of NCRA’s RPR Study Guide ($125 value) for the gold medal winner, a choice of a one-year NCRA student membership ($46 value) or one leg of the RPR Skills Test ($72.50 value) for the silver medal winner, and a $25 Starbucks gift card for the bronze medal winner.

All students who participate in the contest, even if they don’t pass a test, will have their names and schools published in the Up-to-Speed student newsletter and the JCR. For more information about the rules and registration, please contact Debbie Kriegshauser or Ellen Goff.

Events around the country

To mark this year’s event, the Texas Court Reporters Association (TCRA) is hosting its second annual virtual run, which is themed Peace Love Steno. The run is open to all court reporting and captioning runners, walkers, and exercise enthusiasts. Once participants sign up and register, they can plan their 5K walk/run, which can be completed on a treadmill, around their neighborhood, at a local park, or at the office. TCRA asks that all participants post pictures of themselves completing their walk or run on its Facebook page. The cost to register is $25, and those who complete the 5K earn an antique gold medal with bright psychedelic colors and a purple ribbon.

Theresa Reese, RMR, Honolulu, Hawaii, an official court reporter for the First Circuit Court, will be hosting an event that will include an information kiosk at her courthouse to raise awareness about the profession and the role court reporters play in the judicial system.

In Kansas City, Kan., a court reporter shortage at the Wyandotte County Courthouse has prompted official court reporter Rosemarie A. Sawyer-Corsino, RPR, to plan a meet-and-greet at the courthouse to raise awareness about the need for qualified professionals.

Members and states compete in the annual NSCA challenge

Everyone who participates in an event to celebrate 2018 Court Reporting & Captioning Week is also encouraged to enter NCRA’s National Committee of State Associations (NCSA) fourth annual challenge.

The aim of the challenge is to encourage working professionals to spread the word about what viable career paths court reporting and captioning are. NCSA will review and tally all submissions by members and state associations, and all entries will be eligible for prizes ranging from free webinars to event registrations. More information about the NCSA Challenge is also available at NCRA.org/government.

Still planning? Check out NCRA’s resources

Be sure to visit NCRA’s 2018 Court Reporting & Captioning Week resource center at NCRA.org/Awareness. The site provides numerous resources including:

  • press release templates that state associations, schools, and individuals can use to help promote the week and the profession
  • media advisories to announce specific events
  • talking points
  • social media messages
  • a guide to making the record
  • information on NCRF’s Oral Histories Project, including the Library of Congress Veterans History Project
  • downloadable artwork, including the 2018 Court Reporting & Captioning Week and DiscoverSteno logos
  • brochures about careers in court reporting and captioning
  • a quick link to NCRA’s DiscoverSteno site that includes more information about the free A to Z Intro to Machine Steno program
  • and more

In addition, the 2018 resource center includes an updated, customizable PowerPoint presentation. The presentation is geared toward potential court reporting students and the public in general to bring awareness to the ample opportunities available in the profession.

Remember to share how you celebrate the week by sending information about and photos of your event to NCRA’s Communications Team at pr@ncra.org. Everyone is also encouraged to share his or her activities on social media using the hashtag #DiscoverSteno.

A little help from your friends

Stephen Shea, Amelia Bradley, and Lindsey NiBlack

Amelia Bradley, Lindsey NiBlack, and Stephen Shea started together at Brown College of Court Reporting in Atlanta, Ga., in the summer of 2016. They came together from different backgrounds, with different experiences, each with their own reasons for wanting to go into the profession. Soon the three formed a bond of friendship that has been a vital support system throughout their time at school. Bradley, NiBlack, and Shea sat down to interview each other to discuss how far they had come and where they plan to go.

How did you become interested in court reporting?

Shea: My wife and I knew someone in the industry. We came to an open house, and this career seemed a perfect fit for me. I wanted a stimulating, mobile career for the future.

NiBlack and Bradley: We were both unsatisfied with just our Bachelor of Arts degrees and wanted to do more. Like all good ideas, our mothers suggested the field of court reporting.

Did you have careers or degrees in something else, and if so, what made you switch to court reporting?

Shea: My career was my family’s printing business. I do have a Bachelor of Arts in management.

NiBlack: I have a bachelor’s in religious studies. So, obviously, that’s not exactly practical (laughter). A bachelor’s doesn’t have the same pull that it used to, so I wanted a skill, not just another degree.

Bradley: I am a professional ice skating instructor, and I have a bachelor’s in journalism. There are similarities between journalism and court reporting, but I wanted a career with more stability. Plus, I realized that I wanted to be more “behind the scenes.” Now, I can just listen, and I’m nosy!

Describe your support system at school. How has it helped you to overcome your challenges?

Bradley, NiBlack, and Shea: Amelia is by far the most positive. She always tells us, “You can do it!” We have found that it is easier to disappoint yourself than your friends and support system. We all have different strengths, too. Amelia is great at speedbuilding. Lindsey helps out with technology. Steve’s job is to keep us laughing. We all pull each other up in our academic classes, too! We’re the only ones left from our starting steno theory class and have been through a lot together.

It’s nice to have friends to ask stupid questions so that we don’t look stupid in class (laughter). That was a bond forged in our grammar class. That, and Steve’s study guides!

Even when we are aggravated about school, we come to see each other. There can be a lot of negative responses to testing and to some of the more challenging aspects of court reporting school. It is great to have a supportive group to go to and seek some encouragement from one’s peers. That keeps us in a positive frame of mind to be successful.

What has been your most difficult challenge so far?

Shea: Making the decision to not do something at home that needs to be done in order to practice has been hard. Making myself more disciplined has been a challenge. It can be hard to say no to your kids.

NiBlack: Definitely accepting failure. I have never failed so many tests in my life! Plus, being a steno writer, realizing that it takes us time to build speed.

Bradley: I think learning to be patient, like things won’t happen when I want them to. That doesn’t make me a failure. I’ve also had to cut back on a lot of work in order to progress. I have learned that I can’t do everything.

What is your dream job?

Shea: Barring becoming president of football operations for the New England Patriots, I think I want to be an official reporter for its stability.

NiBlack: Go Pats! I’m too late to be an astronaut. For now, I am leaning toward being a freelance reporter with the freedom to set my own schedule. I want to travel while I am still young! I think I would like to become an official of the court when I decide to settle down though.

Bradley: Officialship! I like routine and stability. I feel like that would allow me to form stronger relationships in the workplace. I do plan to get married and have children, so in order to be flexible, I might plan to freelance during that period of my life.

It’s a new year, a new beginning

portrait of the author

Kay Moody

By Kay Moody

It’s a new year, and you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to practice more, buckle down, and make progress in machine shorthand. You’ve probably also set a goal to be at a certain speed level by the end of the next term in school. Every successful person will tell you that the secret to success is setting goals and working toward meeting those goals in an organized and timely manner. Here are seven tips to help you succeed:

  1. Set goals by identifying and eliminating your weaknesses and developing strengths.

When reading back shorthand notes, identify what you need to accomplish in order to write the selection at the speed dictated. Reading back and evaluating shorthand notes is an essential element in goal setting. Instead of saying, “It’s too fast,” identify exactly what you need to do to write at your goal speed. For example, if briefs and/or phrases cause you to hesitate or drop, set a goal to review them every day.

  1. Make goals that are small and attainable.

One of the biggest reasons people don’t attain their goals is that they set large goals that take months to accomplish. Instead, make small, attainable goals. Divide large, long-term goals into small, specific tasks that you can accomplish on a daily basis. For example, if you want to increase your shorthand speed by 40 wpm during the semester, break that down into two criteria:

  • To write 40 wpm faster in 16 weeks, you need to improve by 2.5 wpm each week. Set short-term weekly goals.
  • What principle of skill/speed development do you have to master to improve 2.5 wpm in one week? Identify what keeps you from writing faster, and develop study plans and drills to achieve this goal.

Gaining speed and passing tests are not goals; they are the result of working on and sticking to your short-term daily and weekly goals.

  1. State goals that are positive.

Instead of saying, “I’m not going to drop,” say, “I’m going to push myself and get every word. I’m going to get a stroke for everything that is dictated.”

  1. Remind yourself of a goal every time you write on your machine.

Before you begin writing, mentally establish the goal or purpose of each session, e.g., “I’m going to stay with the dictation and get an outline for every word.” When a brief, phrase, or difficult words causes you to hesitate, look up the correct outlines, drill on them, and retake the selection. Repeat the process until you can write the take without hesitating.

  1. Identify goals that are specific and can be measured.

When you read back a selection and have 40 drops, set the specific goal of fewer than 35 drops. Practice the same section until you reach that goal. In your next practice session, practice until you are down to 25 drops, then 15 drops, and finally no drops. Apply the same principle to cleaning up your notes, getting all your briefs, writing numbers, etc.

  1. Establish realistic expectation as to when you can reach your short term goals.

For example, “This week, I’m going to review and drill on 25 briefs every day.” By the end of the week, you will have reviewed, reinforced, and mastered 150 briefs.

  1. Reward yourself when you succeed in reaching a goal.

When you attain a goal, take a break, call a friend, or watch your favorite TV show as a reward. When you attain a major accomplishment (passing a desired speed level, for example), give yourself a BIG reward, something that you’ve wanted to do for a while but have been too busy practicing in order to reach your goals.

To summarize the elements of goal setting: Develop goals that eliminate weaknesses, that develop strengths, and that are small and attainable. Set a goal every time you sit at your machine, whether it is in class or a short practice session. All goals should be positive, measurable, specific, and realistic; and reward yourself when you succeed in reaching a goal.

Kay Moody, MCRI, CPE, is an instructor at the College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind. She can be reached at kay.moody@ccr.edu.

Students resolve to work hard and graduate

pen and index card with "2018 goals" written at the top and a listIt’s 2018: Have you made your New Year’s resolutions yet? Up-to-Speed reached out to court reporting students to ask them about their resolutions and goals for the upcoming year. Many of us resolve to start exercising, travel more often, or pick up a new hobby. But these students are all work and (mostly) no play.

“Making resolutions is usually not my thing,” said Rosalind Dennis of Arlington Career Institute in Arlington, Texas, “but I am this year!” Ask Connie Hwang of Plaza College in Forest Hills, N.Y., what her resolutions are and she gets right to the point: “Finish my stenography degree. Start working as a court reporter.” She is not alone. It seems every student has one thing top of mind this January: working hard.

What does working hard look like? “In 2018 I would like to become proficient in steno writing. I would like to eliminate hesitation and become more confident in muscle memory,” said Vickie Pelletier, of the College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind. Pelletier, like many students, is focused on her skills. January is a natural time to look back over the past year, assess your progress, and set some goals for the next 12 months. Macy Thompson, another student at the College of Court Reporting, will be one of those aiming for her goal. “I want to keep expanding my knowledge in briefs and phrases to help with less hesitation. My list of improvements could go on forever. I just really want to improve my speed,” Thompson said.

Speed is a common theme for student New Year’s resolutions. Taneshia Crockett, a student at Sheridan Technical College in Hollywood, Fla., said, “My goal is to accomplish passing all speeds.” She wants to pass her 180 wpm by the end of 2018 and be interning shortly after that. She has a no-nonsense plan: “Improve my writing habits. Focus on my weak areas.” Thompson wants to be at 225 wpm by December of 2018. “I’ve been struggling with my 120s since August. After having decided to make this my ultimate goal for the coming year, I am already two tests away from being in my 140s.”

Of course, all this pressure to increase speed leads to increased stress. To manage their stress, students say they are vowing to improve study habits, spend more time practicing, and find ways to reduce test anxiety. Cherie Allen, also a student at the College of Court Reporting, is resolving to “concentrate more on my studies, become better at time management, and try not to procrastinate so much.” Pelletier is doing her best to balance work, school, and an expanding family. “I would like to improve my time management. With a baby on the way, a degree underway, and a full-time job to maintain, the past few months have not been easy. I would like to manage my time in such a way where I am not tired during most of it. Miracles do happen!”

The ultimate goal of a student, as Hwang noted, is not to be a student any longer. Dennis said of her resolutions: “I plan to be vigilant in my practice time, finish school, and test in September.” When asked to narrow down just one goal for 2018, she picked, “Reaching 225!” More than half of the students who responded to Up-to-Speed indicated that graduating and finding work as a court reporter were their goals as well.

Allen’s drive and determination are tempered by her other aspirations: “to grow my love for the court reporting field” and “to overall have a happier/positive state of mind.” Only a few of the students Up-to-Speed reached out to brought up the lighter side of New Year’s resolutions. Jennifer Golightly, another student at Arlington Career Institute, said that “self health and awareness” were the things she would most like to improve in 2018. Hwang wants to increase her speed, but she also wants to “slow down.” She said she will travel more and “strengthen my relationships with family and friends.”

And Hwang has one more resolution. When she finishes her degree, she’s going to “CELEBRATE.”

Read your way to excellence

By Caroline R. Castle

If it is true, as the old saying goes, that “clothes make the man,” we could readily say that “words make the reporter.” Words are our stock in trade, our raison d’être. It falls to reporters, then, to have more than a passing acquaintance with the English language and with the meanings and spellings of as many words as possible. While it is true that we can report anything phonetically, the trick lies in transforming our soundalikes into sensible speech on the page. To do this well requires that we develop the kind of working knowledge of words that is derived most effectively from in-depth reading, an increasingly lost art.

Students, especially, should be concerned with expanding their vocabularies. As a reporter with 30-plus years’ experience and a veteran of proofreading, I know the impression that is created when an attorney sees a misused name or word on the page. When reporters transcribe elude instead of allude, for instance, they are announcing to the client that they are unfamiliar with these rather commonplace terms. To avoid such errors, students should begin now to create and maintain good reading habits. Only constant and repeated exposure to words of all stripes develops confidence in lexicological skill.

stack of booksThis is important for two reasons specific to accurate court reporting. Familiarity with the meaning of many words will, one, allow the reporter to follow and transcribe verbal speech accurately; and, two, increase spelling skill. Reporting softwares now include many aids to enhance accuracy. Even so, spell-check cannot solve all ills and is no substitute for knowledge. The reporter is always the final arbiter of the transcript and must take responsibility.

What, then, should we include in a reading regimen designed to promote tip-top professionalism? First, it is important to realize that any reading helps: fiction, nonfiction, periodicals, and newspapers. Some reading should be undertaken every day, before or after class. Newspapers and journalistic periodicals are particularly helpful, as they convey not only a general knowledge of words but also of newsworthy events in the world. It is vitally important to have an awareness of current events because it is impossible to predict what may emerge from someone’s mouth at any given moment. Names and places in the news regularly figure in testimony, and you stand a much better chance of reproducing accurate subjects about which you have even a modicum of understanding. This is particularly true when it comes to any technical field — medicine, science, business — but also extends to politics, culture, philosophy, and even religion. So grab a newspaper or a magazine and get busy.

Periodicals that run essays and book reviews are particularly helpful. They are usually associated with cultural, political, or economic life. Harper’s, The Atlantic, and National Review are three that come to mind that are most useful in this respect. The New Yorker is also excellent. Do not be put off by the particular political points of view espoused by such publications; what you are reading for is wealth of language.

Weekly current events periodicals are also very helpful. The best known of these are probably Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, and The Economist. If you want some lighter reading, try Reader’s Digest. Along that line, regularly completing the “It Pays to Increase Your Word Power” quiz in Reader’s Digest is a great way to enhance your vocabulary.

A word of warning regards the use of the internet to check unfamiliar words: Make certain you have a good dictionary and a thesaurus as well as other reference materials such as Physician’s Desk Reference, a medical dictionary, and a legal dictionary that can be tapped to verify specific terms. Again, as with spell-check, the internet does not solve all ills. If you have a mind full of information upon which to draw, you are better prepared to face the many puzzles you will confront in your writing.

Of course, in addition to current publications, the more books you read, the better off you are. I tend to favor nonfiction — political content and biographies are excellent — but high-quality novels and literature are very useful indeed. If you are perusing the book reviews, you will undoubtedly find many of the new releases interesting and will wish to read them, further exposing yourself to the written word.

Finally, although it does not exactly fall into the category of reading per se, solving word puzzles promotes a nimble mind. Mid-level difficulty crosswords are excellent for developing vocabulary, spelling, and a general knowledge base. Doing the jumble puzzle in your newspaper provides both a good feel for how words are comprised as well as an increasingly sharp recognition of prefixes and suffixes. And always, if you encounter an unfamiliar word in puzzling or reading, please stop and look it up to make the word a permanent part of your vocabulary arsenal.

Emulate Shakespeare, who achieved excellence using an invaluable tool: richness of language. Use this same tool and achieve excellence yourself.

Caroline R. Castle, RDR, CRR (Ret.), is a retired court reporter in Rapid City, S.D. She can be reached at bluish5746@hotmail.com.

Access to a master: The value of having a mentor

Man in a suit sitting at a steno machine next to a screenBy Joshua Edwards

Back in 2016 before giving my first speech at my local Toastmasters club, I emailed a draft of my speech to my assigned mentor, Jason. Jason is a seasoned member of our club and has given dozens of speeches over the years. He had developed a keen eye for how to craft an effective speech. Jason redlined through several paragraphs of my speech and typed a note about getting right to the point. I accepted his input and rewrote the speech. Had I not worked with a mentor and had I done it on my own, I would probably have droned on and on about things that are interesting to just one person — me — and barreled through the four- to six-minute time limit.

In the field of court reporting, I am a mentor to several students through both NCRA and the New York State Court Reporters Association. I try to give them the same beneficial insight in reporting as Jason gave me in Toastmasters: to avoid pitfalls, discover best practice habits, and stay disciplined and focused. I’ve heard anecdotes of students spending precious time in useless practice habits like sitting in front of a television and writing the news while the writer is turned off. (How do you know what you are writing?) A student may think that is effective practicing, but without the feedback of either paper notes or a realtime display, it is just a vain exercise.

All of us know how hard court reporting is. In fact, speedbuilding can be just as nerve-racking as public speaking. We can all empathize with the student who has been stuck at a particular speed for what feels like eons, and the bitter disappointment of failing that speed test week after week. That student may be just one more failed test away from jumping ship and abandoning a significant investment of time and money. The difference between walking away in frustration and becoming a successful court reporter often hinges on wise input from a mentor.

Mentors guide students, and they offer encouragement and practical advice based on personal experience. When a student works with a mentor, that student has prime access to an individual who has mastered the craft of court reporting and worked in the field long enough to know a thing or two. A well-qualified mentor has operated in a wide variety of settings and has faced and survived both the tedious routine and the exciting challenges that can happen in the course of a court reporter’s day. Think of a young voice student who had the chance to work with the legendary opera singer Luciano Pavarotti. Pavarotti had a passion for singing and for encouraging young singers to refine their craft. He not only performed in major opera houses across the globe, but he coached many voice students as well.

Whether a reporting student needs help, an occasional pep talk, or a serious high-voltage motivational speech, the mentor is willing to commit the time and to be responsive to the student’s needs. It goes without saying that the student must be equally committed and willing to put in his or her due time and effort. Remember, this is a volunteer effort. Time is valuable to us all, and being a mentor means being willing to give some of that precious time for free. Likewise, the student needs to respect the time and energy given by the mentor for his or her benefit.

I have a mentee* who occasionally sends me her transcribed assignments to look at the punctuation. While reviewing a jury charge, she had put in so many underscores denoting drops that I had to stop marking the grammar. Instead, I wrote a note in red ink: “It is critically important that you practice at a speed you can actually get down.” Her practice habits were not going to yield much success if she continued practicing at too-high speeds, dropping too many words, and trying to learn punctuation from incomplete passages.

*(Yes, mentee is a real dictionary word. Be sure to define it so you don’t get minty, men tea, men tee, or heaven forbid, meanty.)

Communication is key for a mentoring relationship to be successful, whether it happens by email, phone, text, video conference, or in person, if possible. Each week I send an email to a list of more than 90 students and working reporters. The email may cover anything related to the field. After coming back from NCRA’s convention in Las Vegas, I wrote a lengthy piece summarizing my experiences there. Being a mentor means sharing your professional expertise to help a student reach his or her goals. Being a mentee means receiving valuable tutelage, for free, from a pro who has already been there. So go ahead and sign up. Your future may well depend on it!

Joshua Edwards, RDR, CRR, is a captioner in New York, N.Y. He can be reached at joshua@jbreporting.com.

Convention conversations

This year, students attending the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo in Las Vegas, Nev., were treated to a range of different seminars aimed at preparing them for testing, contests, and the real world beyond graduation. Up-to-Speed asked attendees for feedback on the student experience and they shared their highlights of the Convention.

Group photo of students and the NCRA Board of Directors posed with enthusiasm

Students pose with the NCRA Board of Directors after a special meet and greet

The opportunity to network was one of the benefits students mentioned most. “The Convention was very motivational for me,” said Hailey Treasure, a student at MacCormac College in Chicago, Ill. “It was awesome to see how excited all the working reporters were to meet students and to hear them talking about what a good career reporting is and how much they love it after all these years. It was also nice to hear all the tips they had to share for practicing speed.” Meeting other reporters at the Convention was an especially useful opportunity for online students.

When asked to share her best takeaway from the Convention, Lindsay Pepe, who studies with online program SimplySteno, answered, “So many things! Being an online student, I don’t get a lot of interaction with other reporting students or actual reporters, so it was such a great experience being surrounded by them.” Brianna Carpenter, also with SimplySteno, agreed: “I enjoyed the opportunity to be around reporters because being a student is very isolating with schools switching to an online environment.”

Attending the social events such as the Awards Luncheon and the “Only New Once” Reception was also a great way to meet and talk with other working reporters. At the reception, first-time attendees shared drinks with the NCRA Board of Directors and the NCRF Board of Trustees. “They were so welcoming and encouraging,” Pepe commented.

A large luncheon in a hotel ballroom with people seated at round tables; in the background is the logo for the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo

Students from MacCormac mingle during the Awards Luncheon

Of course, networking is just one reason students come to the Convention. Another is to attend the student seminars and learn from the best. Speed dating has become a favorite way to meet people, and the “Steno Speed Dating” session proved no less popular. “It was an awesome way to meet working reporters,” said Treasure, “and to ask all the questions you have about their particular area of reporting.” In this seminar, students sat around 10 tables while professional court reporters, CART captioners, and broadcast captioners rotated from table to table every fifteen minutes so that all students had an opportunity to ask each of them questions. Unfortunately, a power outage at Planet Hollywood (along with Paris and Bally’s) shortened the time for speed dating, but the presenters and moderator Shaunise Day, a student at West Valley College in Saratoga, Calif., moved the session along and got everyone back up to speed.

The presenters were:

  • Dee Boenau, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC
  • Jo Ann Bryce, RMR, CRR
  • Linda Christensen, RMR, CRR, CRC
  • Rich Germosen, RMR, CRR
  • Cheryl Haab, RPR
  • Melanie Humphrey-Sonntag, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC
  • Stanley Sakai, CRC
  • Jennifer Schuck, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC
  • Joe Strickland, RPR, CRR, CRC
  • Doug Zweizig, RDR, CRR

Ashley Hurd, of the Long Island Business Institute in Commack, N.Y., gave the speed-dating session a good review: “This seminar provided excellent tips and advice from professional reporters in different areas. Knowing these reporters were once in my shoes as students gives me hope that I can be successful like they are.” The fast pace of the format kept the questions flowing and the reporters on their feet.

A young woman and a young man stand next to each other smiling

Shaunise Day and Stan Sakai pose after the steno speed dating session (photo from Stan Sakai)

Another dynamic session that garnered a lot of attention was “Business of Being a Court Reporter.” Presenters Michael Hensley, RPR; Charisse Kitt, RMR, CRI; Katherine Schilling, RPR; and Jessica Waack, RDR, CRR; demonstrated real-world scenarios in a mock setting to show students the ins and outs of what it’s like on an actual job. The idea was to expose students to the kinds of situations they probably don’t encounter inside the classroom.

For Hurd, this session was a way to extend her learning beyond her coursework. “As a visual learner, having this segment for representation was exciting,” Hurd said. “I was able to see how everything I’ve learned in school came to life.” She added that students often question what are “the proper, respectful, and professional ways to interject as a court reporter,” but this session “answered every doubt in a student’s mind.” Presenters also demonstrated the preferred way to conduct oneself around attorneys, witnesses, and judges.

For Amy Flaherty, of GateWay Community College in Phoenix, Ariz., this was her favorite session: “It really covered the basics in an entertaining way. Having the panel be so diverse was incredibly helpful. The panel members were down to earth and informative.” Pepe agreed. “Really fun and educational session,” she said. “It was great getting the opinions on how each individual would handle the hypothetical situations. Probably one of my favorite sessions at the Convention!” Interactive sessions like this one infused an element of entertainment and kept the students engaged.

What would students like to see more of in 2018? Hurd, the student from Long Island Business Institute, is concerned about scheduling her sessions around her class time and wants to try to avoid any overlap. Pepe, from SimplySteno, would like more time to visit with vendors in the Expo Hall. And Whitney Berndt, a student at Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, Wis. is thinking even farther ahead. “I would have appreciated an opportunity to discuss the future of court reporting schools, education, and testing to hear how NCRA is dealing with the lack of new reporters and how to get more students out of school.” Berndt will get an opportunity to share her ideas over the coming year as a member of NCRA’s Student/Teacher Committee.

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

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!”

Striking a different key, and hitting a new note

A young woman sits in front of a steno machine poised as ready to write. Her laptop is open on the table in front of her.Brittaney Byers, of Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) in Parma, Ohio, has been working at the keys since she was 4 years old, practicing her drills and improving her finger dexterity. Before starting at Tri-C, she had been trained by some of the best at Cleveland State University. But Byers isn’t a lifelong stenographer; she’s a pianist who went searching for a different tune.

Can you talk a little about your background? Did you start the program straight out of high school or did you have another career first?

When I came out of high school, I was originally aiming for a career in music therapy. However, that didn’t work out. I ended up studying at Cuyahoga Community College after leaving my previous university, originally for a degree in liberal arts, and then switching to the court reporting and captioning program.

How did you first get the idea of being a court reporter?

When I was studying at Tri-C, I was kind of unsure about what I should focus on studying while I was there, and I was looking for a career that would allow flexibility in my schedule and a lot of typing, which I enjoyed. (At the time, I had no idea that writing on a steno machine was any different than writing on a QWERTY keyboard.) I happened to be looking at television one day, saw the captions running across the bottom of the screen, and thought, “I wonder who does that, and I wonder if I could do that.” I looked up stenography and found out there was a court reporting and captioning program at the school I was already currently attending! I just decided to go for it!

How does being a pianist translate into stenography? What about it makes it easier (or harder) to write?  

I think I’m better able to learn briefs and finger combinations than I would be if I didn’t study piano. I also think I’m at a better place with my finger dexterity. However, the thing that helps the most is not from a writing perspective. Studying piano in school was very similar to studying stenography. Most of the things that my professors ask me to do now are the same as what my music professors asked me to do. Things like keeping a practice journal, reading back (or listening to myself) for feedback, using a metronome, isolating problem areas, and many other practice techniques are all things that I was introduced to (and continue to learn and work on now) while I was studying piano.

What other skill sets do you think would be helpful for a court reporter to possess?

The more I learn about this field, the more I realize how critical good organizational skills are to a successful court reporter. This is definitely something that I am still working on and will probably be working on for a very long time to improve. I can only imagine how much it takes to keep your schedule together for jobs (especially if you work with more than one agency), organize taxes and other financial things, and keep the rest of your life in order.

What kinds of challenges have you faced during your court reporting program?

My biggest challenge is trying to find a healthy balance between work, school, and life. I am currently working full time, which is not something I was doing when I was studying music, so trying to find the correct balance between earning enough income and having enough time and energy to practice is something that I am working to perfect.

What is the best advice you’ve been given so far?

I’ve been hearing this piece of advice in different forms and different places recently, but it still rings true. The biggest battle you have to fight will be with yourself. I have to continuously believe that I can do it. The speed is not going to be my biggest problem; it’s going to be my mindset. I have to battle myself to get on the machine after a long day of work, to stay encouraged after a bad test, or to do just five more minutes of writing when I feel I can’t anymore. I know if I can win the battle within myself and develop a positive mindset, and continue to improve my discipline, I will be able to succeed, no matter what.

If you were to go to a high school career fair to recruit students, what would you say to them about a career in court reporting and captioning?

I would let them know that if they wanted a career that would grant them a lot of flexibility and a high earning potential, they should join the court reporting field! We need more new faces! Of course, I would let them know that learning stenography and getting up to speed require a lot of discipline, but for the people who stick it through, there is great reward. I would tell them about the amazing experience I’ve had here at Tri-C and the awesome and supportive staff I’ve had the pleasure of working with. They will really do their part to make sure you have the best chance at success.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years, I hope to have passed the RPR Exam, and to have finished the court reporting and captioning program at Tri-C. I really want to go out to southern California and work there either doing freelance work or CART.

NCRA announces the winners of the 2017 CASE scholarships

Lisa Erickson

Lisa Erickson

The Council on Approved Student Education (CASE) has selected Lisa Erickson, a student at Prince Institute in Elmhurst, Ill., as the first-place winner of the 2017 CASE Scholarship. Maggie DeRocher, of Des Moines Area Community College in Newton, Ia., earned second place, and Meredith Seymour of Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, Wis. earned third place. The first-place winner will receive $1,500; second place, $1,000; and third place, $500.

“Words fail to adequately express just how blessed I am to have received this award,” says Erickson. “As a double-duty parent, so many odds are constantly stacked against me. What this means to me is a bright start to the future I dream for my family. Thank you to all who helped make this possible.”

“I’m so honored to be a recipient of the CASE scholarship,” DeRocher tells Up-to-Speed. “It’s great motivation to continue to constantly learn and grow in this great profession.”

Meredith Seymour, who has worked as an American Sign Language interpreter, says she is “humbled and thankful to be granted this scholarship, yet also honored to be given this opportunity to spread awareness on behalf of the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community.”

maggie derocher_cropped

Maggie DeRocher

As part of the application process, students submitted an original essay on the topic “Describe what the professions of court reporting and captioning are like today from your perspective. What do you think those professions will be like in the next ten years?”

All three winning essays focused on the growing demand for reporters and captioners as well as a positive outlook for the future. “I conclude that in ten years and beyond,” Erickson writes, “this remarkable field will continue to turn heads and strengthen the backbone of the community.” Erickson’s instructors rated her as “exceptional” and used words such as “stupendous,” “persistent,” and “committed” to describe her.

Meredith Seymour

Meredith Seymour

Another common theme among the essays was the effect that technology will play in the future of the court reporting and captioning professions. Seymour points out the shortcomings of digital audio recordings in courtroom settings: “Although once thought as a convenient and inexpensive route, [technology] has been continuing to prove how inadequate and untrustworthy it is a reporting device for the court system.”

DeRocher, on the other hand, sees social media as a way to share information within the community: “There is camaraderie, punctuation and grammar advice, suggestions how to handle different situations that arise in the profession, discussions of the newest technologies, and everything in between.”

Applicants were also required to be current students at an NCRA-approved court reporting program, hold student membership with NCRA, write between 140-180 wpm, and submit three recommendation forms, among other criteria.

Scholarship recipients will be formally announced at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo in Las Vegas, Nev. Visit the Student Resources page for more information about the CASE Scholarship and other scholarship opportunities.