By Debbie Kriegshauser
When I was a new reporter, or even when I was a student for that matter, I knew very little about my profession. I had many questions I wanted to ask but was too scared to show my ignorance, trying to convince myself of the old saying, “no question is a stupid question.” I wanted to learn as much as I could, and doing an internship at the Peoria County Courthouse wasn’t quite allowing me to appreciate what the freelance world would be like or even if being an official in Peoria was similar to any courthouse job nationwide. I struggled to figure out: Do I want to be a freelance reporter or an official reporter?
Fortunately, I had an amazing instructor who was a past court reporter. This instructor was adamant about us joining the national association as student members and encouraged us to join our state association as well, especially when we could take advantage of the student price. We were pretty much expected to join the national association because she wanted us to receive the JCR magazine, and we eventually ended up with homework assignments using it.
Through this experience, I was truly educated, via the magazine, about the vast array of reporting fields that existed across the world. The job listings and equipment offered for sale were unbelievable. I was getting all the answers I needed to the questions I was afraid to ask. I would get so pumped up, gathering ideas on how to build speed and perfect my writing. I soon found myself getting over the hurdle of 160 wpm and flying through 180 and 225. I wanted to get out into that working world as fast as I could.
Excited by the knowledge I was gaining through the JCR, I was curious what my state organization would be like. I just had to go see for myself. I quickly joined the Illinois Shorthand Reporters Association (now the Illinois Court Reporters Association) and was truly amazed at the newsletter they provided. This newsletter also promoted various job openings in the state as well as tidbits on steno briefs. I was convinced there would be a job for me out there somewhere.
I attended one of my state conventions after learning about it through their Ad Infinitum newsletter. Wow! After being around all those working reporters, yes, this is what I wanted to do. I very shortly thereafter learned through the newsletter that there was a board position open as the southern regional representative that they were desperately trying to fill. Why not give it a try! I ended up getting the position, and, well, the rest is history. I’ve been serving on a board, committee, or council of my state and national organizations ever since with no lapse in service since around 1985. The networking opportunities association service has provided me have been priceless, to say the least. It’s fun to attend state and national association seminars and conventions, and be recognized by your fellow peers.
Beyond networking, I’ve taken advantage of many other benefits my memberships provide. My memberships have helped me insure my equipment; get discounts for court reporting–related products and services, like software or office supplies; access directories to find names of reporters wherever I need one; and see promotions of upcoming CEU-approved seminars. Supporting the legislative efforts that protect my profession and understanding the issues we face as working reporters is also a definite asset to my membership.
Of course, as the years have gone by, the value-added services have become tenfold with the advances in technology. Those directories have gone online, so I can easily find a court reporter, videographer, instructor, or software vendor. NCRA, and many state associations, have discussion groups on social media where I can ask questions and get new ideas. The NCRA website also has information on state association–sponsored seminars and events in and around your area as well as a library of e-seminars.
I can honestly say my state and national association memberships have brought me to where I am today. I’ve served on the Illinois Court Reporters Association Board, even as president for two terms, the Missouri Court Reporters Association Board, endless committees with NCRA, and I have even been involved with the CLVS Council. I’ve been approached to apply for jobs. I didn’t intend to become a federal official reporter, but I am one now, thanks to other reporters who threw my hat in for the position. Many reporters have become familiar with me through my state and national membership affiliations.
The real question is: Can I live without state and national association memberships?
Debbie Kriegshauser, RMR, CRR, CLVS, is an official in St. Louis, Mo. She can be reached at email@example.com.