By Margary Rogers
The board of the Maryland Court Reporters Association proved that stenographers are everywhere on Feb. 15 during Court Reporting and Captioning Week.
We promoted court reporting and stenography at the largest mall in the state of Maryland, Arundel Mills (owned by Simon Property Group), where around 5,000 shoppers visit on an average Saturday, and 291,667 shoppers visit each week.
I thought about doing a court reporting pop-up at Arundel Mills back in December 2019, but holidays got in the way. Meanwhile, the MCRA had a board meeting Feb. 1, and we were brainstorming 2020 events and activities. The board consists of President Valerie Dawson, RMR, an official reporter in Salisbury, Md.; President-elect Ronda Thomas, RPR, CRR, a freelance reporter from Catonsville, Md.; Treasurer David Dawson, RPR (Ret.); Secretary Margary Rogers, RPR, CRI, an official court reporter in Washington, D.C.; and Board Member Cindy Davis, RPR, an official court reporter from Annapolis, Md.
We talked about Court Reporting & Captioning Week, Feb. 8-15, and discussed events that could be done quickly and effectively to promote the profession. We knew we only had two weeks to plan, so schools and job fairs were not available within that two-week time frame.
So how could we make the most impact in a short time frame and in the presence of many people?
I mentioned promoting the profession at Arundel Mills Mall, an outlet mall. The board agreed and thought it would be a great place to promote the profession where young people love to go and usually parents are in tow. We, along with other court reporter volunteers, set up tables, handed out flyers, and provided realtime demonstrations to mall shoppers.
Ronda Thomas and I spearheaded the event. Ronda downloaded and printed NCRA career flyers and posters from the NCRA Resources online page, and I contacted the managers at Arundel Mills Mall. The mall managers were briefed on the profession of court reporting and about Court Reporting & Captioning Week. All relevant information, flyers, layout of the steno machine, and demonstration displays were provided to mall management.
The mall managers knew MCRA’s mission, and they were more than accommodating. They said “Yes, you can set up and promote your profession in the mall.” They gave MCRA three location options to host their event, and MCRA strategically decided on the food court, aka the Dining Pavilion, because this would be an area where shoppers would most likely be sitting down or walking slowly, making it easier for the court reporter volunteers to communicate with shoppers. The Dining Pavilion was also one of the entrances to the mall that was less crowded with walking individuals. (MCRA members were very cognizant of expensive steno machines and having enough safety space.)
On Feb. 5 after the mall management said yes to setting up to promote the profession, they also said, “Just send us over your certificate of insurance, and you will be all set.” I immediately contacted the MCRA president and said, “We need a certificate of insurance to set up in the mall.” MCRA President Valerie Dawson and Treasurer David Dawson came to the rescue. They stepped in and contacted MCRA’s insurance company. After hours and days of being on the telephone with the insurance company and mall management, Valerie and David made sure we had the correct amount of insurance needed to set up in the mall. It was a small yearly amount, and MCRA has the insurance to use for a year in that mall and other malls in the DMV area.
The MCRA president, Valerie Dawson, made sure the event was advertised to all Maryland court reporters that MCRA had emails for and asked for support and volunteers. Ronda and I also were able to secure volunteers. The court reporting volunteers were Juanita Price; Michelle Houston, RPR, a CART captioner in Brandywine, Md.; Roz DiBartolo; Susan Wootton, RPR, a freelance reporter in Brooklandville, Md.; and Dan Williams, RPR, a freelance reporter in Baltimore, Md. Steno machine/realtime demonstrations were done by Susan Liebrecht, RPR, a freelance reporter in Eldersburg, Md.; Ronda Thomas; and me. There were also other court reporters that stopped by to lend their support, Marian Calhoun and Mary Ann Payonk.
The event was a success! There were many passersby. Our new court reporting prospects were teenagers and young adults interested in the steno machine, a career-oriented occupation, realtime and coding. Some words that were used to catch the attention of the patrons were “coding, career, flexible working schedules, working from home, income, closed captioning, and the free six- to eight-week NCRA A to Z® Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program.”
The reactions from some reporters were, “Wow, how were you able to pull this off?” or “We should try the same thing in our association.”
The mall patrons were curious, often doing double-takes as they were walking by. They were turning around to see what that little machine was. Their reactions were, “Wow, we’ve never seen anything like this set up in a mall before. What are you typing? How do I learn more about it for myself or my child?” There was one shopper who was interested in stenography when she retires. She was interested in captioning from home.
MCRA handed out more than 50 NCRA career flyers, connected with about 25 people and directed those interested people to the Discover Steno web page to sign up for an A to Z program.
Now that we have insurance set up, we have more opportunities to promote the profession in many different venues. Other places of interest to promote the profession are museums, MGM National Harbor Food Court, grocery stores, schools, and department stores like Wal-Mart and Target. We are thinking about hosting Promote Our Profession pop-ups at least three more times this year.
Margary Rogers, RPR, CRI, is an official court reporter in Washington, D.C.