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One ‘small’ step for Career Launcher, one giant leap for new professionals

By Debbie Dibble and Mike Miller

It’s been a yearlong labor of love for the Career Launcher team since soft launching their iconic rocket logo and program highlights at the NCRA Convention & Expo in Denver. A small group of court reporters, captioners, videographers, and other supporters have spent countless hours since early spring 2019 brainstorming, researching, creating, and troubleshooting the 10 short-form deposition modules that will make up the online training curriculum. But the next big undertaking, once everything got scripted out, was to travel to Seattle, Wash., in early March to get the modules on video. 

The five team members: Kevin R. Hunt of Buffalo, N.Y; Lisa Knight, FAPR, RDR, CRR, of Littleton, Colo.; Merilee Johnson, RDR, CRR, CRC, of Eden Prairie, Minn.; and the two of us have spent months of weekend and evening time on Zoom calls fine-tuning each module, squeezing  as much industry know-how and professional pointers into a new program that will not only be a virtual mentorship for new professionals but also an actual hands-on training program to expose those embarking on their careers to many of the situations they will encounter in the freelance deposition world. As the employment model for freelance reporters has shifted away from local firms with in-house reporters to a more decentralized, nationwide model, the access to one-on-one mentoring by a peer at the next desk has almost vanished. The team’s goal has been to create a 10-module master class on the everyday elements of depositions, such as videotaped and interpreted proceedings, odd patent and medical terms, confidential designations, hearings, on-the-record/off-the-record disputes, witnesses taking exhibits, and so much more!

Ever since that first paragraph, some of you have been asking yourselves, “March 2020? Seattle? Are you nuts?” The short answer is unfortunately, “Yep.” Many months before, when the team all agreed to get together with videographer extraordinaire Johnny Reidt in the Pacific Northwest to shoot all the modules, coronavirus hadn’t even been discovered. As the shooting schedule loomed closer and closer, Seattle became ground zero for COVID-19.  With the team’s busy schedules and the August launch date set in stone, this was the only chance to get the videos completed. We stocked up on hand sanitizer and boarded planes from across the country to keep the project on schedule, ignoring speculation about potential diminished mental capacity on our part. 

When a wrinkle developed at 9 p.m. the night before, Ron Cook, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, of Redmond, Wash., and his wife, Lisa, came to the rescue. Ron was working on a trial in Los Angeles, Calif., that Thursday night when he received the call, and after pondering every possible solution, he got coverage for his trial on Friday, jumped on a plane, came straight to the working team dinner, got up to speed on the project, and started filming with the team Saturday morning at 7 a.m. He stayed at the shoot until the very last minute possible, almost missing his flight back to Los Angeles on Sunday to continue the trial on Monday. 

The Career Launcher shoot was hosted by Lisa Buell, RPR, CRR, and Buell Realtime Reporting, LLC, for two-and-a-half days, where the team completely took over the entire office as studio space, video production areas, and dressing rooms. Lisa completely rearranged everything from schedules to furniture to facilitate the team’s needs. As with everything else on this project that originally seemed simple and easy, complications with the shoot turned the expected eight-hour days into pizza deliveries at 10 p.m. At the end of the Saturday shoot, no one believed we could get it done and still be on our flights home Monday morning, but Kim Dore-Hackbarth, RPR, and Tia Reidt, RPR, two local Washington reporters, worked right alongside the team, running cameras, picking up food, and, most importantly, offering moral support. When we needed extras to be receptionists, Kim and Lisa Cook stepped up like champs. When we needed someone to be the scorned wife of a cheating husband for the divorce deposition, Kim’s portrayal of Barbara Rose was spot-on. The best part, when the shooting finally finished up late Sunday night, Lisa Buell had laid in a supply of red and white wine for the ensuing celebration by the cast and crew.

The modules are now in final production as Johnny has cleared an entire week to devote himself to editing and perfecting the 10 training modules, and the team could not be more grateful. From the preliminary shots we’ve seen, Johnny is a masterful editor. Shots that we remember taking seven or eight takes of flubbed lines and lighting issues look like a $100 million Hollywood movie. If you ever have the pleasure of working with Johnny as your videographer, tell him thanks for all court reporters everywhere.

The team spent several days following our return recovering from the stress and exhaustion of the intense weekend, but we are now energizing and gearing back up for the next steps, alpha and beta testing, and organizing the procedures by which the mock depositions turned in by the new professionals will be evaluated by experienced reporters, with an eye toward the official launch later this year!  

A huge thank you to all who have sacrificed blood, sweat, and tears (and exposure to a pandemic) for this project and to all of you who are supporting it in the wings, waiting for this great new NCRF resource to advance our profession and get new reporters out on jobs more quickly, armed with the advantage of invaluable knowledge from seasoned professionals.

Debbie Dibble, RDR, CRR, CRC, is a freelancer and captioner based in Salt Lake City, Utah, as well as NCRA’s Vice President. In addition to the NCRA certifications listed above, she has earned NCRA’s Realtime System Administrator certification and the state-certified shorthand reporter credentials for Utah, California, Nevada, and Texas. She can be reached at

Mike Miller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, is a freelance reporter based in Houston, Texas. In addition to the NCRA certifications listed above, he has earned NCRA’s Realtime System Administrator certification and the state-certified shorthand reporter credentials for Texas, California, and Louisiana. He can be reached at