Keynote speaker announced for 2021 NCRA Business Summit

Melanie S. Griffin, Esq.

Melanie S. Griffin, Esq., will serve as keynote speaker at the 2021 NCRA Business Summit taking place Jan. 29–31 at the Hyatt Regency Savannah in beautiful and historic Savannah, Ga. The theme for this event, “Rise to the Challenge! Winning Approaches on Adapting to Change,” is especially reflective of the current state of pivoting to ensure doing business successfully. Right now, early access registration is open through Nov. 30, offering a $50 savings on all categories of registration fees.

Griffin, a triple-graduate of Florida State University, honed her entrepreneurial skills for 13 years at a prominent Florida corporate law firm, where she served as a law clerk and then attorney from 2006–19. During the last five years of her work there, she was an equity shareholder and the Tampa office managing partner. In 2019, Melanie joined Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP, an Am Law 200 firm that is the largest law firm in Tampa Bay, as senior advisor, business-to-business relationships.

She will kick off a two-part session with Maximizing Your Personal & Professional Life: The Art of Focusing, Prioritizing, and Goal Crushing, where she will provide insights and strategies to help you stretch the 24 hours in each day. According to Griffin, “Together, we will develop a personal strategy that incorporates time management skills and other productive habits to help you set and crush big goals, rid yourself of procrastination, achieve work-life balance, and focus on meaningful activities that best align with your priorities and mission.”

The second half of Griffin’s presentation is called Rebrand 2021: Personal Branding & Networking Strategies to Shine Beyond Your Competition. In this segment, she will teach attendees how to authentically connect with others, create a lasting positive mindset, increase their daily energy, and find and explain how their “why” will elevate their business, maximize their professional relationships, and increase their profitability.

During her legal career, Griffin served as the 2011–12 president of the Central Florida Association for Women Lawyers (FAWL) and 2013–14 president of the Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division. In 2021–22, she will serve as president of the Hillsborough Association for Women Lawyers. As a result of such leadership, she has been recognized by numerous organizations including as Florida’s Most Productive Young Lawyer (2009), FAWL Leader in the Law (2010), Super Lawyers Rising Star (Business Litigation 2010–20), Florida Trend Legal Elite (Up & Comer 2010–14, Commercial Litigation 2014–18), and more.

In 2019, Melanie assisted with the launch of Nora Riva Bergman’s book 50 Lessons for Women Lawyers from Women Lawyers at the New York City Bar Association. Her contribution was published as Lesson #20, Dream Beyond Perfection!

She is a sought-after keynote speaker who has addressed local, statewide, national, and international places of work and professional, community, and civic organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, the ALFA International Client Seminar, the U.S./Canada KNOW Women Summit, the American Bar Association, the New York Bar Association, Florida Association for Women Lawyers, Florida Paralegal Association, the Florida Bar,  and several universities and law schools.

Other sessions on the schedule for the 2021 NCRA Business Summit will cover topics such as financial planning, business law and leveraging government regulations to help our business, successful social media strategies, and numerous networking sessions. Watch the JCR Weekly for more information about additional sessions and speakers.

During early access registration, which runs through Nov. 30, the cost to register is $695 for NCRA members, $795 for nonmembers, $595 for additional attendees from the same firm, and $175 for a spouse/guest attending social functions only. Fees will increase after Nov. 30 by $50 for members, nonmembers, and additional attendees. The cost for a spouse/guest will increase by $25. Please note that the spouse/guest registration category is reserved for a spouse/guest of an attendee who is registered for the conference. Professional reporters and captioners may not register for this category as a guest. Guests are welcome at only the receptions through the spouse/guest package; attendance at the educational sessions requires a full registration.

A special rate of $225 per night is also available through Jan. 6, 2021; the rate does not include tax and other fees for single, double, or triple occupancy. The cost for quad occupancy is $250 per night plus tax and other fees. The cutoff date for the discounted rates will be Jan. 6, 2021, or until the room block is filled, whichever comes first.

Make plans now for one of NCRA’s most popular networking and learning events and take advantage of all Savannah has to offer from waterfront views, delectable dining, unique shopping, historical offerings, and more. Register now and save.

Sponsorship information: Contact Jill Landsman, Development Relations Manager, at jlandsman@ncra.org.

Virtual career day in the courtroom

By Shaunise Day

Earlier this year, I was excited to announce that I had partnered with KIPP, a nationwide non-profit network of public charter schools, to promote our court reporting and captioning professions to their schools. In order to promote our profession during a career fair, it was suggested that maybe I could put together a full career fair that represents the legal profession. I was able to get the courtroom approved to hold the career fair. We were going to have the panel set up in the courtroom, provide lunch for the students, give a mini-networking session with the students and professionals, set up a few steno machines to allow the students to try them out, and then finally give a tour of the courthouse. COVID-19 happened and changed everything.

Over the summer, we all witnessed parents and students struggling with homeschooling. I could only imagine what that must have been like. I contacted the director for the KIPP Academy in the Bay Area of California to see if we could still possibly put this career fair together but make it a virtual career fair. What better time than now to encourage and remind our youth that their goals and dreams of going to a college or trade school still mattered? This was the perfect time. This would also give parents some relief and bring some positivity to this pandemic. Director Chris Walker from KIPP Academy- Bay Area, California, was on board with this whole idea that I presented, and we brainstormed to make this first ever virtual career fair come alive.

After participating in two career fairs on behalf of the California Court Reporters Association last year, I knew that I wanted to keep this up. I gave up four hours last year to promote the profession on behalf of my state association. We have 365 days in a year, and all it took was four hours to do something good to promote the profession. I knew going forward that I would continue to set aside a few hours per year to give back and promote steno to the public.

I decided that my target audience would be inner city schools. The reason why I selected KIPP Academy was because of its inclusion and diversity. This was near and dear to my heart. After setting up the first KIPP Academy career fair, I decided to take it a step further and contact another chapter of KIPP Academy, in Houston, Texas. The director immediately was on board with my plan. I thought we could make October a month to promote the profession. By this time, I had a total of four virtual career fairs planned.  After the organizing and planning was complete, it was now time to reach out to our reporting/captioning community and see who would be available to volunteer a few hours to help promote the profession.

I also created a new Facebook group: The Steno Xperience. It is for those in the steno community who are interested in promoting the captioning/court reporting professions through career fairs while promoting the NCRA A to Z® Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand Program. The group was also created to share ideas on how to promote the profession, share pictures of other steno-related career fairs, give talking points to the public while promoting the procession, and maybe inspire others to get involve and give back.

Career Fair #1 for teen girls

We kicked off our first virtual career fair with a small group of teen girls from Dallas, Texas. This virtual career fair was held on Oct. 3. We had six stenographers participate. We had Linda McSwain, RPR, an official reporter in Mobile, Ala.; Kimberly Xavier, RDR, CRR, CRC, CMRS, CRI, an official reporter in Arlington, Texas; Lenora Walker, a freelance reporter in Oceanside, N.Y.; Adriana Johnson from California; Vertina Yeargin, a freelance reporter in Lauderhill, Fla.; and Stephanie Hicks, a freelance reporter in Bronx, N.Y. These stenographers did such an awesome job promoting the profession and giving words of encouragement. I sat back and let these ladies do what they do best and that’s share their passion for the profession. After the Zoom meeting, Hicks decided to register for the RPR for the next testing cycle. You see, when a group of stenographers are together, we encourage and motivate each other. This was one of the highlights about the career fair. Empowered stenographers empower stenographers.

Career Fair #2 and #3 – Kipp Academy

The career fair for KIPP Academy Houston was done in two parts. This career fair panel was made up with the professions that you would see in a courtroom. We had Judge Dunson from Houston, Texas; attorney Eddrea McKnight from Houston, Texas; and police officer Sheldon Theragood from Houston, Texas. We had our very own stenographers Mekailah McChriston, an official reporter in Spring, Texas; Leticia Villanueva from Houston, Texas; Erminia Uviedo, RDR, CRR, CRC, a freelance reporter in San Antonio, Texas; and Adriana Johnson from California provided the captions. I was so proud at how passionately each professional spoke about the legal profession.

The second career fair was Oct. 5. The director requested that we record the professionals who could not make it to the live virtual career fair and also wanted a person to be present during the live career fair to answer the questions that students may have. During this pandemic, the stenography world has been busy. It was hard to get reporters to commit during the morning hours to promote the profession. I ended up being the presenter for the live career fair. I had no clue that I would be speaking to four different classes on two different days. Each class was for 50 minutes. For some of the periods, we had classes that would combine and join the Zoom meeting. One class may have had 42 students, while another may have had 26 students. I put together a PowerPoint presentation and made sure that I had enough material to cover the entire class schedule while leaving room for questions at the end. The resources that I used were pulled from NCRA’s website. Between the PowerPoint presentation and the professional short video clips, the timing was perfect. I also included steno TikTok videos that the students enjoyed and could relate to. I was able to answer all questions and provide handouts and information on the NCRA A to Z® Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand Program. I promoted the profession for two days straight with a total of eight classes. The director and students were impressed, and we have been asked to promote the profession at their next career fair. For next time I will be sure to have stenographers on deck where there is someone for each class

Career fair #4 – Bay Area, California

The fourth and final virtual career fair was held at KIPP Academy- Bay Area, Calif. This virtual career fair was different from Houston’s career fair. The director only wanted the panel to be present and we did a Zoom recording only. All professionals submitted pictures and their bios, and the students sent in their written questions ahead of time. Once we held the Zoom meeting, all professionals gave an introduction and answered the students’ questions. The panel included Judge Jo-Lynne Lee from California; attorney Peter Langley from California (husband to our very own stenographer Early Langley, RMR, a freelancer in Danville, Calif.); Shacara Mapp, a freelancer in Warren, Mich.; and Chase Frazier, RMR, CRR, CRC, a CART captioner and court reporter in Murrieta, Calif., who provided the captions while he and Mapp both spoke eloquently about our profession and answered the students’ questions.

The virtual career fairs turned out better than I expected. Since we were not able to hold our traditional career fairs, the main goal was to inspire our youth that their dreams are still important despite what we are going through with this pandemic. Our stenographers promoted our court reporting/captioning professions. The judges, attorneys, and police officer shared why the judicial system was important and the importance of finishing school. Each virtual career fair ended with words of encouragement. From the judges to the attorneys, they made sure to acknowledge our court reporting/captioning profession. Doing things remotely is now the new thing. I find myself saying this on a weekly basis, “When technology evolves, so will stenography.” As a profession, we have to continue to find ways to stay with the times and make sure we are educating the public on who we are and what we do. Judge Lee was impressed to find out what captioners actually do. Let’s continue to keep the steno conversation going. Although these virtual career fairs were for the students, I think we all walked away learning something new from another profession. I definitely learned something new and was inspired by all participants. 

Shaunise Day is a student from Oakland, Calif.

How one NYC college is making strides for the court reporting profession

Who’s tired of hearing, “What is court reporting?” Who’s tired of having to explain what stenography is or that it’s not some “old-fashioned” way of capturing some of our most important historical events? The importance of court reporting cannot be overstated, yet the field is grossly unrecognized across the country. That’s what one college in New York City has set out to change.

Plaza College, located in the borough of Queens, is home to the only court reporting program in America’s largest city. With thousands upon thousands of trials and court proceedings occurring each year in this city alone, it’s a wonder how NYC’s students overlooked the vast opportunity just waiting for them right in their own backyards. And this isn’t just the case in New York. Nationwide, the demand for court reporters is so great that court systems are forced to delay trials, lawyers can’t get someone to come and transcribe depositions, and schools can’t properly provide CART services for disabled students.

Karen Santucci, CRI, director of Plaza College’s program, is optimistic that Plaza’s effort to advocate for the profession and provide a highly trained force of new reporters for NYC will produce a lasting outcome: “This is a career opportunity that, unfortunately, so many students are unaware of, so changing that can breathe a new life into reporting.”

Plaza College is making strides not only for active reporters, but for current students and those who are just beginning to consider a career in court reporting. Every year, Plaza hosts a Court Reporting Symposium, bringing together their students and faculty with court reporters from across the state of New York. Together, they strive to spread the word about the profession, network with each other, and innovate to ensure the future of court reporting. This year’s event will be held virtually on Oct. 29 and features a keynote speech from Christine Phipps, RPR, the president of the National Court Reporters Association.

In addition to providing their students visibility in front of the network of peers which they’ll work with – and for – in the field, Plaza’s court-reporters-in-training benefit from a refreshed curriculum. Plaza College inherited the program from now-closed New York Career Institute in 2017, and since then, the team of industry experts making up Plaza’s faculty and program administration have revamped the way its students get to that magic 225 word-per-minute mark. The success of the program can be truly marked by the success of its students, most recently with the celebration of one of its students earning a Merit Award from Project Steno.

“Our students are making great progress through the curriculum, some even faster than we could have hoped,” explained Santucci. “It’s our vision that the program not only reaches those who already know about court reporting through a friend or family member but that it becomes so popular that students – those right out of high school, those wanting a career change, and all of those in between – come to us from all backgrounds.”

To allow people to take advantage of their time at home during the pandemic, the college has opened its recruitment to prospective students throughout the eastern seaboard. Given that the program is offered fully online, this makes it possible for students from Maine to Florida to get the benefit of a high-quality, real time, progressive program. If they’d like an introduction to stenography before fully enrolling, they can also take advantage of one of the NCRA A to Z® Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand sessions offered by Plaza College. The next is being held virtually on Nov. 10, 12, 17, and 19.

“Advocating for this field and providing our peers with ways to connect and put our heads together is so important to us,” Santucci added. “If every court reporter in the country had the opportunity to do so, perhaps it would be possible for our community and our profession to get the recognition it deserves.”

Program helps Texas high school students earn a court reporting degree by graduation

Bertha A. Prieto, RPR

Earlier this month, the El Paso Herald-Post reported that a new program developed through a collaboration between the Socorro Independent School District’s (SISD) Career and Technical Education Department and the El Paso Community College (EPCC), El Paso, Texas, was offering students the pathway to earn an associate degree in court reporting by the time they graduate from high school. The program is offered to students attending the Americas High School Libertas Academy, one of the advanced academic programs offered by SISD. It is geared toward students who wish to pursue a career in government and public administration or law.

The JCR wanted to find out more about this venture and reached out to NCRA member Bertha A. Prieto, RPR, an official state court reporter from El Paso, and a court reporting instructor at EPCC, who was influential in helping to make the program a reality. Here’s what we learned:

JCR | Tell us a little about how this partnership came about. Did EPCC approach the Libertas Academy or vice versa?

BP | Our court reporting program has been very active in recruiting to area high schools. We attend job fairs, “Project Graduation” efforts, and have made presentations at middle schools. The Libertas Academy learned about our program and felt it was an excellent addition and fit to their existing programs which consist of law, government, and public administration. They contacted the Dual Credit program at EPCC where the meetings began.

JCR | Were there any challenges to overcome to make this partnership happen?

BP | Both institutions came together to provide a crosswalk to match the high school and college curricula. The next challenge fell on the Libertas Academy with the budget component to fund the purchase of stenographic machines, books, and online learning system subscriptions, to name a few. Both institutions were very excited about making this partnership happen, so everyone worked tirelessly to do so. This has been a stellar team effort!

JCR | When is this program officially launching or has it already?

BP | The program launched this past summer for the first cohort. The initial course began on May 26. The first and second cohort then partnered for the fall semester and their journey in machine shorthand commenced.

JCR | Where do the students take the class, at the high school or at EPCC?

BP | Students currently enrolled in the program complete EPCC courses online. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the high school students are presently attending school virtually. Once they return to campus, they will remain in an online setting but will be monitored by a facilitator at the Libertas Academy.

JCR | Are you the only instructor?

BP | At this current time, I am the only full-time instructor at El Paso Community College; however, there are additional adjunct instructors who are available to assist with further courses within the program.

JCR | What has been the feedback about the program?

BP | We are halfway into the semester and students are actively participating and continue to be vested in their online learning. The challenge of mastering machine shorthand, coupled with virtual learning, are probably their greatest burden. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, these young students are faced with the difficulty of continuing to be self-motivated and self-disciplined at a time when they do not have face-to-face support among their peers. Nonetheless, their enthusiasm is quite inspiring, and they demonstrate a commitment to thriving in the court reporting program at the Libertas Academy.

JCR | What is the greatest benefit to this partnership?

BP | I believe the greatest benefit to this partnership is the one gained by the students. These students who are enrolled and successfully complete this program will have the opportunity to receive a certificate of completion or a two-year associate degree in court reporting when they graduate from high school. The Libertas Academy offers students the advantage of studying in the areas of law, government, and public administration. Court reporting is a branch of this academy wherein students will gain the skills and confidence to pursue this career at a young age.

JCR | How were funds raised to purchase steno machines?

BP | The following answer was provided by George Thomas, Director of Career Technical Education at the Socorro Independent School District:

We received a Texas CTE Summer grant that supported the machines for the first cohort of students. In the future, we will be purchasing using our CTE state-weighted funding. Each school district in the state of Texas receives weighted or additional funding of 1.35 percent for each full-time equivalent student to support the diverse needs of each program. The funding is spent on teacher and counselor salaries as well as supplies, equipment, technology, software, training, transportation, and contracted services. The students enrolled in our programs draw this state-weighted funding to support all our programs. Courses like speech, law enforcement, and business require less funding, and courses such as welding, electrical technology, and science courses require much more funding to support the needs. Court reporting is a program that will require more funding than it draws, but it all works out in the end.

JCR | How many students will be able to participate in the program at one time?

BP | According to Eduardo Hinojos, Libertas Academy Coordinator:

The goal is to have anywhere between 10 to 15 students begin the program every year as we work to gain a stronger foothold and presence in the region. We started two cohorts simultaneously this past summer. One is comprised of eight sophomore students while the other consists of nine freshmen students.

JCR | How is this being marketed to potential students?

BP | According to Hinojos:

Every fall semester, the Libertas Academy markets its programs to all 8th grade students in every one of the district’s 16 junior high schools. Given the latest addition of the court reporting program, in partnership with EPCC, we will not only present on the career opportunities court reporting offers but also give students an opportunity to hear testimonials from current students in the program. Additionally, we would like for students to see what the machines look like in action by having one of our students and instructors model a lesson. Our marketing plan will also showcase our in-house courtroom that was built specifically for our program. Here, students will be able to witness all facets of the courtroom, wherein they play the role of bailiff, court reporter, attorneys, jury, and judge.

JCR | How long have you worked as a court reporter?

BP | I have worked as a reporter for the past 23 years. Most of my career has been as an official court reporter, though I have also had the opportunity to work as a freelance reporter and court reporting instructor. My aspiration, however, is to one day work as a realtime captioner.

JCR | How did you learn about this profession?

BP | My introduction to this field dated back to when I was in high school. My sister’s friend was a court reporter in the Dallas area, and she felt this would be a good fit for me. In high school, I learned to write shorthand, believing it would help me in this profession, but little did I know that the actual skill would entail learning machine shorthand, a skill I am absolutely proud of.

JCR | What court reporting program did you attend?

BP | I am honored to say that I attended the very same school where I currently teach court reporting, El Paso Community College.

JCR | What has been the greatest aspect of this career for you?

BP | Where should I begin? Being able to work both as an official court reporter and instructor have given me the opportunity to embrace two disciplines for which I am equally passionate about. This profession has lent itself to an array of career opportunities. I have had the benefit of working in various spectrums within the judicial system, as well as having the privilege of crossing over to an educational setting where I have taught the art of court reporting for a number of years.

JCR | What would you say to others thinking about a career in court reporting or captioning?

BP | To any person who is interested in pursuing a career as a court reporter or captioner, I would tell them to leap into this career. The benefits outweigh the challenges of learning this skill. It is a profession that is highly respected by a community where professionalism and ethics are fundamental for safeguarding and preserving the spoken word.

Bertha A. Prieto can be reached at bprieto@epcounty.com.

It’s a great time to watch fan favorite Connect sessions

Five of the fan favorite sessions from NCRA Connect Virtual 2020 conference are available as e-sessions for purchase, offering a great opportunity to earn CEUs to anyone who needs to maintain certifications or just upgrade the skills they need to continue working in this new era.

If you are interested in gadgets, don’t miss Reporters and Gadgets and Apps — Oh, My! presented by Lynette Mueller, RDR, CRR, a freelancer in Memphis, Tenn.

“Want to fill your need to embrace gadgets and apps and ease them into your workflow?” Mueller said. “My Connect Virtual webinar may be just what you’re looking for! I’m so honored that this session is a fan favorite and being offered to court reporters who couldn’t attend the convention this year!”

Mueller said she is careful about which apps and gadgets make her list.

“The criteria must be that they are unique and must do something that cannot be done with a different app or gadget or it does it better and more efficiently and, also, it must help with my court reporting workflow,” she said. “This learning session covers so many awesome recommendations — from remote depositions to microphones to headphones and many more!”

Watch Mueller’s Instagram account, @omegareporting, for details about a new contest she is running related to her presentation. It ends Nov. 14.

Another session features Rene White Moarefi, RPR, CRR, a freelancer in Houston, Texas, who presented about marking exhibits. She said, “You will learn how to confidently mark exhibits electronically with ease!”

The cost for each session is $55 for members and $79 for nonmembers. Each of the sessions are worth 0.1 CEU.

Five e-sessions from the NCRA Connect Virtual 2020 conference are being offered:

Reporters and Gadgets and Apps — Oh, My!

Presented by Lynette Mueller, RDR, CRR

Learn to be self-sufficient, productive, efficient, and courageous in your everyday professional life! Lynette Mueller will share the gadgets, apps, and other resources that assist her to meet the many challenges that may arise in the deposition or courtroom setting. She will also talk about the workflow she uses after the job — work smarter, not harder!

Ethics Jeopardy

Presented by Andrea Kreutz , CLVS; Mindy Sindiong, CLVS; LaJuana Pruitt, CLVS; and Tim Janes, CLVS

This session is presented as an educational game show where contestants answered everyday videographer scenarios. Categories include Remote Depositions, The Secret World, and It’s Not That Kind of Video.

Just Okay is NOT Okay; Is YOUR Realtime Good Enough?

Presented by Anissa Nierenberger, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI

While realtime does not mean perfection, how do you know if your realtime measures up as a sellable product? Let’s look beyond the gray and examine concrete, real-world examples of what is great, good, and just okay. Just because you can read through it doesn’t mean that your clients can. Anissa Nierenberger will debunk untranslate rate myths and other misperceptions about quality realtime. She’ll also provide solutions to common stacking and easy brief ideas, as well as explain why you should be editing in a way that school never taught you! If you’ve felt “in the dark” regarding realtime standards, you won’t want to miss this presentation!

Social Media Bootcamp

Presented by Cathy O’Neal

What social media should I use? When should I post? How often? What should I say? Do I have to answer every stupid comment? Can’t someone else just do it for me? Social media can be just one more chore, or it can help you gain visibility, reputation, and clients. Learn the who, what, when, where, and why of social media from a seasoned communications pro who has a 3.2 million Facebook reach! Weed out the stuff you don’t need, focus on the stuff you do need, and walk away from the session with action items you can use right away to start building the social media presence you want.

Marking Exhibits Electronically for Remote Proceedings

Presented by Rene White Moarefi, RPR, CRR

This session will cover the steps for marking exhibits electronically during remote proceedings, including download and setup of electronic exhibit stamps.

For more information or to purchase any of these sessions, click here.

NCRA member John Brian Graf passes away

The Billings Gazette reported on Oct. 22 that NCRA member John Brian Graf, a freelance court reporter and firm owner from Billings, Mont., passed away on Oct. 15.

Read more.

ABA announces Giving Day

In a press release issued Oct. 22, the American Bar Association announced that it will celebrate an inaugural ABA Giving Day event on Oct. 29, which coincides with the National Celebration of Pro Bono, to raise attention and support for eight different areas the group helps through public service, policy, and education programs.

Read more.

What career paths can students explore after high school?

TMCnet.com posted an article on Oct. 20 about the benefits of choosing a career in the court reporting profession.

Read more.

The importance of a united front

NCRA wrote a response a couple of weeks ago to the American Bar Association’s Journal article on artificial intelligence (AI), urging them to use caution about buying into AI to capture the record. NCRA President Christine Phipps, RPR, reached out to the National Verbatim Reporters Association (NVRA) and asked if they would like to support our letter and position in response to the ABA; they wholeheartedly agreed to stand united with NCRA. (See links below to both responses.)

Besides the long list of issues regarding the manipulation and ability to change audio recordings, both national organizations believe that having a trained person capturing the record should be the standard for making the record.

The strategic alliance developed on this issue, by these two national individual membership organizations, demonstrate that both groups are concerned about companies pushing their technology and company profits over the sanctity and accuracy of the record. The record is the main integral component in any proceeding and cannot be left to unproven technology that can be manipulated. Both NCRA and NVRA stand united on the value and accuracy of the human court reporter/captioner who addresses every syllable of every word as it is spoken in any proceeding, because the potential of any AI failure and misinterpretation of audio recordings transcribed after the fact is too high to the litigants, the legal system, and those with hearing challenges.

NCRA’s response to the ABA

NVRA’s response to the ABA

Thank you for your (volunteer) service

NCRA would like to thank those members who have graciously volunteered their time to caption events ranging from Town Halls with the president to the numerous webinars the Association has made and continues to make available to members. Here’s a special shout-out to those volunteers:

  • Tina Dillon, RPR, CRR, CRC, Chicago, Ill.;
  • Lisa Doyon, RPR, CRC, Eagle, Idaho;
  • Kim Falgiani, RDR, CRR, CRC, Warren, Ohio;
  • Patty Nelson, CRC, Annapolis, Md.;
  • Anissa Nierenberger, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI, Boise, Idaho;
  • Sheri Smargon, RDR, CRR, CRC, Riverview, Fla.;
  • Angie Starbuck, RDR, CRR, CRC, Columbus, Ohio
  • Carol Studenmund, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, Portland, Ore.; and
  • NCRA Director Heidi Thomas, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, Kennesaw, Ga.

The JCR recently reached out to these volunteers to learn more about what motivates them to serve their association and fellow members. Tina Dillon told the JCR why she volunteers. Here’s what we learned from our other volunteers.

JCR | What motivates you to volunteer to caption for NCRA’s events and webinars?

Kim Falgiani, RDR, CRR, CRC

Kim Falgiani | The challenge of captioning before my peers is what motivated me initially. Once I volunteered and was a part of planning, I saw how much others contributed and wanted to continue being a part of all the hard work that goes into these events. 

Anissa Nierenberger | To encourage others to volunteer for our national Association and to highlight the awesome career of captioning.

Sheri Smargon | I would love for other members of the Association to branch out and do something they may find terrifying, writing live in front of their peers. It’s a great way to promote the Association and show why we are the gold standard over other methods of taking down the record.

Angie Starbuck | I enjoy giving back to a profession and Association that has given me so much in my career. I have been a member since graduating from court reporting school, and I am honored to give back as a way to thank all of those people who have served NCRA over the years and helped shape me into the court reporter I am today.

Carol Studenmund, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC

Carol Studenmund | I volunteer to caption for NCRA out of a love for our profession, the friends I have in this organization, and the need to bring more people into the profession

JCR | Why is it important to volunteer your time and skills to assist the Association?

KF | As a member, I have a responsibility to participate in NCRA. Not everyone is at a place in their careers where volunteering fits into their hectic schedules. If you can find the time to volunteer, then go for it! You will have so much fun and overcome the trepidation of sitting before your peers and writing realtime. 

AN | As a past president of the Michigan Association of Professional Court Reporters and after volunteering five years on the Board, I saw the benefits of volunteerism to boost up others so that we can all represent our industry as professionals. The same applies at the national level.

SS | The profession can only move forward in its advocacy and its mission of proving we are the gold standard for preserving the record as well as a channel of communication in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community if we all support it through our deeds and our words. When we showcase our skills, in whatever way we practice our profession, we bring awareness of the skill, professionalism, and dedication to people who may not realize we’re even there.

Angie Starbuck, RDR, CRR, CRC

AS | An association needs its members as much as the members need the association. We wouldn’t be able to advance our profession without volunteers! If you want to see a change in your profession, you have to be willing to step up and volunteer. Getting involved in your association is the best way to make a positive impact for others in the court reporting and captioning field.

CS | I’m a big believer in organizations. I make friends; I learn about captioning; I spend time with people who understand what my work is.

JCR | What would you say to encourage others to volunteer their time to caption for NCRA events and webinars?

KF | For any captioners who may feel that they are not fully engaged in the organization, volunteering is a great way to get involved. Participation helps the Association promote captioning. It also fosters an appreciation for the work NCRA does to support court reporters and captioners alike.

AN | Don’t let self-consciousness hold you back! Thousands of people have already seen your captions, so go for it!

SS | When I volunteer within the Association, I honestly feel like I’m giving back to something that has given me so much. When you are able to pay it forward by donating your time, talent, and energy, you’re giving back. If this career has been good to you, it’s definitely something you should consider. You don’t have to live caption a Town Hall. You can serve on a committee that piques your interest. Are you interested in deciding what seminars are on tap for the next in-person convention? Join the Education Content Committee. Do you want to be part of writing the questions that appear on the certification exams? Join the WKT Committee. Do you like the thought of shaping where your profession is going and how your association is going to best represent you and what you need? Become a Board member. There are so many avenues within NCRA that don’t require you to be “live, on stage.” Our Association runs mostly through reporters willing to step up to the plate and volunteer.

AS | It’s a great feeling to volunteer your services, and it’s a way to help the Association by doing what we do best. Many times, captioners are so busy with families and their career that they may not have time to serve on a committee. This is a perfect opportunity to serve NCRA and its members without a large expenditure of your time!

CS | You will only grow in experience and knowledge but also in friendships when you volunteer for NCRA.

JCR | How long have you been a captioner?

KF | Eighteen years now, but I had a 22-year court reporting career first, both as an official and a freelancer.

Anissa Nierenberger, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI

AN | I’ve been a captioner for 28 years!

SS | I have been captioning since 1992. I graduated court reporting school in February 1992 and began working for my local county government captioning the Board of County Commission meetings. The team I was a part of was the first county in the nation to open caption their government meetings. I think I’ve come a long way from the stage fright that caused, “You need to slow down. I think it’s coming up in Russian up there” to writing live for an NCRA Town Hall. I couldn’t have done that without the support and guidance my Association provides.

AS | I have been providing CART and captioning services since 1995. It is the most rewarding part of my job!

CS | Since 1992.

JCR | How did you hear about the profession?

KF | During my senior year in high school, I was involved in a Gregg Shorthand contest at a local business college. During that competition, we were shown the school. We were taken to a classroom where students were writing away on these strange machines. I inquired that day about the program, and I couldn’t be convinced to pursue any other career after that day. 

AN | I sat in with a court reporter at a career day in high school, and I knew at age 14 that this was what I was meant to do.

SS | When I was a senior in high school, the local tech school presented at a career day. I had never heard of stenographer or court reporters, but it seemed mildly interesting. I am an incredibly bad procrastinator. I didn’t have the grades to get a scholarship into college, and I certainly couldn’t pay for it myself. And I knew if I didn’t do something after high school, I would end up doing nothing, so to speak. I would have no career and would just work an anybody-can-do-it job.

AS | My husband heard a famous radio advertisement in our city for “court reporting jobs going unfilled” back in 1990. He came home and told me I should check it out. I became a court reporter first and then was trained by my mentor, Linda Sturm, to provide CART and captioning. Here I am 30 years later still doing a job I love and working with amazing colleagues!

CS | My grandfather was a court reporter in Oklahoma in the 1910-1940s. I knew he made a very decent living through the Great Depression. Then a friend told me about the court reporting school here in Portland and how the classes were organized, and I thought I’d give it a try. It was a great match from the start.

JCR | What is the most interesting event you have captioned in your career?

KF | Earlier in my captioning years, I would have said the Tour de France without hesitation. But it’s difficult for me now to pick one since my remote broadcast captioning has expanded into on-site CART and open captioning. On-site CART for the Democratic National Convention in 2016 was very interesting, in the true sense of interesting. Traveling to Harvard to be a part of “Jagged Little Pill” was a joy. In fact, “isn’t it ironic, don’t you think” that I am scheduled on a virtual reception now with Alanis Morissette and the cast of “The Jagged Little Pill” in just a couple days? Those types of jobs among common captioning jobs make every day interesting. 

AN | I’ve traveled to Menlo Park, Calif., numerous times and captioned Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook. I love tech captioning along with sports and anything that challenges me. Professional trainers and mentors got me to where I am now: Janet Cassidy-Burr, Larry Driver, Judy Brentano, Jen Schuck, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, among others. I’m a very fortunate girl. I encourage all reporters/captioners to do something today that makes you better than you were yesterday. 

SS | I have captioned a lot of interesting things. My first day on the air when I worked for VITAC was the Oklahoma City Bombing. Nothing like trial by fire. Sept. 11. There’s always good, bad, and indifferent when you’re captioning. I may have started my captioning day captioning a fluff tabloid show and ended the day by captioning hard-core national news.

I’ve captioned the Golden Globe Awards a couple times. I captioned the Stanley Cup Finals one year. “My” team wasn’t playing, so I didn’t have a dog in the fight. I used to love when I’d caption a show I’d watch anyway, like “The Voice” or “Saturday Night Live.”

I’ve captioned the Olympics eight times. There’s nothing like preparing for something “easy,“ like track and field, only to end up with soccer between two countries that you are almost sure are made up.

But no matter what I’m captioning, if possible I try to learn something from every event. I have learned to expect the unexpected and remember that I’m there to help someone understand. If I find myself wavering and getting annoyed with a job, I recenter and think about my Dad, and now Mom, who almost wholly rely on closed captioning to watch television. Would they be proud of the job I’m doing?

This profession gives back in so many ways, noticeable and unnoticeable. You just have to pay attention.

AS | There have been so many interesting things over the years: presidential commencement speeches, Big 10 football games, NHL hockey games to name a few. I would say my favorite was probably captioning an in-person Joe Rogan comedy show! My most proud (and most challenging) moment was being asked to provide on-site captions for one of the presidential debates in Ohio in 2019.

CS | It’s hard to pick between captioning onsite for the Dalai Lama and captioning for the stadium where the Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl.

If you are interested in captioning an NCRA event, please contact Laura Butler at lbutler@ncra.org.