Captioning the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

By Debbie Dibble

Sesame Street characters showed up for the Tabernacle Choir Show
Photo © The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

After a career full of unusual cases, including surfers in New Zealand, terrorists in the Philippines, and Saudi princes in Grand Cayman, I was sure I had done it all. But captioning the Mormon Tabernacle Choir — or The Tabernacle Choir on Temple Square as it is now called — is a uniquely gratifying and challenging experience, particularly when special guests, like the cast of “Sesame Street” or Frozen, pop in for a performance. Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Count von Count, Ernie, Bert, and Elmo were unbelievably challenging, but Rosita and Zoe just about did me in! Their quick-fire, Spanish-accented repartee can be a captioner’s nightmare — but make for great stories if you survive!

Since 1929 – nearly the lifetime of radio – the Tabernacle Choir has been a phenomenon of broadcasting. Its “Music & the Spoken Word” is the longest continuous broadcast on the air. This show is broadcast – and captioned – every Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. Mountain Time. It is a half-hour show that is mostly music. As the captioner, I have the arrangements – with words – provided ahead of time for prescripting. It’s not a complicated broadcast to caption, but each show is different and has its own distinct challenges. The Christmas Concert each year, with invited celebrities and special themes, is always quite the spectacle. There are also periodic holiday specials as well as programs to honor dignitaries, veterans, historic events, and whenever else there is cause to celebrate with music. I find that each broadcast comes with new obstacles that require creative solutions, and I grow as a professional while I work with my team of engineers and producers to find ways to provide the best product for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.

How did I end up with this dream gig? The simple answer is: Credentials! About 10 years ago, when the Utah state courts converted their entire system from official stenographers to electronic recording, it was obvious I needed to take steps to increase my skills and, therefore, my value in the freelance market, and to become proficient as a certified captioner. I educated myself and passed both of the NCRA captioning certifications offered at the time: the Certified CART Provider (CCP) and the Certified Broadcast Captioner (CBC). Within a month of receiving those two designations, I was informed of this opportunity and that they were only looking for those with my new credentials to fill the position.

Moving from depositions into captioning hymns and sermons required a substantial learning curve. Sure, I had captioned the news, but this was an entirely new environment. They used different software that toggled between live and prescripted work. I needed to learn about pop-on, paint-on, three-line roll-up, how to use musical notes, and so many new elements, like how to clear the screen in a hurry. I look back on how daunting it seemed to me when I started—during my first show I told them I quit three times—and now, seven years later, I can flip and fly between cells and programs seamlessly and without breaking a sweat!

The Tabernacle Choir with the Sesame Street characters. Photo ©The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

I work with a huge team of engineers, producers, and directors, and supervise a team of captioners that provide captioning in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French. They have all helped in my journey of education and progress, and together we have created new solutions to provide a better experience for those that we serve. Sometimes we aid an even broader group than just the deaf and hard-of-hearing in the audience. During one broadcast, there was a speaker who was struggling with debilitating health issues. He was in a wheelchair and could hardly speak above a whisper. His voice was gravelly and very difficult to understand. I later learned that one of the dignitaries in attendance was struggling to hear and asked his grandson if he could understand what was said. The grandson began to repeat the words verbatim. Later, when the youngster was asked how he had possibly heard all that, his reply was, “I had the closed captions on!” This individual was a high-profile leader in the organization, and his experience spread like wildfire. It was great exposure for our unmatched skills!

This has been an incredibly fulfilling experience for me both personally and professionally. My skills improve with every broadcast, each new project, and every new challenge. I have learned so much from colleagues both in the court reporting and captioning industry as well as the engineers and producers on my team. They have taught me how my duties interact with their jobs, and we all have become more keenly aware of what a critical part the immediate access to captions play. One engineer, after hearing the story of the grandson reading my captions, decided that captioning should be offered to all attendees in the main hall. He worked with a caption delivery system to develop a new platform that would support simultaneous connections to 25,000 mobile devices, where the prior system had only been capable of supporting a few hundred.

While providing captions is itself a rewarding experience, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that this choice assignment has afforded me a front-row seat to performances by incredible talents such as James Taylor, David Archuletta, Donny Osmond, Gladys Knight, Kristen Chenoweth, Tom Brokaw, Walter Cronkite, and so many more. This profession, our profession, opens doors to learning and lifetime experiences unlike any other. It is truly the greatest profession on earth! Never stop learning and never stop working to improve your skills. You never know when the next great opportunity will present itself.

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

Settlement reached in Harvard video suit

The Daily Hampshire Gazette reported on Nov 27 that Harvard University announced an agreement to make its website and online courses friendlier to those who are deaf or hard of hearing, as part of a settlement in a federal lawsuit.

Read more.

Attend the 2020 NCRA Business Summit, take away social media strategies to boost business

Cathy O’Neal, communications director for Levitt Pavilion Arlington, an outdoor concert venue that presents more than 50 free concerts a year, has planned a fun and enlightening look at how social media can be changed from chore to tool in a firm’s business plan for success. Her session is happening at the 2020 NCRA Business Summit taking place Feb. 9-11 at the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa in Austin, Texas.

Need another reason to register now? Early access rates have been extended until Tuesday, Dec. 10 at midnight ET. Act now to get the best price.

O’Neal holds a journalism degree from the University of Texas at Arlington, where she also serves as an adjunct professor in the Communications Department teaching media writing, public relations management, and public relations case studies. She will share with attendees successful social media strategies to help build business.

According to O’Neal, social media can help you gain visibility, reputation, and clients. She will cover the who, what, when, where, and why of social media from the vantage point of a seasoned communications pro who just finished her year with a 3.2 million Facebook reach! O’Neal will help attendees learn how to weed out the stuff they don’t need, focus on the stuff they do need, analyze real-world examples, and help them walk away from the session with action items they can put in practice immediately to start building the social media presence they want. To learn more about what O’Neal has to share, watch her video here.

Attendees of the 2020 NCRA Business Summit will also receive a copy of the 2019 Firm Owners Survey Report. More than 200 firm owners responded to this survey, sharing insights about their firms, including how the latest trends are impacting court reporting, captioning, and legal videography firms, and what the outlook for the future holds. NCRA Executive Director Dave Wenhold, CAE, will present the findings.

This year’s keynote speaker is the energetic Karim R. Ellis, founder of Empowered Education, a company devoted to developing both organizations and individuals. Ellis is a dynamic motivational speaker with 10 years of experience in the arena of speaking, training, and coaching, He takes great pride in cultivating leaders and champions, and his sole desire is to unlock an atmosphere of greatness in the lives of the people he connects with on a daily basis. Ellis will share with attendees his insights into successful leadership creation and development.

Also on the program is Chris Williams, co-founder of Wide Awake Business, established in 2004 to help companies grow. Williams will provide a two-part presentation, which will focus on how to create an easier, simpler, more profitable business. The sessions will cover how to:

  • Spend less time second-guessing yourself and seize the right opportunities
  • Ooze authority and confidence when you speak with prospects
  • Feel fulfilled because your “Big Why” engages more people
  • Enjoy your bank account statements
  • Lead more, build team, and personally do less of the “do”
  • Head out on your vacation without taking calls and putting out fires every day

Other highlights include:

Ron Comers, a former FBI agent and current advisor on corporate security risks through Charted Risk, LLC, who will present “Protecting Your Firm from Scams & Data Breaches,” and offer tips on how firms can keep their files and other information safe in today’s cyber-savvy world;

Chris Moyseos, a financial advisor and financial planning specialist with Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, who will lead a session on financial planning and managing personal wealth; and

Opportunities throughout the three-day event to provide attendees with the chance to expand their networks, engage with old friends, and build relationships with new ones. The event kicks off with a fun and exciting team-building activity followed by an opening reception.

Lora Appino Barnett, RMR, a freelance court reporter and owner of Appino & Briggs Reporting Service in Overland, Kan., attended her first Business Summit in 2007, then called the Firm Owners Executive Conference. She hasn’t missed one since.

“With all the recent happenings in the industry, as a firm owner, I am hopeful as an organization we can find ways to combat the so-called digital ‘reporters’ trying to get a foothold in our profession and finding ways to recruit more students into the reporting field. I also look forward to the educational seminars,” she said.

“The networking and friendships that I have made with other firm owners are invaluable; I look forward to seeing them every year,” Barnett said, as she encourages others to register. “I say do it! You will not regret it. We have increased our business with the networking relationships we have made over the years. I very much enjoy the locations that NCRA has chosen to have the conferences; I think you will, too. And I truly value the friendships I have made over the years.”

A special hotel room rate for single/double occupancy for attendees is $209 per night plus tax ($237.73) and the resort fee will be reimbursed by the hotel upon check-in. Hurry! These special hotel rates end on Jan. 8, 2020.

Located on more than 400 acres along the banks of the Colorado River, the beautiful Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa in Austin, Texas, offers a variety of amenities and activities for attendees and their guests to enjoy during their stay. The recreational amenities attendees can enjoy include: A full-service spa, salon, and fitness center; two tennis courts; an 18-hole golf course; hiking, biking and jogging paths; horseback riding; a video arcade; a water park; a meet-and-greet with the facility’s mascots; and more. Plus, if attendees book at the special NCRA room rate before Jan. 8, the resort fee of $35 will be reimbursed by the hotel upon check-in.

  • Early Access: Oct. 15–Dec. 10
    Member: $975; Nonmember: $1,150; Additional Firm Employee: $850; Spouse/Guest: $200
  • Regular Registration: Dec. 11, 2019–Jan. 31, 2020
    Member: $1,075; Nonmember: $1,250; Additional Firm Employee: $950; Spouse/Guest: $250
  • Last-Minute Registration: Feb. 1–9, 2020
    Member: $1,125; Nonmember: $1,300; Additional Firm Employee: $1,000; Spouse/Guest: $300

For more information and to register for the 2020 NCRA Business Summit, visit

Good news from the NCRA Board of Directors Meeting

Dave Wenhold

Following the NCRA Board of Directors meeting Nov. 9-10, the Board announced that Interim Executive Director Dave Wenhold, CAE, will act as Executive Director for the Association through 2020.

“We are pleased that Dave will remain with the Association for another year,” said Max Curry, RPR, CRI, NCRA’s President. “Not only does this bring greater continuity to the Association, but Dave’s great depth of knowledge about the profession and Association is an asset to us all,” he added.

“I am excited to continue the great work that staff and the Board have done in 2019,” said Wenhold. “Working together, we have created crucial committees like NCRA STRONG, worked with Congress to reintroduce the Training for Realtime Writers Act to increase funding for training reporters and captioners, increased transparency and trust, and we have cut expenses and will have our finances in the black for the first time in about a decade.”

“In the coming year, I plan to work with the volunteer leadership to take this organization to the next level. With 21 years of experience working with NCRA, I’m excited about this next stage and look forward to what we can do together to make NCRA even better,” added Wenhold.

In other business coming out of the meeting, the Board decided to change the name of the new certification to Registered Skilled Reporter (RSR), which better reflects the mission of supporting this latest professional certification than the initial title, Registered Apprentice Reporter. Created as a stepping-stone credential to ultimately achieving the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) designation, the RSR certification supports those who are new or returning to the court reporting profession who have yet to be able to get their writing speeds up enough to earn the RPR. To earn an RSR, candidates must get a 95 percent pass rate on three 5-minute Skills Tests: a Literary leg at 160 words per minute; a Jury Charge leg at 180 words per minute; and a Testimony/Q&A leg at 200 words per minute. Testing for the RSR begins Jan. 1, 2020, and registration for the first RSR skills testing began Dec. 1, 2019.

In addition, the Board voted to reduce rates for classified ads for the print JCR to $3 per word for members (with a $30 minimum) and $5 per word for nonmembers (with a $50 minimum). Those who want to place both online and print ads will pay $5 per word for members (with a $50 minimum) and $8 per word for nonmembers (with an $80 minimum). Officialships will continue to be placed free of charge in both the print JCR and online as a service to members.

Finally, the Board approved a plan to offer value to organizations and firms who wish to invest in the Association through a planned Professional Partnership program. The program allows potential partners to support the Association by participating in events, networking opportunities, sponsorships, memberships, and support of the National Court Reporters Foundation. More details on this program and classifieds can be found by contacting NCRA’s Development Relations Manager at

NCRA partners with Catholic University Law School for photo shoot

As part of the focus of NCRA 2.0, among which is to showcase the court reporting and captioning professions in a new light and attract new students to the careers, NCRA staff has been working to update the images used in marketing and promotional materials. Last month, several NCRA staff members worked with volunteer students at the Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law in Washington, D.C., for a photo shoot inside one of the school’s mock courtrooms.

Also on hand to help out was NCRA member Michelle Houston, RPR, a captioner from Brandywine, Md., and her friend Lauren Woodland.

Houston, Woodland, and six volunteer law students had the opportunity to play the roles of court reporter, witness, attorney, juror, and judge. Houston also lent her steno machine and her experience with the correct finger positions on the keys for the student volunteers when they played the role of court reporter.

The photo shoot was arranged by Jocelynn Moore, NCRA’s Director of State Government Relations, who is an alumna of Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law. In addition to Moore, other NCRA staff in attendance included Rue Capri Brown, Creative Manager; Jackie Hippolyte, Web Communications Manager; and Annemarie Roketenetz, Director of Communications and Public Relations.

“We are so appreciative of the staff at CUA Law for allowing us to use the Slowinski Courtroom. I think the law students really enjoyed having the opportunity to work with a real court reporter,” said Moore. “We are also excited that the law school’s staff has expressed interest in having working court reporters volunteer at their mock trials and trial competitions. Because NCRA members can earn professional development credits by volunteering for these types of activities, we are encouraging them to contact their local law schools to find out how they can create authentic courtroom experiences for law students.”

The photos from the four-hour-long shoot will be used for marketing and other promotional materials created by NCRA and will also be shared with state associations and made available to members of the media.

For more information, contact

Captioner ready for supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

Cynthia Hinds, CRC, and her daughter Katie

Cynthia Hinds, CRC, a captioner from Mabank, Texas, recently posted the following on Facebook about an experience she had during a captioning job:

One of my favorite clients to work for was doing a college visit day for 1,300 families. With so many people, she had to keep talking while all those people filed into different places. So, she decided to have a little fun with the captioner. You know how hard it is to think of my answer and keep up with what she is saying? Nice light-hearted start to the weekend 📷

I also want to thank our realtime captionist.
How many of you have seen realtime captioning before?
So, I didn’t realize before I started working here at [name of school] that the captionist is not sitting behind a screen.
They actually can be anywhere in the country.
So, captionist, welcome.
And where are you from?
>> Captioner: From Dallas, Texas.
The captionists are always from a warm climate.
Slightly warmer than what we have today.
What’s the forecast in Dallas?
>> Captioner: Around 60 and sunny.
I am jealous.
But I am headed down to Dallas later this month, so hopefully that warm weather continues.
Another fun thing about the captioning is that they have to type any word that I say.
So if I say, Supercalifragilistic-Expialidocious they have to type that on the screen.
>> Captioner: Very funny.
Wow, I’m impressed.
Thank you for being such a good sport.

The JCR Weekly reached out to Hinds to get more information about what was happening that day.

JCR | What is your captioning background?

 CH | I’ve been captioning since 1996. I was hired by the National Captioning Institute (NCI) while I was waiting on my Texas exam results. I packed up at 24 and headed to the Washington, D.C., suburbs, where they trained me thoroughly and put me on the air. I worked for them for 10 years, VITAC for five, and then began my independent career. I captioned broadcast in the beginning of my career until I left VITAC. Then when I went independent, I found so much work in the CART side of things, so I do mostly that and moonlight with a little broadcast captioning on the side. Truthfully, it feels like the lines between these two sides of captioning are more and more blurred, so I end up doing it all. In the past few weeks, I’ve done a tech-con, a college admissions pitch, a support group for students, a nursing class, a broadcast of a video game tournament, a few college district board meetings, several government meetings of different agencies and levels, a training webinar, several hours of Fox News, basketball game arena announcements, and a hockey game broadcast — all from my home. I also went recently to caption the Dallas Hearing Foundation’s Fundraising Gala event pro bono. My friend runs the charity, so I’ve done that for the last 11 years. That little job includes my fast-talking friend (she should know better; we met in court reporting school for Pete’s sake!) and, the golden jewel of the night – a live auction. Finger gymnastics! So, yeah, I caption it all.

 JCR | How do you feel when you are captioning and the speaker addresses you directly?

 CH | When they do start to play with us, the tangle of trying to think of the answer to the question and trying to remember what they said to write it becomes the new game. I have a few thoughts that can really turn the pressure up. One, try not to make it awkward by making them wait too long for a response; two, now all eyes are on your words, so don’t screw it up! Three, this is a chance for captions to be spotlighted, meaning, not just the words, but the incredible service it is for so many people.

I love it when people “play” with us. I really do. But the pressure increases and then that magic thing we do where the words stream through our ears, almost seemingly to bypass our brains and emerge from our fingers gets interrupted. When I had to think of an answer, it now had to go through the obstacle course that is my brain. I’m a 48-year-old single mom! Entering the brain forbidden forest could mean the words wouldn’t make it out to my fingers. 

When she started talking about the captioner, my ears perked up. Here’s what I know: If they want to show off captioning, which I actually like since so many folks think artificial intelligence is putting those lovely words on the screen, they almost always play with words, and of course they’re never normal, everyday words. And one word they love to say is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. The job had been fairly easy. I hate to say auto pilot, because, well, they’re never that easy. But cruising along and it was wrapping up. I was in my robe, and I forgot my fuzzy socks. It was Saturday morning and as soon as I finished that job, I had to get ready for the gala job, including really dressing and getting all my equipment there. So when I got out of bed that morning, I just threw on the robe. My toes were cold. In Dallas, we had a cold blast, but I could see the sun through my window, so I could tell it was nice and bright. I usually throw my curtains open, but, for whatever reason, I didn’t that morning. So when she asked what the weather was, I had to rely on some distant fuzzy memory of it being a nice weekend, even though clearly, it was cool. My toes were cold! I ended up guessing pretty accurately … 60 and sunny.

Most of my captioner friends have a brief for supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. I don’t. I don’t know why, my brain just likes the clear path from hear the word to send the word to the fingers. It works for me. So I write it out in squeezed parts – SUP/CAL/FRAG/EXP/YAL/DOSHES. In captioning to an encoder, you have 32 character spaces across a line of text. That’s it. So at NCI, Darlene Parker, FAPR, director, steno, captioning & realtime relations, and Karen Finkelstein, realtime manager, had me put it in hyphenated in two parts so it could go partly on one line and partly on the next and still be readable since the word is 34 characters. So that old outline was in there and I was feeding an encoder, so I knew it had to have a break in the middle. Good ole NCI training saves the day again.

I would never ever interject unless I was being directly addressed. There’s so much thought in those moments. So many consumers want you to sort of be the fly on the wall, a simple conduit of communication. They want others to see them and interact with them, not the captioner. It’s not my role to speak for them or do anything else but convert the spoken word (and sometimes ambient sounds) to the written form so they can receive what they need to get through their day. So, it is odd when we are called on to “speak” for ourselves. But I knew what she was doing; she was playing with me and trying to be entertaining while she waited for hundreds of people to scatter and go in different directions. And I am a jokester. Sincerely, I love to banter. So I saw my chance in the right place and went for it. I could hear the laughter in the crowd.

At a glance: Taking depositions in Europe (UPDATED)

An updated blog posted by JD Supra on Nov. 20, offers tips for taking depositions in Europe, and addresses such issues as managing language gaps, travel access, scheduling ease, and more.

Read more.

NCRA Member wins Pengad gift certificate when renewing membership

Robin Winters

NCRA member Robin L. Winters of Loves Park, Ill., won a $100 Pengad gift certificate for renewing her membership in October.

JCR | Why are you a member of NCRA?

RW | I have remained a long-time member of NCRA for one reason, and that was to complete my last leg of my RPR so I can finally become a licensed reporter. I have had different situations that kept me from meeting this goal with a family, kids, and just life in general. But always in the back of my head, I said one day I would finish and get to be fully licensed. I have been blessed with being able to work as an official court reporter in Winnebago County with a restricted license. I am in the process of trying to pass that last leg of the RPR, the Literary. I love NCRA for their continued support and the court reporting field in general. 

JCR | Why did you decide to be a court reporter?

RW | The law and the process of the law has always interested me. What better way to get the diversity of all of the legal field than being a court reporter? I love my job, and I love the people I work with, and I will be an RPR soon … mark my words.

Albuquerque City Council approves closed captioning ordinance

Albuquerque, N.M.,  businesses will now face a fine if they don’t turn on the closed captioning on any TV that is open to public viewing, according to an article posted Nov. 18 by KRQE Media.

Read more.

An NCRA student membership makes the perfect gift for any occasion

If you’re shopping for or looking to receive the perfect gift, consider a student membership in NCRA. For an annual fee of $55, student memberships offer so much more than just an affiliation. Students who join NCRA while in school enjoy special registration fees, access to networking opportunities, and more.

Other benefits include:

  • Mentors and resources that support the completion of school
  • Access to various scholarships and grants and other financial assistance that is exclusive to NCRA members
  • Three introductory certifications (RSR, RPR, and CRC) students can start while still in school
  • Subscription to the JCR magazine and JCR Weekly 
  • Members-only discounts on office supplies, entertainment tickets, hotel stays, and more through the NCRA Member Savings Program 
  • Members-only discounted group insurance programs through Mercer
  • Special student pricing to networking and educational events at the NCRA Conference & Expo 

In addition, lower first-year and second-year membership rates apply for students who roll over their membership to participating or registered status.

“My school, South Coast College (Orange, Calif.) encouraged me to join NCRA. Getting the opportunity to meet the former president Sue Terry and current president Max Curry really inspired me to enter the workforce as an active participant on two NCRA committees,” said Molly Cooper, RPR, who serves on the Association’s New Professionals Committee and the 2019-2020 Brand Ambassadors Sub-Council.

Cooper said that one of the greatest benefits of her membership in NCRA as a student was the ability to earn her Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) while still a student and while waiting for her state certifications results.

“This profession often keeps us on little editing islands, so I’d recommend getting involved early and often to students. The connections and mentors that I started making as a student have been invaluable in guiding me through the transition from student to professional these past six months,” Cooper said.

“In addition to the personal connections, it is a great way to stay informed and up to date on everything that is happening in our profession. Lastly, earning the RPR certification can help students build test taking confidence,” she added.

Cooper currently works as a freelance deposition court reporter in the Orange County and Los Angeles County areas of California. She said she first heard about the profession while studying linguistics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, but that it wasn’t until years later that she shifted her professional focus to becoming a stenographer when a paralegal acquaintance suggested it would be a good fit.

Whether it is holiday giving or a birthday celebration, giving the gift of membership in NCRA to a court reporting student provides so much.

For more information about NCRA student membership, email or visit