What motivates me to volunteer

Tina Dillon

By Tina Dillon

We all know how much it takes for an organization to serve its members. I have sat on the sidelines for much of that time and have watched so many of my colleagues tirelessly work on behalf of their peers. What I’ve given is small in comparison but something I can offer and will do so whenever possible. 

It’s important to give what you can. We are not all meant to take on leadership roles, and some may feel as though they don’t have time or skills to serve on a committee. However, if you are a captioner, I would encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and volunteer to caption an event. Now more than ever we need to showcase what we do to separate ourselves from the threat of technology replacing our skills. We need to encourage each other to hone our skills and be the best at what we do. We know we can offer speaker identification and insert punctuation where Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) doesn’t. We also know we can insert human noises, such as music playing or applause, something ASR doesn’t do. Together we can work to overcome what we are facing and remain the gold standard for captioning.

I have had a relationship with my steno machine for 41 years. It’s been a labor of love that started when I was 18 years old. As I watched all my friends leave for college, I went to a local “trade school” where I learned and practiced every day to eventually pass my CSR exam. I remember the elation I felt that day. Eighteen months prior, when that journey began, I didn’t know how excited I would be to begin a career with a little machine that feels almost like an appendage to me. While in high school, my mom had a friend whose daughter became a court reporter. After hearing the glowing description my mother conveyed, I look back now and think she had more than an inkling I would succeed. We went to a local school where the administrator asked me a few questions: Are you a good speller? Are you a fast typist? Do you play a musical instrument? All to which I said yes. It apparently was a foundation to the path of becoming a court reporter. To this day I ask the same questions of anyone thinking about entering the field.  

For the last 13 years of my career, I have almost exclusively been a CART captioner. I didn’t intend to give up reporting, but there was and still is a great demand for captioning. Another bonus is I have been able to attend and be a part of so many wonderful and interesting events.  It’s always something new, which can sometimes give you jitters but a great feeling of accomplishment afterward. One of my more memorable events was captioning a keynote speaker, James Sinegal, cofounder of Costco. He sat with me and marveled at my captioning skills. All the while I kept thinking, weren’t you interviewed on Dateline for opening one of the biggest wholesale chains?

I remember relying on a few colleagues to help answer questions and get me started. I didn’t have the benefit of the many seminars and workshops that are now offered. If you love to focus on your writing, dip your toe into captioning and give it a shot. You might just become addicted to it like me!

Tina Dillion, RPR, CRR, CRC, is a CART captioner and freelance court reporter from Chicago, Ill. She can be reached at tina@dillonreporting.com.

Renew and win in October

It is the season to renew your NCRA membership. Renewing now enters you to win in October. One member who renews in October will win a $100 Pengad gift certificate.

 Get a second chance to win this month by answering the poll question about printed renewal invoices at the bottom of the Oct. 21 JCR Weekly. It was also sent in an email to members. If you know how you will be renewing, please let us know as we start to print renewal invoices. Not printing an invoice lets NCRA more effectively use your money!

If you know you will need a printed renewal invoice to submit to your employer, just let us know. But, if you are renewing online or by phone anytime between now and the end of the year, then help us save some money by opting out of a printed invoice. One person who responds to this question will be chosen to receive a $50 Amazon gift card!

Member benefits include:

  • A listing in the NCRA Sourcebook
  • A subscription to the JCR magazine and the JCR Weekly
  • Multiple certification programs with online Skills Tests and Written Knowledge Tests designed to help your earn more
  • Access to discounted group insurance programs through Mercer for personal liability and errors and omissions
  • Member pricing to can’t-miss networking and educational events at the NCRA Conference & Expo, Boot Camp, and Business Summit
  • Premier educational opportunities

In addition, NCRA membership aids the profession by giving NCRA the funding to pursue projects that benefit the profession as a whole. These include developing marketing materials, promotional information, serving as a repository for shared information, creating networks that allow lessons learned in one state to reverberate in others, responding to negative (and positive) comments, and so much more. If you want a brighter future for the profession, join with other NCRA members who share your passion and renew today.  

Renewing is easy and available online at NCRA.org/renew.

Group encourages members to ‘eat clean’

Have you gained a few pounds during the COVID-19 quarantine? A group from the Court Reporters Who Like to Exercise Facebook page started challenging its members in September to eat clean. The “Eat Clean, Bro” challenge has simple rules: Eat clean all week and allow yourself one or two cheat meals per week.

“I started the post on my regular Facebook page to generate interest,” said Rich Germosen, RDR, CRR, a freelance reporter in North Brunswick, N.J. “There was a gaggle of reporters that were interested in attempting to eat clean for the month of September. There are several success stories of stenographers dropping 7 to 10 or so pounds in September. I was going to end the challenge at the end of September but then had several requests to extend it into October. I personally dropped 6 pounds in September. We’re playing it by ear to see if we’ll continue this after October.” 

Jennifer Billstein-Miller, RMR, CRR, a freelancer reporter in Mantua, N.J., said she has lost a lot of weight over the last seven years after struggling with it her whole life.

“I have maintained the weight loss for quite some time, and then the pandemic hit,” Billstein-Miller said. “Not being able to leave the house or go to the gym got me back to my old ways of not exercising or caring about what I ate, and I started to gain weight. It mentally and physically stressed me out. It’s definitely easier to be motivated when you have help, so why not start a group of us to motivate each other!”

Billstein-Miller said changes she has made to eat clean include: no sugar, lowering carb intake, more protein, sticking to 1,500 calories a day, and intermittent fasting. She said the Facebook group encourages each other with posts about different ways to eat and healthy exercise.

Billstein-Miller said: “When you see someone eating healthy and exercising and hear about their weight loss and that they were able to achieve their goals, it helps me to want to do it as well!”

Similarly, Germosen said his eating habits had taken a turn for the worse.

“It’s extremely challenging eating right while you’re home just about 24/7,” he said.

Germosen said the idea for the challenge came up when he was talking to Billstein-Miller.

“She mentioned we should start the ‘no eating after 8 p.m.’ challenge that we’ve done several times on this Court Reporters Who Like to Exercise Facebook page,” he said. “Then the idea of clean eating popped into my head.”

Cassandra Ellis, RPR, a freelancer and CART Captioner in Silver Spring, Md., is also part of the challenge and said her eating habits had slipped during COVID. She said she has eliminated sugar, flour, and pasta.

“This particular group of reporters is all about building one another up and celebrating all success, no matter how small,” Ellis said. “If there’s been any questions on what might constitute clean, the group chimes in. A cheat meal is encouraged so there is no deprivation because the whole group encourages me to make the right choices every single meal and then celebrates the ‘fun’ cheat meal and says things like, ‘Time to get back to clean eating.’”

 Ellis said the virtual group support has been important.

“I’m not inclined to go out and join a group in person, so the online encouragement from people I know, like, and trust is really important to keep me on track,” she said. 

Traci Mertens, RDR, CRR, CRC, a freelance reporter and broadcast captioner in Belleville, Ill., said she started running in the spring when her gym closed, but her eating habits were awful.

“My diet is mostly low carb now, modified keto,” she said. “There are a lot of myths surrounding carb loading for runners. I feel much better without all the carbs, although I miss bread.  A lot.  I’m eating lots more green vegetables. I just got a Ninja Foodi, so that makes meal prep very simple.”

Mertens said the group holds each other accountable.

“Everyone has tough days, and it’s easy to slip back into bad habits. Seeing other people’s success stories helps a lot, especially now that we are much more isolated,” she said.

Germosen said he cut out all sweets, bread, rice, fast food, soda, and juice. 

“Every few days I’ll post on the exercise page asking how everyone’s doing,” Germosen said. “What’s working for you? What’s not working? It’s the weekend … let’s have that cheat meal and then get right back on it. Everyone is supportive of each other and we celebrate even the smallest of victories. Staying positive is big and helps most stay on track.”

Germosen said the challenge has made him more mindful of what he is putting into his body. The challenge has been extended by request until the end of October, and Germosen said he hopes by then everyone will have developed excellent clean eating habits.  

“As of Oct. 1, I had dropped 6 pounds,” he said. “I’m hoping to drop a couple more by Halloween.” 

Yolanda Walton, FAPR, RPR, an official reporter in Norwalk, Ohio, and an NCRA Director, was inspired to change her diet when she was told this summer she is at a higher risk for breast cancer because of her family history.

“One of the things that a friend told me to eliminate to help with that percentage was dairy and meat due to all the growth hormones that are given to the animals to make them bigger faster and to produce more milk,” Walton said. “I was trying to do it on my own, but then along came Rich Germosen’s challenge. I felt the accountability and the moral support would be helpful.”

She has eliminated sweets, white flour, cheese/dairy, and meat. 

“If I fall off the train, I at least try to limit the quantity that I eat and not make it a nonstop freefall,” she said. 

Walton said she has lost a few pounds, but more importantly is less tired and groggy.“I feel so much better mentally and physically!” she said.

Billstein-Miller said eating healthy and exercising are good for your mental and physical well-being. 

“It helps with stress, and most importantly, helps you to be a better court reporter,” she said. “If you feel good and look good, you perform your best!”

Five keys to success for newbie court reporters

Conscious Life News posted an article on Oct. 15 that lists the top five tips for success new court reporters should consider.

Read more.

Be cybersmart during Cybersecurity Awareness Month – and always

By John York

Everyone is a target in today’s adversarial paradise: the internet. I do mean literally everyone. Threat actors do not discriminate when choosing targets today. The proverb “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” which dates as far back as the 17th century, couldn’t be closer to the truth in the cyber realm.

October is a busy month for practitioners in information security to share and emphasize best practices in being safer and more secure online. In its 17th year, the National Cybersecurity Awareness Month continues with this year’s theme as “Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart.” I encourage everyone to take a little time to review the Tip Sheets on that link.

We must realize and understand that we are the biggest weakness in security: It is the human element that is easiest to manipulate. The tools, tactics, and technology have evolved to social-engineer even the best of us! Threat adversaries will go to great lengths to apply social engineering techniques to exploit information in support of malicious activity. Social engineering can take on many forms. Although we most commonly associate this with email, it can also be a combination of text messages, phone calls, social media posts, or hyperlinks within emails or on a compromised website.

I often encounter people who question whether they offer any real tangible value to a cyber threat actor. Put simply, why should they care? Despite whether you’re an organization or reflecting on your own personal footprint, there are people who can profit from you. Not all risks are tied to a physical asset or monetary value, as we often lose sight of the repercussions that this has to our identity, our reputation, and our trust. Rebuilding from a cyberattack is a daunting task that can inadvertently affect those around us.

Ask yourself, what are some things that hold value to you, your family, or your career? You owe it to yourself to understand what your risks are and how you can protect yourself.

This month’s tips from the National Cybersecurity Awareness Month campaign can help you at work and at home to improve your security footprint in today’s connected world!

John York, SSCP, is a cybersecurity professional, who is active in the infosec community. Last year for Cybersecurity Awareness Month, he spoke and held a training event at a conference in Washington, D.C. He also held an all-day training event in Iowa at the SecureIowa Conference. York is also a member of the local InfraGard chapter, a private alliance between the private sector and the FBI. He is also a member of the local Information Systems Security Association (ISSA).

New live webinar teaches commencement captioning

The idea for a new live NCRA webinar started when Alan Peacock, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, a freelancer and CART captioner in Mobile, Ala., realized there hadn’t been a class on best practices for commencement captioning. He said he took that as a challenge.

The live webinar Captioning and Scripting for Commencement Ceremonies 101 is being offered Nov. 2 from 7-8 p.m. Eastern time. It is worth 0.1 CEU and costs $55 for members and $79 for nonmembers.

“More educational institutions than ever are now web-streaming their commencement ceremonies with captioning, especially now with social distancing during the pandemic we are experiencing,” Peacock said. “So this is an excellent time to attend this seminar to pick up the skills you need so that you can market yourself as prepped and ready when graduation season falls upon us. Companies will be looking for a lot of help this year. Come attend my seminar and you will be ready to go!”

The webinar will cover what prep materials you will need to successfully caption a commencement ceremony. Participants will learn the pros and cons of YouTube and various other platforms. The session will also discuss commencement captioning best practices for scripting songs/traditional vocabulary/graduates’ names.

“Although different universities and colleges have differing formats and delivery methods, the one thing that is pretty consistent is the format,” Peacock said. “For example, most every convocation will have the school fight song at the end. So you have to know that in advance and prep your scripts in advance and be ready for what’s to come.”

Participants will also receive a complimentary copy of “Text Converter,” a small application used to aid in scripting for the professional captioner.

Registration is open now.

High school, community college in new court reporting program

The El Paso Herald-Post reported on Oct. 11 that a new program developed through a collaboration between the SISD Career and Technical Education Department and the El Paso Community College, El Paso, Texas,  gives students the pathway to earn an associate degree in court reporting by the time they graduate from high school.

Read more.

Magna Legal Services opens new office in Colorado

In a press release issued Oct. 13, Magna Legal Services announced that it has opened a new office in Colorado to better serve the Denver legal industry.

Read more.

Mental health awareness webinars draw high interest among members

Response to the free webinars held last week to mark NCRA’s Mental Health Awareness Week drew high interest from members. A total of six live webinars led by mental health experts aired throughout the week observed Oct. 5-9. They were offered to help members invest in their own mental health by learning more about how to take care of themselves. The discussions ranged from the ramifications of working in the legal industry to strategies to create more resilience in everyday life with better self-care.

“I want to thank everyone who attended the webinars held to mark NCRA’s Mental Health Awareness Week,” said NCRA President Christine Phipps, RPR, a firm owner from North Beach, Fla. “I hope you found them valuable and were able to collect some helpful insights and potential tools to encourage and maintain strong mental health for yourself and for those important to you in your life. Please stay strong during these stressful times and remember that each of you are part of the NCRA family. Together we are stronger,” she added.

Although no CEUs were offered for these sessions, the National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF), which sponsored the sessions, felt that the important topics addressed should be made available to all NCRA members and arranged to have each of them recorded for future viewing. NCRA members can access the webinars on the Association’s Mental Health Resources page.

The sessions included:

An Honest Discussion on Mental Health Issues in the Legal Field from
All Stakeholders,
which was an open town hall discussion conducted by
Dori Foster-Morales, Esq.; NCRA President Christine Phipps, RPR; and the Hon. Beatrice Butchko of how our jobs in the legal field affect our mental health and how we can protect ourselves. The discussion confronted some of the myths and fears about mental health and provided insight and understanding into how we can help ourselves and others when it comes to mental health issues.

Back to Basics: Mental Health Essentials during the Pandemic, which
was led by Raymond J. Kotwicki, MD, MPH, DFAPA, the Charles B. West chief medical officer at Skyland Trail, a nationally acclaimed treatment organization for adults with mental illnesses based in Atlanta, Ga., and a nationally recognized speaker on issues in psychiatry, mental health, professionalism, and wellness. The session focused on the psychological impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had on all of us, from social isolation to increased sleep disturbances and chronic worry and anxiety. Kotwicki also talked about how to differentiate when feelings are “normal” during such unprecedented times and when they suggest more serious problems, and more.

Balance and Self-Care in a World of COVID-19, Deadlines, and Virtuality, which was led by Vicki Akenhead Ruiz, FAPR, RPR, CMRS (Ret.), a former court reporter and a past NCRA president. Ruiz talked about approaches to dealing with the stress coming from working in the courtroom and how stress affects reporters. In addition, she shared tips for dealing with loss and how to strengthen your overall mental health.

Self-Care: Managing Life with School, Family, Work – and a Pandemic,
which was led by Dr. Sherry Cooper, LMFT, who addressed how to balance the responsibilities of being a student and taking care of yourself. Dr. Cooper also introduced the topic of self-care, its importance to your overall well-being, ways to engage in self-care, and the repercussions of neglecting self-care.

Practicing Mindfulness, which was led by Debi Galler, the general counsel of Green Street Power Partners, a developer, owner, and operator of solar projects throughout the United States based in Connecticut and a mindfulness practitioner and trainer. Galler explained how mindfulness can play a meaningful role in the lives of legal professionals and how mindfulness can change the structure and function of the brain in the areas of attention, emotional regulation, and memory. 

Self-Care 101, which was led by Aigner Fells, MS, a psychotherapist who provides therapy for individuals, couples, groups, and families and takes a holistic approach to bring awareness to her clients and helps them work to develop strategies and reach desired goals. She discussed the issue of burnout syndrome and how self-care can set the stage to counter burnout, which, in turn, releases physical and emotional toxins. Throughout the webinar, participants learned about the effects of burnout syndrome and how to be better equipped with tools and strategies for implementing self-care as part of their daily routine.

Register now for NCRA’s 2021 Business Summit and save

Early access registration opens Oct. 15 for NCRA’s 2021 Business Summit, themed “Rise to the Challenge! Winning Approaches on Adapting to Change.” Early access offers a limited time to save on registration fees for members, nonmembers, additional attendees, and guests. The 2021 event is taking place Jan. 29-31 at the Hyatt Regency Savannah in beautiful and historic Savannah, Ga.  

“Each year I’ve attended this remarkable event, I’ve expanded my network of professional influencers and personal friendships, as well as taken home new ideas that have helped me to grow and strengthen my business and my staff,” said NCRA President Christine Phipps, RPR, a firm owner from North Palm Beach, Fla.

“Please join us as we kick off a new year and shed the isolation blues with masks and social distance in the beautiful city of Savannah at what is sure to be the ultimate one-of-a-kind experience known as NCRA’s Business Summit,” she added.

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 that is registered for the conference. Professional reporters and captioners may not register for this category as a guest. Guests are welcome at the receptions only in this package; attendance at the educational sessions requires a full registration.

A special rate of $225 per night is also available beginning Oct. 15 through Jan. 6, plus 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 haunted offerings, and more. Register now and save.