New member wins NCRA Connect Virtual 2020 registration

Pamela Sadler

Pamela Sadler is a new NCRA member who was selected as the winner of a free registration to NCRA Connect Virtual 2020.

Sadler is a freelancer in Gillsville, Ga., and she has been working for nine months.

“I want to start by saying thank you,” Sadler said. “I have always loved the law and courtroom procedure. I am very intrigued with the way the law works. I love court shows, any medical shows, and any shows dealing with forensics.”

About her decision to join NCRA, Sadler said: “I have to say what really got my attention about becoming a member of NCRA was the ability to test from home. Knowing I don’t have to travel or reserve a room for testing is great and all the wonderful benefits members are entitled to.”

Sadler attended Brown College of Court Reporting in Atlanta, Ga.

“Being a working court reporter is totally different than being in school,” she said. “Even though school prepares you for a lot of it, there is nothing like real life. If there is any advice I can tell new court reporters, it would be never give up and continue mastering your craft.”

Sadler said the upcoming virtual conference will be her first NCRA conference, and she is looking forward to everything about it.

NCRA member turned novelist inspired by court reporting experience

Andrea J. Johnson

NCRA member Andrea J. Johnson is a court reporter turned freelance entertainment writer for the women’s lifestyle website Popsugar. This love for insider gossip has inspired her to take real-life headlines and turn them into mind-bending mysteries. The Victoria Justice Series is a perfect example of this dynamic as it uses Johnson’s legal background to explore what would happen if a trial stenographer took the law into her own hands. The JCR Weekly recently reached out to her to find out how her court reporting career has helped inspire her stories.

JCR | Where are you from originally?

AJ | I’m originally from the Chesapeake Bay area, specifically the Maryland portion of the Delmarva Peninsula. The area’s coastal setting is quite idyllic, so I’ve set my mystery in that region as well — but on the Delaware side of things since that’s where I spent the most time working as a court reporter.

JCR | How did you make the switch from court reporter to author?

AJ | Becoming an author is something I’ve wanted to do since I was 8 years old, but I’d put it off for decades because writing for a living didn’t seem practical. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I originally became a court reporter: I thought I’d get all the joys of working with syntax and editing without the stress of creating original content. But when my mom was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, she urged me not to play life safe, so I decided to get my graduate degree in creative writing and pursue the career that had eluded me all those years.

JCR | Have you always enjoyed writing?

AJ | Yes, I’ve always enjoyed the idea of writing but not necessarily the practice of writing. My first memory of wanting to be a writer goes back to the third grade. I would finish a book and want to extend the life of the characters so that I could continue to live in that world. Sometimes I’d even start writing a new chapter to the story — a form of old school fan fiction, I suppose — but I’d quickly get discouraged by the discipline it took to shape my ideas. It wasn’t until I grew up and sought guidance on the nuances of story structure that I began to have long-lasting fun with writing.

JCR | What motivated you to develop the Victoria Justice series?

AJ | The character of Victoria Justice has lived in my brain since 2006 although back then I didn’t know what to do with her. She was my reaction to a call for action stars for the reality series Who Wants to Be a Superhero? presented by Stan Lee. The premise of the show was for contestants to create characters who could become comic book heroes. In my mind, what better hero could there be than a court stenographer who seeks to undo bad verdicts through vigilante justice? But at that time, I hadn’t discovered my literary passion, so I couldn’t take advantage of the epiphany. Cut to several years later. I’ve just left my job as a stenographer to pursue writing, and I am searching for a novel idea. So I tweak Victoria to make her more human than hero and match her up with highly fictionalized snippets of real-life court cases. And, voila, the Victoria Justice Court Reporting Mystery series was born.

JCR | What influence did your experience as a court reporter have on your developing the character Victoria Justice?

AJ | Just about everything I’ve experienced as a reporter has been crammed into this series — from the use of long vowels in briefs to the secret joys of AudioSync — but the thing that’s had the most influence on Victoria’s characterization is the outward perception of the profession by those unfamiliar with what we do. She’s often ridiculed for being the one person in the courtroom whose job it is to be seen, not heard. People wag their fingers at her, call her an overpaid notetaker, and assume she’s not very smart. I played into that a bit with the physicality as well by making her short and meek but inside she has a big heart and tons of snark. And while the thrust of the series is about solving murders, an equally large portion of it is about Victoria finding her voice and learning to stand up for herself. In a way, she becomes the town’s last bastion for morality by using the profession’s tenants of accuracy, honesty, and neutrality in the face of the law to claim her space in the world.

JCR | Is the main character based on anyone in particular?

AJ | Crime author Ross Macdonald, known as Kenneth Millar in real life, wrote a popular essay called “The Writer as Detective Hero,” theorizing that mystery writers tend to create sleuths that are a reflection of their personalities whether conscious of this or not. While I hate to go against tradition, I can honestly say Victoria isn’t a reflection of me or anyone I know. However, she does carry my passion for the profession.

JCR | Poetic Justice is your first in the series; correct? What inspired this storyline?

AJ | Yes, Poetic Justice is the first in the series. The inspiration for the storyline comes from a single moment of trial as reported upon by a Delaware newspaper. While testifying on the stand, a police officer opens his drug evidence envelope only to find that the illegal substances have been replaced with over-the-counter medications. I used that imagery as the launching point of the story, but what happens thereafter is a product of my imagination. After all, I want the official court reporter, not the lawyers or the attorneys, to act as the focus and sole narrator of the tale.

JCR | How many novels do you plan for the series?

AJ | I think the concept behind this series is open-ended enough that it could go on forever, but I have always conceived of it as 12 books — like 12 jurors. That’s a nice round number with a large enough arc that Victoria can mature over time and hit professional or personal milestones like starting her own deposition company or falling in love.

JCR | What advice would you give others considering a career down the writing path?

AJ | Do your homework. You don’t have to spend tons of money on graduate school like I did, but you should read as much as you can about the types of books you’d like to write. Join membership organizations that match your writing interest like Mystery Writers of America or Romance Writers of America. Take a class through one of those organizations (you can even do so without being a member). Ask a published author to be your mentor. Never stop searching for knowledge and researching the field. Just like the court reporting profession, you have to study, practice, and keep your skills sharp. Writers might not have CEUs but they have CNEIs — a commitment to constant never-ending improvement.

JCR | How long did you work as a court reporter?

AJ | I was lucky enough to complete school and gain my state certification in two and a half years. I worked in the field for seven.

JCR | Did you work as an official, freelancer, captioner?

AJ | I worked as a deposition reporter in the state of California for two years and as an official reporter in Delaware for five years.

JCR | How did you learn about the court reporting profession?

AJ | The first time I heard about court reporting was in high school since it’s a profession that always shows up on those “Ten Lucrative Careers You Didn’t Know About” lists. However, I didn’t consider becoming one until decades later when I was searching for a career where I didn’t have to adhere to the typical nine-to-five work week.

JCR | Where did you go to court reporting school?

AJ | I attended Bryan College School of Court Reporting, in Los Angeles, Calif. — this was back before they moved that program online — but I only stayed with them through my 180-level proficiency tests. After that, I transferred to Downey Adult School, in Downey, Calif., to finish my speed training in preparation for the California certification exam. While I wouldn’t recommend switching schools at such a crucial point in the program, I felt comfortable doing so because I already had my bachelor’s degree. Like many people, I came to court reporting as a second career, so gaining speed was the toughest part for me. Luckily, the gamble paid off, and I passed my licensing exam on the first attempt.

Johnson has also written several articles on the craft of writing for websites, such as LitReactor, Submittable, Funds for Writers, and DIY MFA. When she isn’t developing her stories, Johnson enjoys cuddling up with a piping hot mug of ginger tea and poring over the latest supermarket tabloids. She can be reached at andrea@ajthenovelist.com. Read an excerpt from Poetic Justice here.

Christine Phipps is set to be the second Floridian to lead NCRA

InFlorida.com posted a press release on July 22 issued by NCRA announcing that Christine Phipps, RPR, owner of Phipps Court Reporting, Inc., based in West Palm Beach, Fla., is set to be installed as its 2020-2021 President.

Read more.

Elements of a strong remote deposition protocol

A blog posted July 22 by JD Supra offers tips for conducting strong remote depositions.

Read more.

PBC Businesswoman Christine Phipps named NCRA President

South Florida Business & Wealth posted a press release on July 27 issued by NCRA announcing that Christine Phipps, RPR, will be installed next month as the 2020-2021 president of the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA).

Read more.

NCRA announces 2020 A to Z Scholarship recipients

Congratulations to the winners of this year’s NCRA A to Z® Scholarships. Winning scores are based on teacher recommendations, speed, and GPA. Scholarship applicants must have completed an NCRA A to Z Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program and be currently enrolled in a court reporting program. Funding for the scholarships comes from generous donations through NCRF. This year, 10 scholarships in the amount of $500 have been awarded to the following students:

  • Alexis Arnold of Cuyahoga Community College in Parma, Ohio. “The NCRA A to Z program is where I fell in love with steno. It allowed me to see that this future is possible for me. It gave me a foundation and prepared me for theory, giving me a head start for my first class. And because I fell in love with steno through the A to Z program, as much blood, sweat and tears as it takes, nothing can shake me, allowing me to persevere and look forward to the other side as a working court reporter.”
  • Rebekah Garza of San Antonio College in San Antonio, Texas. “I personally feel that the A to Z program helped prepare me for what I was to expect as a court reporting student and gave me a kickstart to the information I was to learn in theory. It also gave me a glimpse of the close-knit relationships and amazing bond court reporters share in this amazing profession. I am forever thankful for the support that was shown to me in the A to Z program.”
  • Carnice Hill of MacCormac College in Chicago, Ill. “The NCRA A to Z program was instrumental in giving me the confidence I needed to begin my career and life-changing journey in court reporting.”
  • Deneatha McGeachy, of Hardeman School of Court Reporting and Captioning in Pinellas Park, Fla. “The A to Z program helped me prepare for school by giving me experience with writing on the machine, understanding the steno alphabet, and actually helping me to choose the exact school I’m attending now. The A to Z program was well-worth attending.”
  • Sarah Richmond of Plaza College in Forest Hills, N.Y. “Thank you so much for the surprising good news! I am happy and honored to accept the scholarship. I owe my advisor, Karen Santucci, a big thank you for encouraging me to apply.”
  • Karen Collis from Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton, AB, Canada. “I took the A to Z program while I was waiting to see if I was accepted into NAIT for their next semester. I wanted to use that time to my advantage, and so my mom suggested I take the program. A to Z covered the key fundamentals of the machine, shorthand, and all the possible avenues the career can take you in. Every week there was a new teacher there to give us their perspective on court reporting and what their experience has been so far in the field. It was a great way to see what possibilities lay ahead. Starting classes in September, I knew the keyboard and I felt prepared with a base knowledge of steno that helped me.”
  • Carrie Schill of Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton, AB, Canada. “The NCRA A to Z course was beyond valuable. In six weeks, I went from having my hands on the machine for the first time, to knowing the entire alphabet and writing actual words. It felt like I was given a head start to what I knew was going to be a challenging program. The lessons and insight from the instructors each week gave a great glimpse into what this career is all about.”
  • Luisa Vertucci of Plaza College in Forest Hills, N.Y. “The A to Z program helped me to better understand the expectations of the court reporting field. As an Italian court reporter, I already understand the fundamental techniques of court reporting, such as writing combinations. However, the position of each letter on the steno machine is different on an Italian keyboard vs. an American keyboard. A to Z gave me the opportunity to familiarize myself with these differences before starting my first semester at Plaza.”
  • Jennifer Webb of Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton, AB, Canada. “I attended A to Z and heard from working reporters and captioners in the industry, more about NAIT’s program and instructors, and felt immediately welcomed into this community. And, of course, I loved learning about the steno machine itself! It was a totally invaluable experience as someone who left a job of 10 years to jump into this change. I can now say instead of just a job, I’m confidently heading into a career!”
  • Jill Wright of Clark State Community College in Springfield, Ohio. “The A to Z program was a fantastic experience before I started court reporting school. Not only did it teach me the foundation of the steno machine, it connected me with an awesome mentor to support me through my journey.”

NCRF is currently accepting donations to meet our 2020-21 goal of $5,000 to fund an additional ten scholarships. To donate, please text 41444 with this message: A2ZFUND $Amount Name and Message.

To be eligible to apply for the NCRA A to Z® Scholarship, students must meet the criteria below: 

  • Have completed an NCRA A to Z® Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program
  • Have received an NCRA A to Z® Certificate of Completion
  • Have attained an exemplary academic record
  • Have passed one skills test writing 60-100 words per minute at the time of submission

For more information on the NCRA A to Z® Scholarship, please contact the Education Department at schools@ncra.org

Behind the tech of captioning for Coachella and Stagecoach

By Jackie Hippolyte

NCRA member and captioner Stanley Sakai, CRC, helped us delve into the technical aspects of his collaboration with captioner Isaiah Roberts, RPR, on the Coachella and Stagecoach captioning projects.

Stan’s friendship with Isaiah began on Facebook and later blossomed when they met at an NCRA Convention & Expo. The Coachella and Stagecoach projects in early 2019 were their first work-related collaboration.

Stan’s background

Much of Stan’s background is self-taught. In 2011 when Plover was in its infancy stage, he purchased a Gemini machine of eBay and took it to class. From there, he started to build his dictionary and the beginning of his captioning career.

As with captioning, Stan was also a self-starter with regards to software programming. It was actually his frustration with an experience that led him to pursue this arena, and his skills developed from there. Stan wanted a better way to live stream captioning — something that was clean and worked on the web where he could stream text on a web platform versus asking the user to download the software on an application.

In 2015, after facing some challenges with the equipment he was using while serving as a live cap- tioner in a web development course, he reached out to the course instructors and used their feedback and instructions, along with some of his own research, to teach himself how to program.

 The Coachella and Stagecoach projects … the beginning

In 2018, Isaiah had approached Coachella and in- quired about captioning services for their audience, and soon learned that no such services were current- ly being offered. Coachella admitted that previous captioning requests went unfulfilled as they were not familiar with the service and had not known where to begin.

In learning this, Isaiah offered his services and mentioned that he knew of someone with the techni- cal expertise (Stan), who could fulfill their captioning requirements. In a short amount of time, Stan had developed some code to match Coachella’s website branding (incorporating the use of his app “Meow”) and pitched a demo to Coachella’s team who were soon sold on the idea.

This solution basically paved the way for Coachel-la to provide captioning services to their audience via their app. The solution was perfect as it provided universal access to all, whether attendees needed captioning services or not as all attendees were re- quired to download the Coachella app.

For the full background story, read the first article on TheJCR.com titled Bringing captions to Coachella.

Stan explained a little more about some of the technology behind the projects.

The Skills

Soft skills

Although the success of the projects was obviously in part due to the combination of technological and live captioning skills, Stan admitted that soft skills also played an essential role in the project’s success.

Stan notes that although there are definitely other stenographers out there with the right skills to caption live concerts, it requires a certain personality and level of flexibility to perform captioning services in such an unpredictable and less than “calm” environment, and he was grateful that both he and Isaiah had prior experience with music festivals.

Teamwork

Stan also credits teamwork as being a key reason for the success of this project and says that Isaiah was definitely the mastermind behind the strategy and planning of the projects, while he, Stan, fulfilled the role as the technical guru, which made for a perfect tag team.

Technology:

Start of Coachella project

The initial calls with Coachella began in late 2018, and the official work phase began in January 2019. It took Stan and Isaiah approximately four months to complete the apps for Coachella and Stagecoach.

Stan did not have access to the back-end code of Coachella’s site to mimic their website branding, but he was easily able to develop the code from scratch within his app, Meow. With regards to Stagecoach, the app User Interface was different and required additional customization to match their website branding.

Steno/typing and editing software

Stan used Plover, an open source User Interface (UI) controller — from the Open Steno project — where a user can type into any window, using a keyboard as a steno machine. For web editing, he utilized Upwordly, a web interface editor which displayed directly in the clients app, like the ones for Coachella or Stagecoach.

Servers

The expected traffic for the Coachella app was approximately 130,000 attendees, which used a total of five servers — two in New York, two in Los Angeles, and one in San Francisco. Having multiple servers running the same app simultaneously ensured there was back up in place at all times, in the event one of the servers were to fail. The servers served over 1000 connections per minute (per server). A load test using utility called Artillery JS was conducted to simulate 10,000 users on the app at the same time.

The load on Coachella’s platform was approximately 700 connections per day and approximately 1,200 per day for Stagecoach.

Live streaming the lyrics

Stan and Isaiah were normally given the scripts to the songs twenty minutes beforehand, but in the usual fashion, they found a way to streamline the process to make it easier and more efficient. They created a large text file of all the songs beforehand (when possible). In typical tag team fashion, one would write the lyrics as they heard it to figure out what the song was playing, and when that was determined, the other would search for the lyrics online and would then copy and paste into the text file for upload to the app. If an artist ad-libbed, however, they would then caption the song live.

Some may be wondering how they handled lyrics in a foreign language? Well, there just so happened to be an artist who sang in Spanish  — J. Balvin — and fortunately Stan happens to speak fluent Spanish and had a Spanish dictionary.

Summary of technology used

■   Meow: JavaScript-based app created by Stan that displays live captioning. It buffers events from a local port that CAT software communicates on, and then translates them to object-based instructions that are rendered as text on website.

■   App plugin: Stan built a custom plugin to allow a connection between the app and Eclipse,

and the app and Catalyst. (See YouTube.com/ watch?v=PtlriHufTBA&t=2s for more informa- tion.)

■   Plover: Part of the Open Steno project, which is an open source stenography engine written in Python that allows users to use their keyboard as a steno machine.

■   Upwordly: A realtime transcription delivery tool and a content management system (CMS) for realtime stenographers.

■   Angular and React: Front-end development framework that allows the creation of dynamic web pages.

■   Web sockets connection: Communication pro- tocol that transmits the live text to the server to be sent out to the web page, without refreshing or pinging the server.

■   Artillery JS: A utility used to conduct load test- ing on the servers, simulating a specific amount of traffic/users.

■   Servers: Five servers managed using Docker swarm.

■   JavaScript: A programming language mostly known as the scripting language for web pages. It also works in some non-browser environ- ments, like Apache CouchDB and Adobe Acrobat.

■   Python: Another programming language often used to develop web pages and apps, Python is particularly helpful when building prototypes.

Finding his “sweet spot” and giving back

We asked Stan if he ever considered pursuing a career field as a software developer full time, and his response was that he has found the perfect “sweet spot” where he can use his assets both as a live captioner and program/software engineer to not only fulfill his career aspirations but also promote caption- ing through the use of technology.

In addition to finding that “sweet spot,” Stan says it was gratifying to be able to give back and showcase what is possible with captioning and technology.

Project Takeaways

Stan and Isaiah have created their own niche for captioning and hope to get others excited about the profession and its possibilities. This project with Coachella and Stagecoach was not only a rewarding and fun experience but has opened the door and created a variety of inquiries about the Open Steno Project, Plover, and ways to secure captioning jobs like Coachella.

Stan hopes that projects like Coachella and Stagecoach can put a modern take on the captioning profession and showcase it in a space beyond just depositions, by demonstrating both the collaborative and technical aspects of bringing a project together. Since this project launched, the duo team have been asked via social media if they planned to cover more stages in the future, which Stan says is definitely a possibility.

Stan’s thoughts and takeaways on how other professionals can find and seize opportunities:

• The key is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Always ask how the captioning community can assist with a venture.

 • Insight: Only a fraction of the hard of hearing community uses sign language, and captioning is not something many think about, so making others aware is vital.

• Partner with someone who has skills that you may not have. Be strategic and harness the strengths of the people around you. Stan said: “You cannot do everything on your own.”

• Think beyond your comfort zone — and take action beyond that vision.

Summary

We asked Stan about opportunities for future music festivals and he noted that since the main legwork is already developed, it would be easy enough to reproduce what he needs by just creating the front interface coding and formatting to match the branding of any client’s website.

With regards to his day-to-day, Stan admits he always looks for an easier way to do things and has created other shortcuts and plugins to streamline his daily work routine — such as emailing  files/transcripts, and more.

 Partners and Thanks to…

•   Ten Fifty was quite instrumental in this project and helped Stan and Isaiah connect with Coachella and also arrange all of their housing and other logistics.

•   Stan and Isaiah were fortunate enough to work with the digital production manger of Golden Voice, which produces Coachella.

•   Mirabai  Knight, RDR, CRR, CRC, is Stan’s mentor and the person who taught him steno.

Jackie Hippolyte is NCRA’s Web Communications Manager. She can be reached at jhippolyte@ncra.org.

Winners of 2020 CASE Scholarships announced

NCRA is pleased to announce the five winners of the 2020 CASE (Council on Approved Student Education) Student Scholarships. Winners are chosen based on a weighted combination of speed, GPA, recommendations, and a written essay. This year’s essay question was, “What do you think makes you good at writing steno, and what skill sets do you possess that you believe will help you build your career as a court reporter?”

Lisa Johnson

This year the top scholarship prize of $1,500 went to Lisa Johnson, a student at Gateway Community College in Phoenix, Ariz. “The scholarship award means a great deal to me,” Johnson told Up-to-Speed. “It is wonderful to be a part of a community filled with encouraging, supportive, and intelligent individuals who strive to keep the profession strong and full of integrity.”

In her essay, Johnson credits her father, a carpenter, for instilling in her the drive needed to excel in her career. “He provided for the family, quite literally, with his bare hands. It is my goal to also provide for my family with my hands, capturing the spoken word through stenography,” she added.

Greta Pederson

Greta Pederson, a student at Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, Wisc., earned the second prize of $1,000. Pedersen played violin as a child and she wrote in her essay about being an auditory, rather than a visual learner. Stenography, she wrote, relies on ear/hand coordination instead of eye/hand coordination. “I am honored to be a recipient of the CASE Scholarship,” Pederson told Up-to-Speed. “I am grateful for the extra financial support to help me achieve my educational goals.”

Stephanie Oldeck

The third prize of $750 went to Stephanie Oldeck, a student at the College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind. “Being awarded the NCRA 2020 CASE Student Scholarship means that I can continue my education without worrying about incurring more student debt,” Oldeck said.  “I am honored to be an award recipient, and it gives me a motivational boost to work harder and perform to (and exceed) the best of my abilities to continue to be worthy of this scholarship.” Oldeck wrote in her essay that winning the scholarship is a sign that court reporting is the career she was always supposed to choose. 

Emily Deutsch

Recipient of the $500 scholarship was Emily Deutsch, a student at Anoka Technical College in Anoka, Minn. Deutsch, a graduate of NCRA’s A to Z® Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program, is an active participant in both her state association and NCRA. “Not only is this scholarship a significant morale booster for me at this time,” she said, “but it has lifted the financial strain so that I can continue to push toward graduation. Because of the generous support of NCRA, Stenograph, and our instructors and mentors, students like me across the nation cannot wait to graduate and see where this awesome profession takes us.”

A student at MacCormac College in Chicago, Ill., Jessica Shines is the recipient of the $250 scholarship. As she explained in her essay, stenography is her “third language” (after English and Spanish).

Jessica Shines

“When I learned that I won this scholarship, I felt honored. For people who don’t know me to invest in my education felt like a vote of confidence, and it affirmed for me that I chose the right career,” Shines said. “I’ve never met a group of professionals who were so focused on sharing their love of their career with the next generation. I look forward to doing the same for another up-and-coming stenographer when it’s my turn!”

Each year, CASE awards five scholarships to students who attend an NCRA-approved court reporting program. To be eligible to apply, students must also hold a student membership in NCRA, have attained an exemplary academic record, and passed one skills test writing at between 140 and 180 words per minute. Students are also required to submit a speed verification form, three recommendation forms, a copy of their most recent transcript, and an essay in response to a topic chosen by members of CASE.

For more information about the CASE Scholarships, contact Ellen Goff, NCRA Assistant Director, Professional Development at egoff@ncra.org, or visit NCRA.org.

Listen to a steno podcast … or create one of your own

Podcasts aren’t just for true crime anymore. They can be a creative teaching tool in the stenography classroom. Both instructors and students can create their own podcasts to aid in practice, concentration, and readback. Professional podcasts, too, offer a unique resource for students as they offer insight into the working lives of seasoned court reporters and captioners. Carol Adams, RPR, MCRI, distance education director at Huntington Junior College in W.V., breaks it all down for Up-to-Speed.

Podcasts are extremely popular today. According to PodcastInsights.com, as of 2020 there are more than 900,000podcasts and more than 30 million episodes. Here are additional statistics from PodcastInsights.com:

In the United States:

  • 51 percent (144 million) of the population has listened to a podcast
  • 32 percent (90 million) listen to podcasts at least every month
  • 22 percent (62 million) listen to podcasts weekly
  • 16 million people in the United States are “avid podcast fans”
  • 56 percent of podcast listeners are male

Age of listeners:

  • 12-24: 40 percent
  • 25-54: 39 percent
  • 55+: 17 percent

So, what is a podcast? A podcast is an audio program usually focused on a particular subject. The most popular podcasts are comedy, followed by education and news. There are numerous podcasts on science, parenting, politics, history, and true crime. There are series about cats, cults, sneakers, and Harry Potter! Whatever your interests, there are podcasts out there for you, and if your hobbies or concerns aren’t represented, maybe it’s time you started a podcast!

So now that we’ve established that podcasts are a popular form of digital media, let’s talk about the benefits of using podcasts in education. There are three ways podcasting can be utilized in reporting education:

1.            Instructor podcasts

2.            Student podcasts

3.            Professional podcasts

Let’s start with instructor podcasts. Whether you are teaching online or campus classes, podcasts can be an excellent way to enhance readings for the week. As an instructor you can create a podcast emphasizing the important take-aways from the textbook or review for a quiz. A podcast enables your busy students to listen while driving in the car, exercising at the gym, or while performing other activities, whereas a video or textbook requires the students’ full, undivided attention. Students who are not great readers or who don’t comprehend what they read can benefit from audio learning. A podcast doesn’t have to be a lecture; it can be reminders or encouraging words from you. This type of learning is on demand and on-the-go. Most students have a smart phone, so podcasts are easily accessible.

A great learning activity is to have your students generate podcasts. Podcast creation employs critical thinking, organizational, and speaking skills that will be so crucial during readbacks. When students author and explain a subject, they are educating peers and increasing their knowledge on that topic. Students can divide up legal terms for the week and produce recordings with the term, the definition, and a short illustration of how the term is used in context. Students can use this podcast to learn the definitions, plus incorporate it into practice dictation. Those in speedbuilding can make podcasts on practice tips for new students looking for guidance. Interning students can create podcasts about their experiences for those who will soon follow in their footsteps. Any writing assignment can be transformed into a podcast assignment.

Finally, invite professionals in the field into your class through podcasts. There are podcasts on professional dress, law, grammar tips, and interviews with reporters and captioners discussing aspects of the field that may not be adequately covered in textbooks. Here are a few examples for you to check out:

  • Stenographers World: This podcast features interviews with superstar reporters and captioners such as Mark Kislingbury and Marty Block.
  • Modern Court Reporter: The Modern Court Reporter focuses on issues important to judicial reporters. For example, the latest podcast with Jean Hammond emphasizes the role of a professional proofreader.
  • Confessions of a Stenographer: Topics related to reporting and captioning in this podcast include maintaining a work/life balance and the exciting career of a reporter on Capitol Hill.

Creating a podcast is quite simple. Audacity is a free, easy to use tool. I’ve created a short video to demonstrate the process.

I challenge you to change your teaching strategy up a bit and incorporate some new technology. Your students will appreciate convenient study tools at their disposal, the opportunity to produce learning material for fellow students, and the knowledge acquired by turning in to the real world of court reporting and captioning.

Be a part of NCRA’s first-ever virtual conference!

Gear up for a new experience! NCRA Connect Virtual 2020 is happening Aug. 7-9 offering nearly three days of educational sessions, vendor presentations, and networking opportunities. Choose from a number of sessions to attend live and have access to recorded sessions through midnight Aug. 25. Students can purchase a full registration package for the special price of $60 members/$75 nonmembers.

NCRA Connect 2020 is the Association’s first-ever virtual conference, that will feature live events. Participants will have access to a variety of informative and interesting educational sessions, a dynamic keynote presentation, and numerous networking opportunities packed with fun, games, and prizes, and much more.

See the complete schedule of sessions including networking opportunities, exhibitor showcases, and the virtual vendor hall at NCRA.org.

“As we all start to settle into our new normal, NCRA is excited to bring its annual Conference & Expo to you, wherever your new normal may be. Please join your Board of Directors, colleagues, and friends at NCRA Connect Virtual 2020,” said NCRA President-elect Christine Phipps, RPR, a firm owner from North Palm Beach, Fla. Phipps will be installed as 2020-2021 President during the General Session happening on Aug. 8.

“This virtual conference is a first for NCRA, and I encourage everyone to pull up a chair, a couch, or whatever your choice of seating maybe these days and get ready to enjoy the insights of a dynamic keynote speaker, a variety of educational sessions popping with valuable information to help you grow professionally, and ample networking opportunities,” she added.

Attendees also will have the opportunity to participate in a number of specialty networking sessions geared toward officials, freelancers, captioners, new professionals, and students and teachers.

“Networking is essential in our profession. Attending an NCRA convention will put you in the right place at the right time to meet the right people that can help you advance in your career,” said Teresa Russ, CRI, a captioner and freelance court reporter from Bellflower, Calif.

“Oftentimes you never know what to expect when you accept a job, whether it’s captioning or covering a depo. The seminars are designed to meet the needs of the challenges court reporters, CART and broadcast captioners, and students will possibly encounter,” she added.

If you’ve never had the opportunity to attend an NCRA conference in person, let NCRA Connect 2020 be the perfect first-time opportunity. With low registration fees, no travel or hotel costs, and the ability to access all of the sessions up to 14 days after the event, there’s no reason not to attend.

“NCRA in-person national conventions have been occurring almost every year since the first one was held in 1899. Be a part of history in the making as we turn a new technological chapter in the 121-year evolution of NCRA,” Phipps added.

Special student sessions:

Success as an Online Student

A successful working reporter who was an entirely online student and one of her online instructors will discuss strategies for success in school. Topics will include organization, setting goals, and the mental game plan to pass those tests!

Presenters: Jensen Wohlegmuth and Kelly Moranz, CRI


Controlling your Subconscious

Teresa Russ, CRI

Attendees will be trained to control negative self-talk by utilizing affirmations. NCRA member Teresa Russ, CRI, will share exercises to help you implement affirmations in your own life, as well as teach you how to create a strategy when taking tests and then how to execute that strategy. A short video entitled “The Zone” by NCRA Mark Kislingbury, FAPR, RDR, CRR, will be shown, with a discussion and exercises to follow. Attendees will be encouraged to see themselves as an athlete — a stenoathlete.

Presenter: Teresa Russ, CRI


Understanding the Profession After Graduation

So, you have put in all the work to graduate and have your résumé ready; now what? What certifications do you need? What kinds of questions do you ask when interviewing? Are benefits available? Software? How are you paid? What are the salary ranges across the country? Get answers to these questions and more. Become confident in your professional knowledge now that you have the skills necessary to begin your career.

Presenters: Barbara Galarno, RPR, CRI; Court Petros, RPR

For the full schedule and to register visit the NCRA website. Remember, sessions will be available to view through midnight Aug. 25, so you won’t have to worry about missing a minute of this virtual experience.