Announcing a new NCRA certification for aspiring court reporters: Registered Apprentice Reporter

Starting January 2020, aspiring court reporters can test for a new NCRA certification, the Registered Apprentice Reporter (RAR). This new designation will recognize those stenographic professionals who are looking to validate their beginning level of competency.

“We are launching the RAR as an entry-level test for new professionals preparing to enter the field but who are not quite ready to earn their RPRs yet,” says NCRA President Max Curry, RPR, CRI, based in Smyrna, Tenn. “It should build their confidence as they continue to work on taking and passing the RPR successfully and possibly letting them begin work with some easier, low-impact reporting assignments.”

Earning the RAR will demonstrate an ability to hold a verified level of skill to current and potential clients, current and potential employers, and fellow reporters.

Created as a stepping-stone credential to ultimately achieving the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) designation, the RAR certification will offer the prestige of an NCRA certification for those 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.

Testing for the RAR begins January 1, 2020, and registration for the first RAR skills testing begins December 1, 2019. Current or aspiring stenographic reporters are eligible to earn the RAR and do not need to be members of NCRA to take the RAR tests.

Candidates seeking the RAR need to pass three 5-minute Skills Tests:

  • RAR Literary at 160 words per minute
  • RAR Jury Charge at 180 words per minute
  • RAR Testimony/Q&A at 200 words per minute

To pass, an accuracy level of 95 percent is required for each leg.

There is a critical need for qualified, competent stenographers, and the RAR certification will help employers differentiate among candidates applying for these opportunities.

“When you earn the RAR, you have an opportunity to continue learning but begin to enjoy the personal satisfaction of seeing your skills used in professional practice and earn income while you continue your learning,” says NCRA Vice President Debra A. Dibble, RDR, CRR, CRC of Woodland, Utah. “It’s a win/win!”

Visit the NCRA website for more information: https://www.ncra.org/certification/registered-apprentice-reporter-(rar)

NCRA Government Relations update

NCRA Government Relations has been very busy this fall. On September 24, 2019, Jocelynn Moore, Director of State Government Relations, attended the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Disability Advisory Committee (DAC) meeting to demonstrate our commitment to our captioning members and the associations that support the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities.

NCRA also has been advocating for members on Capitol Hill this month. On Tuesday, October 8, 2019, Moore attended a tour of the U.S. Capitol Dome, which was hosted by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and his legislative assistant Emma Rindels. The Dome, which was constructed between 1854 and 1865, weighs 8,909,200 pounds and cost $1,047,291 at the time it was built.

Jocelynn Moore, NCRA Director of State Government Relations, visits Rep. Mike Gallagher’s (Wisc.) office.

Following the tour, Moore had meetings with U.S. Representatives from Wisconsin, including Jim Sensenbrenner, Bryan Steil, and Mike Gallagher, to advocate for the Training for Realtime Writers Act of 2019. The stand-alone bill was drafted by Rep. Ron Kind, also from Wisconsin, and is set to be introduced later this month.

Lastly, in an effort to reduce NCRA’s expenses for the 2020 budget, we have successfully re-negotiated a contract with lower rates for our legislative tracking software while maintaining the same legislative services we have offered to our members in the past. NCRA Government Relations looks forward to continuing our work on state and federal legislative issues and to continuing our representation of our members nationally.

TechLinks: Improving your dual-monitor setup

The NCRA Technology Committee is taking your questions on topics surrounding realtime and technology. Send the questions you want the Technology Committee members to tackle to jcrfeedback@ncra.org.

Last spring, the Tech Committee answered Tuckered from Texas’s question about the benefits of using multiple monitors for court reporters.

As a follow-up to that question, the committee wanted to share another topic related to the dual-monitor question of:  What are some ways to improve your dual-monitor setup?

Lynette Mueller, the Tech Committee Chair, loves following PC Mag as her go-to resource for technology-related tips and tricks. She found this article from PC Mag regarding how to improve your dual-monitor setup.

Some of the key points in the article are:

  1. Make the displays match
  2. Tweak your taskbar
  3. Seek out super-wide wallpapers
  4. Study your shortcuts
  5. The wandering cursor
  6. Do even more with Display Fusion

Of course, court reporters love their macros and shortcuts; right? The best key shortcuts from this article:

  •             Win+Left and Win+Right: Snap the active window to the left or right side of the current monitor. You can press the keys again to move it between monitors or snap it back to its original location.
  •             Win+Up and Win+Down: Maximize or minimize the current window. If the window is currently snapped, this will also resize the window from its snapped position.
  •             Shift+Win+Left and Shift+Win+Right: Move the active window to the next monitor, without snapping it to the edge.
  •             Shift+Win+Up: Maximize the window vertically—particularly useful if you don’t have a taskbar on your secondary display.
  •             Win+Home: Minimize all windows except the one you’re working on, to banish distractions. You can press it again to bring all the windows back.

Stay productive, court reporters!

Make plans to mosey on over to the 2020 NCRA Business Summit

The Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa in Austin, Texas, is the setting for the 2020 NCRA Business Summit taking place Feb. 9-11. No matter what size firm you own, operate, or manage, this event is NCRA’s premier gathering for anyone looking to grow their business, expand their markets, and boost their overall success. Register by Nov. 30, 2019 to take advantage of discounted pricing.

“Intense, energizing, inspiring, educational, and fun, that’s what the 2020 NCRA Business Summit promises attendees no matter what size their firm is. Plan to expand your sphere of colleagues while networking in beautiful Austin, as well as hear from a variety of experts in the areas of successful customer base building, honing effective leadership skills, and more,” said NCRA President Max Curry, RPR, CRI, a freelance court reporter and firm owner from Franklin, Tenn. “If building your business in 2020 and beyond is important to you, then attending the 2020 should be a priority.”

Karim R. Ellis, Keynote Speaker

In the lineup this year is keynote speaker 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. She is also the co-author, along with Martha Hanlon, also co-founder of Wide Awake Business, Customers Are the Answer to Everything, and most recently of Customertopia. Williams and Hanlon have been called one of the foremost authorities on in how to get and keep customers.

Chris Williams, Speaker

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

The 2020 NCRA Business Summit program also offers a number of networking 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 and dinner.

Registration is now open and those who register by Nov. 30, 2019, can take advantage of discounted pricing:

  • Early Access Registration: Oct. 15 – Nov. 30, 2019
    Member: $975; Nonmember: $1,150; Additional Firm Employee: $850; Spouse/Guest: $200
  • Regular Registration: Dec. 1, 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

A special hotel room rate for single/double occupancy for attendees is $209 per night plus tax ($237.73) and the resort fee is waived. Hurry, these special hotel rates end on Jan. 8, 2020. Deadline to register to attend is Jan. 31, 2020.

For more information and to register for the 2020 NCRA Business Summit, visit NCRA.org/BusinessSummit.

Court reporting in the Army in Vietnam

NCRF Chair Tami Smith presents 2019 Altruism Award to recipient Mervin Vaungh
NCRF Chair Tami Smith presents 2019 Altruism Award to recipient Mervin Vaungh

By Mervin Vaughn 

The National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF) presented the 2019 Santo J. Aurelio Award to Mervin E. Vaughn, RPR, from Runnels, Iowa, at this year’s 2019 NCRA Convention & Expo. He recently shared with the JCR Weekly details about his years of service as a reporter in Vietnam.

Having completed my court reporting courses and passed the CSR test, I was ready to begin my career.  Classes were completed in November 1965.  Since the Vietnam War was going full swing, I knew I would be called sometime.  However, my notice didn’t come right away so I freelanced wherever I could pick up work and finally bought a new car to get around the state in.  The car purchase was a Saturday, and my draft notice came the following Monday.  Fortunately, I was able to pick up just enough work before having to report for duty to pay off the car and then store it in a garage for 2 years.

Basic was at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.  This was a time when the draft decided to call up those getting older before they hit the age to not be called, so I was in with several college grads and older guys.  During basic they tested everyone to see what skills they had.  One of those tests was a typing test on a very old manual typewriter.  While I was going as fast as I could, I noticed a sergeant standing over my shoulder.  When the test was over, he asked what I wanted to be.  I informed him I had been a court reporter prior and would like to do that.  He sent me over to another building to see the staff there.  They wanted to know what I thought I was doing coming over there.  I informed them that the sergeant had sent me over.  They said that, if he had sent me, they had better see why because he never sends anyone over.  Apparently, my typing skills impressed him.  Basic was completed and everyone was being informed where they would next report and what their MOS (military job) would be.  The company clerk informed me I would be a 71E20 and was being assigned to Fort Hood, Texas.  He said he didn’t know what a 71E20 was but he would look it up.  Lo and behold, it was a court reporter.  I was thrilled that the Army was putting me in a position that I was already trained for.

After a short leave home, I enjoyed a long bus ride to Fort Hood.  Fort Hood is an armored divisions fort, so we had tanks, etc., running around.  After getting settled into my new position, everything was going well.  There was one other civilian court reporter already in the office, so we would share the trials as they came along.  As well as being a court reporter, you were required to participate in calisthenics each morning and pull KP duty when assigned.  The barracks were to be maintained in inspection mode at all times also.  This required beds to be made so a half dollar would bounce on them and the floors polished to a high shine.  The floors were concrete, so it took some doing to get a shine on them.  Being an armored division, the floors were dyed red and then wax applied and buffed daily.

One day I was called in and told I was to report to a general at North Fort Hood for a special assignment.  Reporting to a general was out of the ordinary for a lowly private second class.  I was picked up and taken to North Fort Hood.  That is where the National Guard did their summer training.  I reported to the general and was informed that a soldier had been killed and there was going to be a special investigation into his death, and I would be reporting the proceedings.  The general was very nice and appreciative that I was there. 

After reporting the investigation, it was quite late.  The general told his staff to take me to the mess hall and feed me even though it was closed.   When we walked in, the mess sergeant demanded to know what we were doing coming in.  Once he was informed the general had sent me there to be fed, he became very accommodating.  After eating, the staff said they would drive me back to my billets.  I mentioned that the general had said they might fly me in his chopper back, so they did and landed right beside my barracks.  The other guys in the barracks thought someone important was coming in since it was the general’s personal chopper landing.  Were they ever surprised when this lowly court reporter stepped off.  The general later wrote a commendation letter to me in appreciation for my services.

Life then went back to the regular courts-martial cases for a while.  It was just before Christmas in 1965, and I was eating in the mess hall when another soldier stopped at my table and looked at my name tag.  I knew where he worked and asked him what he was doing.  He informed me my name had come down on orders that morning to go to Vietnam.  Needless to say, my lunch never got finished.

I reported back to my office and informed the colonel in charge that I would be leaving apparently.  He became very upset and said he would see about that.  About this time there had been a very young man murdered off base by a soldier.  The other court reporter said she would not report the case because it could carry the death penalty.  The case was referred to the military by the local authorities because Texas at that time did not have the death penalty.  The colonel went to the base commanding general to see if he could get my orders cancelled.  The base commander informed him he could not cancel them, but he could delay them for 90 days and no one could touch me during that time.  This gave enough time for me to report the murder case and get it transcribed.  Once it was completed, I was allowed to take a two-week leave home before shipping out to Vietnam.

After my leave, I reported to San Diego for processing to Nam.  During this time the military was using commercial jets as well as ships to transport guys going to Nam.  After processing, we were loaded onto buses and sent to the airport.  Come to find out, they had no plane scheduled for us when we got there.  The military proceeded to inform the airlines that they would unload the plane currently sitting on the tarmac and load us on instead.  They had some very unhappy customers when they were informed their plane had been taken for us.  We were in no hurry personally.

We landed in Hawaii to refuel but were not allowed to leave the plane.  We also landed in Guam for refueling.  Then we arrived in Nam.  Stepping off the plane, I thought we had landed near the dump because it smelled so bad.  Sure different than the fresh air of Iowa. 

After processing, I was then assigned to a signal outfit.  Once arriving there, they determined that they had no need for a court reporter but needed a legal clerk.  Hence, I took over the duties of a legal clerk, which involved helping soldiers that were encountering legal problems back home with their spouses or financial institutions.  This also involved pulling guard duty at night sometimes.  Since my typing skills were beyond the other clerks, I was given the assignment of typing papers that could not have any mistakes on them.  If you mistyped, you had to start over.  We only had manual typewriters again.  Everything must be in multiple copies also, so there was carbon paper to deal with.  Copy machines did not exist then.

After about six months as legal clerk, the JAG (military legal office) discovered I was a court reporter and had me immediately transferred to them.  Once again, I was reporting general courts-martial.  In the military everything is transcribed and reviewed higher up.  They needed five copies.  The transcripts were on legal-size paper and single spaced.  There was no transcript fee either.  Using a manual typewriter and cutting five copies required real pressure on the key stroking.  As a result, I was a pounder on my steno machine forever. 

Being a court reporter, no one understood how you could capture everything that was being said.  I think it brought some respect as a result.  Other duties were still required outside the JAG office, such as guard duty and latrine duty, until you attained a certain rank.  After attaining that higher rank, your name was removed from those duties. 

Once again, during this time, I was required to report a murder one case.  A soldier had killed another soldier during a fight.  In both of the murder one cases, the defendants were found guilty and given life sentences.  If they had received the death penalty, the transcript would have gone to the president because he has to approve such sentence.

One day in the mess hall, I saw that they had wheat bread for a change.  Upon closer inspection, I discovered the wheat in the bread also had legs.  We were lucky, though, because we at least had a mess hall and a hooch to sleep in.  A hooch was a frame building covered in screen wire with a tin roof and was surrounded by a sandbag wall to protect from incoming fire.  Bathroom facilities consisted of a multi-hole outhouse with half of a 50-gallon barrel beneath each hole.  When you were assigned latrine duty, it was your job to pull the barrels very carefully with their contents and replace with an empty barrel.  You then carried the removed barrel to a location away from the buildings and poured diesel fuel into the barrel and burned the waste.  Luckily, you did not draw that duty too often.  Showers were in rough-framed wooden buildings with an overhead tank.  You tried to take your shower after the sun had warmed the water in the tank.  Each floor of the hooch contained approximately 20 soldiers.  The beds were covered with mosquito netting and you were required to take pills to help prevent malaria.  When the monsoons were going, your clothes would mold even though they were inside.  The poor guys in the field would have their clothes rot while wearing them.  Being a court reporter probably saved my life because at that time they were sending almost everyone to the field, including college grads, etc.

About 30 days before my time was up, I, along with two captain lawyers, were assigned to be flown by chopper into a special forces camp to investigate a possible war crimes situation.   We had to fly in because the roads were controlled by the Vietcong.  We were not overly excited about that assignment, but all went well and we were back to our home base before nightfall.

As the time approached for my departure, I was asked if I would be interested in reenlisting.  After declining, they then asked if I would like to go home and be discharged and then come back as a civilian in the same position.  This I also respectfully declined as I had a job waiting for me back home as well as a fiancée.  In exactly one year, I left Nam for good old Iowa.  The rest is history.

General Requirements and Minimum Standards updated

In August 2019, NCRA’s Board of Directors approved changes to the General Requirements and Minimum Standards (GRMS) required for NCRA-approved court reporting programs. The Council on Approved Student Education (CASE) proposed a way to recognize court reporting programs that don’t participate in Title IV funding but want to be among the court reporting programs approved by NCRA. The change created a Tier II eligibility, such as the standards that are required for teaching a realtime reporting program, and the expectations of NCRA for educational programs.

“NCRA and the Council on Approved Student Education (CASE) are providing an avenue by which court reporting programs that don’t participate in Title IV funding but are licensed in their state are eligible to become an NCRA-approved program,” explained Cynthia Bruce Andrews, NCRA’s Senior Director of Education and Certification. “With the success of the NCRA A to ZTM Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand, we are looking forward to approving more court reporting programs.”

Changes to the GRMS that reflect the best practices have taken effect on Oct. 1, 2019. All new applications for NCRA approval must reflect a program’s compliance with the new GRMS.

If you have any questions, contact Cynthia Bruce Andrews, Senior Director of Education and Certification, at 703-584-9058 or candrews@ncra.org.

Corporate deposition — multiple witnesses at the same time?

A blog posted by JD Supra on Sept. 30 offers tips on taking a corporate deposition that includes multiple witnesses at the same time.

Read more.

Why you need to consider a career in court reporting

On Sept. 28, Conscious Life News posted an article about the pros of choosing a career in court reporting.

Read more.

Captioners shared history with NCRA highlights past, present, and future

NCRA members Carol Studenmund, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, Portland, Ore.; Karen Yates, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, Minden, Nev.; and Kelly Linkowski, RPR, CRR, CRC, CPE, Rittman, Ohio, presented a session at the NCRA Convention & Expo that highlighted the history of captioning and shared a vision of the future. The JCR Weekly asked the trio to share their thoughts.

JCR | Can you tell us a little about your background and how you are connected to captioning?

Linkowski | We tell people all the time how diverse a career in court reporting can be. It’s my favorite part of being a realtime stenographic reporter. My career has evolved to fit my family’s lifestyle and mine, unlike many professions where you have to fit your life around your career. I loved freelancing and never knowing what the next day may bring when I was in my 20s; I enjoyed the challenges and opportunity to sub in courtroom settings; but my ultimate favorite has been captioning as an independent contractor. When my kids were young, they would tell people I watched television for a living! Little did they know, working my own hours — as weird as they were — helped our family dynamic work in the way my husband and I had envisioned.

Yates | In the mid-1990s, after 25 years in judicial reporting, I was looking for a change, a new challenge. I attended the NCRA Annual Convention & Expo and heard a keynote speech by Henry Kisor, author of the book What’s That Pig Outdoors? He spoke about his experiences as a man who is deaf and the importance of captioning and CART in his life. He urged our members to retrain to become captioners. I took up that challenge and have never looked back. I haven’t done broadcast captioning, but I have worked providing CART captioning in every possible setting, including onsite for individual students in their classes; for large convention and meeting audiences; in my hometown and in many other states; as well as across the globe in other countries. Now I work almost exclusively from my home office providing remote captioning.

Studenmund | I am one of the owners of LNS Captioning in Portland, Ore. We started LNS Captioning in 1993. I first worked as a captioner in 1992. I have served on NCRA committees involving captioning since 1994 and taught workshops about realtime writing and captioning back in the 1990s, and I am still involved in captioner education to this day. I was one of the instructors for the Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC) Workshop held in Denver in August 2019.

JCR | What do you tell captioners who ask you, “What has NCRA done for captioners?”

Studenmund | In 2012, the NCRA Captioning Community of Interest (CoI) took the bull by the horns and developed the Best Practices for Captioning, the effort that led to the Federal Communications Commission establishing – in 2015 – rules for captioning quality. The NCRA Captioning CoI was tired of hearing everyone in the broadcast realm blame any problems with captions on the captioners. We knew our captions went through many hands between our steno machines and computers and the end user’s TV. We started the conversation to identify all of the roles involved in the creation and delivery of live captions.

Linkowski | Certification. Certifications are an immediate letter of reference. They guarantee I have the minimum requirements. You can’t fake it – you are a realtime writer. Sometimes you are writing upwards of 300 wpm, and companies are hiring you to be the accessibility link to their customers. Certifications get you in the door; CEUs and daily developing of your skills and knowledge base will propel you to the top.

Yates | You cannot talk about the history of captioning without acknowledging the central role NCRA has played. As some of our members pioneered the field, NCRA highlighted their outstanding work every step of the way. Through our JCR articles and conference seminars, NCRA educated and trained legions of new captioners. We created certifications that allow our members to demonstrate their mastery of this skill and differentiate themselves from competitors. Our lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill put a spotlight on captioning and gained millions of dollars to enable our schools to train captioners. NCRA’s public relations department helped place articles about captioners in local and national media outlets, especially after national disasters. The Association works with other organizations, particularly those representing people with hearing loss, on all captioning issues. NCRA continues to be the leading champion for captioners, both within our own ranks and to all external audiences.

JCR | What do you see as the future of captioners? 

Yates | I see a continuing expansion in the demand for our skill. It won’t be strictly as captioners, but in a more fluid and flexible field of instant, clean, (nearly) verbatim text for every imaginable situation. The word’s out, and the simultaneous display of the written word as the speakers talk is now a service that people just expect to be available. While other technologies might be available at lower cost, a skilled steno captioner will continue to be the standard against which all others measure themselves. 

Linkowski | Opportunities are more abundant than ever before. Captioning is no longer for just the deaf and hard of hearing but is a key communication component to universal design.

Studenmund | In the near future, live stenographic captioners will adjust to new competitors in our marketplace. Over time, we will see automated speech recognition improve. Our consumers will continue to make their voices heard about the level of quality they need in live captions. And live captioners will see the marketplace recognize the need for human captioners who are professionals who are accountable to ethics codes and quality of captions.

Look for an article on the history of captioning coming in the November/December issue of the JCR.

VCRA announces 2020 scholarship open to all court reporting students

The Virginia Court Reporters Association (VCRA) is seeking applications from court reporting students for its second Carolyn M. O’Connor Education Fund Scholarship in the amount of $1,000. Applicants are not required to be residents of Virginia; however, they must have passed at least one of their accredited brick and mortar or online court reporting program’s tests of a minimum of 160 words per minute.

Applicants are also required to submit an essay of at least 1,000 words that addresses the question “How do you see your court reporting career enhancing your life?” Deadline for applying for the scholarship is Jan. 10, 2020. The winner will be notified by Feb. 15, 2020, and be invited as a guest to VCRA’s 2020 Convention being held March 20-22, in Lynchburg, Va., where they will be recognized and receive their award, along with a one-year membership to VCRA.

The scholarship is supported by the Carolyn M. O’Connor Education Fund, which celebrates the life of Carolyn Morris O’Connor and recognizes the many contributions she made to the profession.

For more information, contact VCRA at VCRAexecutivedirector@gmail.com or download an application here, which includes the full list of requirements to apply.