Think you can break the Guinness speed record? Start practicing

NCRA will host a Guinness challenge to break the current speed record of 360 words per minute at the 2020 Conference & Expo being held Aug. 6-9 at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando, Fla. The current record is held by NCRA member Mark T. Kislingbury, FAPR, RDR, CRR, from Houston, Texas, who set it at the 2004 NCRA Convention & Expo with a 97.23 percent accuracy rate. The last Guinness challenge was held at NCRA’s 2013 Convention & Expo.

The event will be held on the afternoon of Aug. 6. Space is limited to 10 contestants. To sign up, send an email to pr@ncra.org. Sign-up will close once all slots are filled.

Plaza College hosts NCRA A to Z® program in local high school

Plaza College, located in the borough of Queens, is home to the only court reporting program in New York City. With the nationwide shortage of court reporters, Plaza focuses on strongly advocating for the profession. In an effort to educate local youth on the opportunities available in stenography, the college hosted the first ever NCRA A to Z® Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program for high school students, in which 15 students enrolled.

Karen Santucci, CRI, director of the court reporting program at Plaza College, said “When the students arrived for the first week of class, I was so impressed with their enthusiasm and furthermore with their dexterity. They were so thrilled with learning how to use the machine that they were persistent about moving through the alphabet at a quicker pace!”

The high school program was held over the course of four weeks in October 2019. During the course, the students were led through an introductory understanding of what stenographers do, how to get comfortable with the machine, and how to begin writing the alphabet and numbers, as well as some words.

The students were impressed by the benefits of a career in court reporting, especially the luxury of creating their own work schedule. Derek Ayala, a senior at Robert HGoddard High School of Communication Arts and Technology in Ozone Park, was buzzing after completing the course. “Learning the basics of court reporting has been really interesting. Before Plaza offered NCRA A to Z to our school, I didn’t know about the industry and all of the flexibility that comes with it,” he said.

Plaza College will continue to introduce stenography to a younger audience to help grow the profession. Santucci is optimistic that this effort will produce a lasting outcome.

“This is a career opportunity that unfortunately so many students are unaware of,” she said. “Changing that can breathe a new life into a career in court reporting.”

Plaza College plans to host its next high school A to Z program during its spring 2020 term.

For more information about NCRA’s A to Z® program or DiscoverSteno, visit NCRA/discoversteno.org.

Karen Santucci, CRI, is from Forest Hills, N.Y., and is the director of the court reporting program at Plaza College. She can be reached at ksantucci@plazacollege.edu.

Why I love court reporting: Jamie Booker

Jamie Booker

Jamie Booker, RPR, a freelance reporter in Tacoma, Wash., recently posted the following in the Facebook group Encouraging Court Reporting Students:

Why is court reporting an amazing profession? Maybe you’ll see yourself in my story. I started court reporting school at 20 years old with a one-year-old baby. I had to do something to better our lives, and I’m thankful every day I found court reporting.

I started school full time. While in school, I had two more babies so I finished school part-time at night while working and raising small children. It took me four years to finally finish, but I’m so, so glad I did. It was not easy. I practiced with toddlers at my feet and infants crying and with not nearly enough hours in the day.

I passed my second 225 on a Thursday night, and I was working in court that following Monday as an official. I worked in an extremely busy courthouse in Philadelphia, but they had a great training program for new reporters. Even though PA is not a certification state, I got my RPR anyway. Because I was certified, doors I never thought possible opened for me.

After 10 years in Philly, I wanted to try something new. Because I was a court reporter, I could! I quit my job and moved across the country to Tacoma without even looking for a job first. As soon as I had feet on the ground in Washington, there was no shortage of freelance work. It was seamless. I could be brave, try something new, and I had an amazing career that allowed it. Six months later, I was back in court in another official position.

Here I am, more than eight years later. My youngest is turning 18, and I can look to a new chapter. I’m leaving my job as an official and am heading into the freelance arena. I just wasn’t happy in court anymore. And unlike 99 percent of Americans, I will never be stuck where I don’t want to be. With reporting, we have options. We can be brave. We can try new things, and we don’t have to sacrifice an income to do it.

As a student, your sacrifices are now. They are many. They are not fun. School is the hardest part of your whole career. But we have opportunities that will make your friends and families green with envy. STICK IT OUT! Your pain now will be so much gain later.

How court reporters and their team can work better together

JD Supra posted a blog on Jan. 15 that offers some thoughts on strategies that can help lessen stress from feeling overwhelmed by a heavy workload.

Read more.

Student Intern Scholarship winners

Madison Brinkman and Tricia Holmes

The National Court Reporters Foundation has announced two winners of the Student Intern Scholarship, a $1,000 award given annually to two high-achieving court reporting students who have completed the internship portion of their education.

Madison Brinkman, a student at Gadsden State Community College, Gadsden, Ala., said winning the scholarship means a lot to her.

“I have been around the legal profession and court system most of my life,” Brinkman said. “When I saw a stenographer for the first time as a sophomore in high school, what she was doing fascinated me beyond belief.  I immediately knew that was what I wanted to do in life.”  

Brinkman plans to work as a freelance reporter and eventually work her way into an officialship.

Tricia Holmes attends the College of Marin, Indian Valley Campus in Novato, Calif.

“I’ve always been intrigued by the law. After graduating college, I didn’t want to become a lawyer, and I didn’t want to become a paralegal,” Holmes said. “When I was in high school, my mother mentioned that I should pursue court reporting. I remember not being interested in it without knowing anything about it. After a few years of working as a transcriptionist, I decided to look into court reporting. I was amazed by the different options that this skill offers — CART, captioning, officialship, and freelancing. So after doing my thorough research on court reporting, I decided to enroll in theory. I plan to work as a freelance court reporter, then work in court.”

Recipients of the Student Intern Scholarship are nominated by their schools and must meet specific criteria, including:

  • having a GPA of at least 3.5
  • passing at least one of the program’s Q&A tests at a minimum of 190 wpm (if pursuing judicial reporting) or at least one literary test at a minimum of 160 wpm (if pursuing captioning)
  • possessing all the qualities exemplified by a professional court reporter, including professional attitude, demeanor, dress, and motivation
  • being a current NCRA student member.

NCRF scholarships are funded by generous donations. To learn more about NCRF’s programs, visit NCRA.org/NCRF.

Presenting at the NCRA Conference for the first time

Penny Wile

By Penny Wile, RPR, RMR, CRR

When I was asked to speak on a panel at the 2019 NCRA Conference & Expo in Denver, Colo., I was honored and immediately accepted. I never imagined I would be asked to present at a national convention. I will admit, I am a newbie at speaking to my court reporting peers. I was asked to be on a panel with three very talented professionals and speak on how we promote the profession. We had a couple of conference calls before the convention and only met one another briefly before we spoke on the panel.

Being a newbie and not knowing what to expect, before I left home to attend the conference, I typed up what I planned to speak about and arrived in Denver with my notes. My fear was how am I going to speak for a solid 10 minutes with the few notes I had compiled. It seemed like 10 minutes of content.

While in Denver my son and I spent time sightseeing in Boulder, Nederland, and Morrison. We drove up the rocks and took in the amazing views and visited some of the Colorado attractions.

Fast forward to Saturday, the day I was scheduled to present. When I returned to my room at lunchtime, I found that in my haste to keep our room tidy I had thrown away my notes. After grabbing some food to-go, I returned to my room and sat down to quickly type up what I could remember from the notes I had thrown away. I typed the notes on my iPad and ate, all the while wondering if this would be sufficient.

When I arrived at the meeting hall, I will admit I was nervous. I knew very little about my fellow panelists and didn’t really know what to expect. One by one the panelists entered, and I was immediately at ease. They were friendly, knowledgeable about the topic we would be presenting on, and all-around impressive court reporting professionals.

Each of us on the panel brought something different to the table. We spoke of promoting the profession through our presentations at the middle and high school levels, community college level, job fairs, and volunteer opportunities. We discussed resources that can be used to promote our profession and how to obtain them.

In hindsight, I feel I could have done better with my presentation. When it was my turn to speak, I began with too much of my background. I kept thinking 10 minutes was a long time to speak. But before I knew it, I had run out of time. I didn’t even use the notes I had retyped. I was appreciative of the questions asked by our audience because it gave me an opportunity to address the topic in more detail.

After attending the NCRA Conference & Expo, I came away empowered by all of the speakers from their topic content and the effortless way they presented.

I hope I will be invited again to be a speaker so I can use what I have learned from my first experience – be concise and informative! It was an honor to be asked by NCRA to be part of the conference agenda, and I truly appreciated the opportunity to speak and network with my peers and the NCRA staff who work so hard for us. Always remember, like our panel topic demonstrated, promote the profession!

Penny Wile, RMR, CRR, is a freelance court reporter and owner of Penny Wile Court Reporting. She resides in Norfolk, Va. She can be contacted at pawile@cox.net.

Click to find out how to apply to present at the 2020 NCRA Conference & Expo.

What has NCRA done for captioners?

By Carol Studenmund

I live in Portland, Ore., and I am one of the owners of LNS Court Reporting and LNS Captioning along with Robin Nodland. I manage LNS Captioning, and she manages LNS Court Reporting. I began captioning in 1992. I’ve had the joy of captioning two Super Bowls for fans and players in the stadiums, and I have had the heartbreak of captioning way too many mass shooting events. In between are many hours listening to the public testify at city council meetings and inconsequential but sweet stories about kittens and puppies. I love my job and would not trade it for anything.

Evolution of a captioner

I can trace the evolution of captioning in my own personal development.

In April 1992 I attended the first NCRA realtime writing conference, held in Seattle, Wash. The staff of the National Captioning Institute and VITAC took about 200 people through the paces of writing in real time without conflicts or undefined steno. At this conference, I found a path to follow to become a live captioner. From this foundation, I and many others started our immersion into the pool of qualified live captioners.

In July 1992, at the NCRA convention in Chicago, I sat for the brand-new Certified Realtime Reporter examination, and I did not pass. I returned to take the test at the next convention and passed. Passing that test was hard, and I put a lot of work into being ready for it the second time around. I gained a ton of confidence in my writing and my ability to stay cool under pressure.

In 1994, I was asked to participate in a training conference held by NCRA. Over the next few years, I traveled the country as part of a team of NCRA members who trained even more people to become great realtime writers, and many of them joined the world of live captioning. The people I taught with inspired me to keep working on my writing, and still I consider them mentors who could help answer my questions about so many topics relating to captioning. I have benefited greatly from the training, the certification, and the networking I have found through NCRA.

Captioners were a part of NCRA from the beginning

A meme going around the social media world of live captioning asks: “What has NCRA ever done for captioning?” Trust me, a great amount of energy and hard work on behalf of NCRA leadership and members built the foundation for the field of professional, certified live captioners.

Marty Block, RPR (Ret.), then of the National Captioning Institute, provided the first live captioning on live television in the world for the 1982 Academy Awards ceremony. No faxes or emails were sent with prep material. Someone from NCI flew to Los Angeles to pick up — literally — the Oscars’ script for Marty. Marty went on to become president of NCRA and one of the founders of VITAC. Other past presidents of NCRA who are or were captioners include Joe Karlovits, RDR (Ret.); Judy Brentano, RPR (Ret.); Kathy DiLorenzo, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC; and Karen Yates, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC.

Karlovits became the first person to caption for a deaf lawyer when that lawyer argued a case before the United States Supreme Court in 1982. His work received a great deal of publicity across the country. Many firsts in captioning were celebrated by the community of people with hearing disabilities as more and more TV programs and other live events became accessible.

Advocating for captioning

In the early 2000s, NCRA helped obtain funding for Mississippi State University to develop a workforce development program for captioning. Jan Bounds oversaw an excellent bachelor’s degree in a court reporting program at Ole Miss. The Mississippi Congressional delegation went to bat for a $500,000 grant to create this program to train court reporters to become live captioners. NCRA threw its weight behind this effort, led by Dave Wenhold, then our lobbyist, now our Executive Director. Ole Miss hired EduCaption, Inc., out of Atlanta, to create and implement the program. Past president Judy Brentano and current NCRA board member Heidi Thomas, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, created the program and toured the country to train captioners. When I come across someone trained in this program, their résumé goes to the top of the pile. EduCaption has moved around over the years and is now known as Learn to Caption, which is run by NCRA member Anissa Nierenberger, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI. NCRA has lobbied Congress for retraining funds year after year, funds which helped many realtime writing programs become established across the country.

NCRA develops a certification program for captioners

In 2003, the Certified CART Provider and Certified Broadcast Captioner program began by providing CRR holders with a written knowledge test that demonstrated the test candidate’s knowledge of working in the broadcast world and/or the CART captioning world. Many captioners quickly took both exams and obtained both certifications. By 2015 the CRR became a true judicial reporter exam by becoming a testimony-only skills test. The Certified Realtime Captioner program was launched in 2015, when the two written knowledge tests were combined into one exam, and the skills portion of the certification became a test at 180 words per minute with a 96 percent accuracy rate required to pass.

NCRA has worked throughout the years to raise awareness of our certification programs, including the CRC. As a result of that work, I have replied to several Requests for Proposals that specifically required captioners to be holders of our CRC as part of the contract.

NCRA building best practices for captioning

In 2012, the Canadian Radio Television Commission (CRTC) created a caption accuracy program that just about all live captioners — in Canada and the United States — felt was draconian and onerous. Just to state the obvious, live captioners do not control what is being said on TV. We cannot tell the weather guy to slow down. We caption what we are given. We all strive for 100 percent accuracy for 100 percent of the words. However, people talk over each other. Politicians yell at each other. It’s part of the job. The CRTC’s plan involved CRTC staff obtaining the actual audio file of a TV program and the captions that were created by the live captioner assigned to that program. The staff person then would evaluate the captioner’s accuracy rate compared against the actual words said. When I’m racing to keep up, I will drop “okay” or someone repeating themselves, those types of things. Those would all be counted as errors against my accuracy rate.

That same year, I was the chairperson of the Captioning Community of Interest. My fellow committee members and I agreed we did not want anything like the Canadian plan to come to the United States. We decided to take the bull by the horns and control our futures. We created a document that outlined the roles of everyone involved in bringing live captioning to TV. When I am working as a captioner, what are my duties and responsibilities? When I am operating in my role as a firm owner, what must I make sure happens to get my captioners’ captions to the program on time and as accurately as possible? What roles do my local network affiliates and local cable providers play in getting our captions delivered to the viewers without any technical errors? We even included a part in this process for the caption consumer to provide feedback to the FCC about their experiences watching captioned programming.

Once Adam Finkel, our then-government relations staff person at NCRA, had vetted our Best Practices with the national organizations for people with hearing disabilities, we were ready to take our best practices to the next level: the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Finkel made an appointment with the FCC to share our Best Practices. Their response? “We love this.” We did not ask the FCC to grade papers. Our best practices scenario let everyone know what part of the process they were responsible for. In 2015, the FCC’s Rules for Broadcast Captioning Quality were approved and made into law.

Is there anything else I should know?

NCRA’s current president, Max Curry, RPR, CRI, wants to bring as many captioners into NCRA as he can find. The more members we have, the more work NCRA can do on behalf of us all. I urge you, if you are a captioner and haven’t earned the CRC, put that on your to-do list and work hard to pass that test. If you have already earned the CRC, continue your education. There is always more to learn about this great, big world of ours, and you never know what will come up when you caption. If you work with other captioners, encourage them to become members of NCRA and to earn these certifications. Together, we can do wonderful things.

Carol Studenmund, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, is a captioner based in Portland, Ore., and chair of the NCRA Captioning Regulatory Policy Committee. She can be reached at cstudenmund@LNSCaptioning.com.

New Professional Profile: Harmony Menier-Shierholtz

Harmony Menier-Shierholtz

By Molly Cooper

Harmony Menier-Shierholtz began her professional career in 2019 after completing school at South Coast College in just 18 months and earning her California CSR license within two years. She is a driven, qualified, and vivacious young professional who lives and works in southern California as a freelance deposition reporter.

JCR | How did you feel both going into your first assignment as a reporter and coming out of it?

HMS | When I drove to my first deposition, I was very nervous. I had the oath on my computer, I was going over all the procedures in my head, and I went all out with my outfit in order to feel as confident as I could. Right when I got to the parking lot, I got a call from the agency that it canceled. All I could do was laugh at that point because I worked myself up to not even enter the building. When I finally had a deposition that went forward, I ended up feeling surprisingly good about my performance. However, I still called my mentor with a billion questions after.

JCR | What is your next goal? What is a long-term goal?

HMS | My next goal is to start practicing more on my machine and to learn how to use my software in a more effective way. People talk a lot faster in the “real world” than how we were taught in school. I want to write cleaner and shorten my editing time by learning all the functions of my software. I have also been practicing commanding the room when I’m reporting. I was nervous about this part because I started working at a young age, and it can be intimidating to give orders to attorneys that have years of life and work experience on me. However, I learned that I pay for it when I go home to edit my transcripts. I feel that I’ve been doing a better job on slowing down the deposition and getting clarification when I need it. At the end of the day, that separates court reporters from digital recording! I’m not sure of my end goal yet. I am leaning toward working in criminal court. I love law and crime so that will suit me best. Obviously, the pay and benefits are a huge plus as well. As of right now, I’m enjoying creating my own schedule and being my own boss.

JCR | Where’s your favorite place to proofread jobs and why?

HMS | I proofread my transcripts in my bed or on the couch. I need to be by myself because sounds and movement can distract me easily.

JCR | Do you have any advice for reporting students?

HMS | I think this might be the most asked question. I have endless advice and suggestions, but every single student is different. Everyone has things that work for them that might not work for others. Court reporting is all muscle memory at the end of the day, and I’m talking about the speed portion. Just like sports, you need to practice over and over and over again in order to master a skill. This is no different. If I could go back, I would have sat out more because you don’t really understand all the procedures until you see it in person. My last suggestion is to spend lots of time on your software. I didn’t understand how important software was in school since we were trained to read our notes. However, I now know that software is everything. Invest in learning it because it will save you a lot of time in the future.

JCR | What’s something that you’ve learned in the field that you didn’t learn in school? 

HMS | I think my last answer touched on this question, but I learned that people don’t speak in complete sentences. I learned that you should always carry cash on you. I learned the meaning of being a guardian of the record and how important that is. Our job is important. Most people don’t understand what our job entails. Even attorneys — not every attorney — who we work with every day are ignorant when it comes to what we do.

Molly Cooper, RPR, is a freelancer in Fullerton, Calif.

Deadline nears for new Stenograph student scholarship

The deadline for nominations for Stenograph’s Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship, a new scholarship that honors the memory of Milton H. Wright, Stenograph’s founder, is Jan. 21. The scholarship is being supported by Stenograph and offered through the National Court Reporters Foundation. Students from NCRA-approved reporter education programs are encouraged to apply for the merit-based two-year award, which is worth up to $5,000 per year and will include use of a student writer and software.

“Stenograph is proud to sponsor the newly created Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship,” said Stenograph President Anir Dutta. “We believe that by investing in our students and future students, through the NCRA’s A to Z Program, that we will positively impact the direction of this industry. It is an honor to be able to give back in this way.” 

This scholarship is offered through the National Court Reporters Foundation. Students must meet the eligibility requirements and submit the completed documentation listed below to qualify for the scholarship. Notification of the MHW Memorial Scholarship is sent each November to all NCRA-approved court reporting programs.

Applications are being accepted through Jan. 21, 2020. 

Eligibility

To be eligible to apply for the Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship, students must meet the criteria below: 

  • Attend an NCRA-approved court reporting program
  • 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 (3.5 GPA or above)
  • Have passed one skills test writing 80-120 words per minute at the time of submission 

Document requirements

The following documents are required to be submitted for application:

  • Speed verification form
  • A copy of the student’s most recent transcript
  • A two-page, double-spaced essay responding to the following question: “Describe the role of technology in the future of reporting.”

Click here for more information or to access the application for the Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship.

“Stenograph’s commitment to the future of the court reporting and captioning professions is reflected in the company’s generous support of the Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship, and NCRF and NCRA are honored to share this common goal with them,” said NCRA Senior Director of Education and Certification Cynthia Bruce Andrews.  

For more information on the Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship, please contact the NCRA Education Department at schools@ncra.org

Make the most of your NCRA membership by marking these dates on your calendar

Have you already set your professional goals for 2020? Here are a few ways that NCRA can help you make more money by earning a certification; develop your network by participating in networking events like the NCRA Conference & Expo; or work smarter by learning something new – and earn CEUs to boot. Mark these important dates on your calendars, and you will have taken an important baby step to meeting your professional goals this year. NCRA continues to be your one-stop shop for your educational needs, whether you are working toward your next certification, your cycle-ending date, or another career goal.

Keep in mind that NCRA members can earn PDCs by passing the skills or written portion of certain tests, such as the RMR, RDR, CRR, or CLVS Exams.

Here is a short selection of dates and events (dates are subject to change):

Because of how important certification is to the professions of court reporting, captioning, and legal videography, NCRA invites all members to “Celebrate Certification” Month with us in May. We celebrate all NCRA members as they show pride in the certifications they have earned, are working to earn, or are intending to earn.

Court Reporting & Captioning Week (Feb. 8-15), Memorial Day (May 25), Flag Day (June 14), the Fourth of July, and Veterans Day (Nov. 11) are also all good opportunities to schedule Veterans History Project Days to earn PDCs, although members and students are invited to participate throughout the year. And don’t forget that online skills testing is available year-round.

In addition, NCRA is planning webinars throughout the year, which will be announced in the JCR Weekly and on the NCRA FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn pages as more information becomes available.

NCRA has announced Town Halls with NCRA President Max Curry, RPR, CRI, for Jan. 11, Feb. 22, and March 21. Additional dates will be announced later this year. The Town Halls, offered via Zoom, allow NCRA members the opportunity to ask questions via a Q&A feature. Registration is required, and only NCRA Members may attend the Town Halls.

Watch for more information in the JCR, in the JCR Weekly, and on TheJCR.com for registration, deadlines, and other ideas to earn continuing education.