Why I love court reporting: Isaiah Roberts

Isaiah Roberts, RPR, Magnolia, Ill., recently posted this in the Facebook group “Encouraging Court Reporting Students.”

Students,
So many times I see you guys asking the question, “Is this worth it?” “Is there truly a demand?!” “Am I going to make enough!?” They’re VALID questions. I had the same exact ones when I was in school!!

Isaiah Roberts and Stanley Sakai ready to caption Lollapalooza

All I want to say is this: IT. IS. WORTH. IT. I can PROMISE you. I’m in Chicago and there are SO many opportunities and jobs available for you. Opportunities to travel? You name it. Last week I flew to Louisiana for deps, yesterday I got to work at my dream location (the federal courthouse downtown Chicago 😍), next week I got asked to fly out to Laguna Hills for a deposition, and if not for previously scheduled depositions, I got asked to go to Hong Kong this week for depositions. On top of everything, I scored some free tickets to Lollapalooza in Chicago this weekend from a connection I made at a past captioning gig, Coachella.

Isaiah Roberts

I don’t say ANY of this to brag. I say this because THESE are the awesome opportunities we have in this job, and I wish someone would’ve told me as a student that they’re out there. I’m nothing special — I didn’t fly through school, nor have I won (ha, or let alone am eligible to compete 😂) in a speed competition. I’m just an average stenographer. If you work hard, the opportunities are LIMITLESS.

School is hard. Theory is hard. Speed building is super hard. But seriously, guys, I PROMISE you it is so much more worth it than you can even imagine … whether that be measured by income potential, travel opportunities, or most of all, how much you’re going to LOVE this profession. Keep up the hard work! 💪💪

My journey to captioning

By Shawn Condon

Shawn Condon

”My journey has taken me through the initial desire for a new career, the well-documented highs and lows of completing a rigorous court reporting program, and the uncharted waters of seeking employment in an area that was related — but in many ways foreign — to what I had been preparing for in school.”

The prospect of working as a captioner stayed tucked in the back of my mind throughout my time in the court reporting program at Atlantic Technical College in Coconut Creek, Fla. As I took in the legal terminology and procedures, tenets of courtroom professionalism, real-world stories of my instructors’ time in the field, and of course constantly pushing my speed, it seemed that there was actually no time to even explore the possibility of captioning! The weight of the court reporter’s responsibility loomed large, so on the back burner it stayed.

When the time to acquire an internship came, I felt for the first time in a while that the opportunity to become a captioner could be explored. I must admit I felt a bit unsure of what steps to take next. My entire training and preparation had all led up to a career in court reporting. The only step I could think to take in an alternative direction was to contact a working professional in the field. I searched online for captioning firms in Florida and eventually found one.

I sent a cold email to the administrator address listed on their site with a quick recap of my experience in my program and a request for some basic information on where to start once I graduated.  I soon received a reply from the firm owner expressing interest in answering all of my questions and more! I gave her a quick breakdown of my school experience up until that point and of my aspirations to work in captioning rather than the courthouse.

I was informed that while some remote captioning and video transcription work was occasionally available, the real shortage was in providing CART for both the classroom setting and various situations such as graduations, HOA meetings, and even live sporting events! Admittedly I had never anticipated working as a CART writer, but the opportunity was there, and I was willing to explore any avenue into a new career.

Since graduating,  I have been providing realtime transcription at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. in a variety of situations that are specific to the needs of the client. Some are able to participate on their own and only require my transcript for future reference and some with more severe or complete hearing loss rely entirely on my writing on a moment-to-moment basis for the duration of the class. Having my notes streamed in real time to the client’s computer and accessed in a mutual web browser is also an option and allows me to position myself in a more discreet section of the classroom. In addition to working at Nova, I have provided CART for monthly HOA meetings, the Hearing Loss Association of America’s Palm Beach chapter, as well as  some remote video transcription.

My journey has taken me through the initial desire for a new career, the well-documented highs and lows of completing a rigorous court reporting program, and the uncharted waters of seeking employment in an area that was related — but in many ways foreign — to what I had been preparing for in school. However, the thread that runs through my journey is no different than that of anyone reading this now, whether you are a CART provider, a working reporter, or a student in your own program: obtaining the ability to do what we do is hard work. Getting through the schooling to do so is one of the hardest things you ever have or will ever accomplish. Get after what you want and get in contact with the professionals in our field. They’ve been where you are and can’t wait to help!

Shawn Condon is a recent graduate of Atlantic Technical College, Atlanta, Ga..

A court reporter’s work is never done

Photo by the Hon. Melba Marsh

A recent story in TheJCR.com highlighted NCRA member Taleesa Smith, RPR, an official court reporter from Hamilton County, Ohio. She found herself reporting a sentencing proceeding from outside of an ambulance.

That led us to ask through NCRA’s social media accounts for other stories about unusual places court reporters and captioners have worked. Here are some of the answers:

Michael Anthony Scire, RPR, CMRS, Sarasota, Fla.

Parking garage. The jury had to see the car where the crime took place, so the parking garage was turned into a makeshift courtroom. My twin brother was the official that day in the courtroom. In order to not disrupt his realtime, we dressed alike that day and I pretended to be Richard S. Scire in the garage while he stayed in the courtroom.

Amanda Daniel, Tampa, Fla.

In a shed in the backyard of the witness’s house. The backyard shed was home to her billing service business. I knocked on her front door, her husband answered the door in nothing but his boxer shorts and pointed me to the backyard, and, oh, by the way, watch out for the dog. I sat on a filing cabinet in a corner of a shed with my machine on my lap. And it was a rush order. Because of course it was.

Lora Barnett, RMR, Overland Park, Kan.

Lora Barnett

On the side of a ski slope in Keystone, Colo., during ski season. It was on a “black” run, a ski run for more experienced skiers. It was a lawsuit about a skiing accident that happened on that run. The biggest problem was trying to keep the ink in my machine, and my fingers, from freezing.

Frances Ray, RPR, Florence, S.C.

We had a defendant who was very obese. Because of his size it was decided it would be too risky for him to use the elevator in the courthouse, so the judge agreed to take his guilty plea in the parking lot. The defendant sat in his truck and I was sitting in a chair in the parking lot with my writer, taking down the proceedings.

Paul G. Brandell, RPR, Lansing, Mich.

On a bus traveling across the Ambassador Bridge from Detroit to Canada and then standing up in a duty- free warehouse.

Julie Patti-Andolpho, Boynton Beach, Fla.

On a very high floor in a building that was being constructed in Miami. I had to wear a hard hat and boots. Very scary.

Shannon Roberts, RPR, Canton, Ohio

On a dirt road next to a pig farm, talking about property lines, sitting on bumpers of cars. I finally asked for a better seat and got an old feed bucket.

Tiffany Treffeisen, RPR, Lake Panasoffkee, Fla.

I’ve had a few, but the top two are on a man-made berm that the entire court staff had to ride airboats to get to and; second, a jury view with multiple stops outside in the middle of a road being constructed through a family’s farm.

Sherree DeAnda, Sacramento, Calif.

It was in Jalisco, Mexico, and involved a two-hour drive on a dirt road to a hut-like structure.

Susan Gee, RMR, CRR, Cincinnati, Ohio

The old Reds stadium where somebody was injured in the field. It was tough keeping my paper in the tray because it was windy. Also at a table at Perkins where every five minutes the waitress asked if we were ready to order. Sheesh.

Maryl Jonas, RMR, Canton, Ohio

Sitting on a bar stool in the kitchen of a guy who did fabricating out of his barn. I had to balance my machine on my lap, and his elderly Doberman slobbered down my leg. The guy had no kitchen table and a framed picture of the Dobie on the wall.

Rhonda Hall-Breuwet, RDR, CRR

On the Ringling Brothers train.

A first for the Idaho Shakespeare Festival: Captioning

Anissa Nierenberger

Katharine and Petruchio’s story was available in a different way for the first time at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival recently. NCRA member Anissa Nierenberger, RPR, CRR, CRC, Boise, Idaho, provided captions for the first captioned performance in the history of the festival. The June 18 show was Taming of the Shrew. Nierenberger owns a captioning company in Boise called Captionique.  

The audience could access the captions on mobile devices through a captioning streaming program called 1CapApp.

We asked Nierenberger a few questions about the experience.

JCR | Where was the performance?

AN |The Idaho Shakespeare Festival takes place in Boise, Idaho, from Memorial Day weekend in May through the end of September and features five different plays. The festival takes place in a 770-seat, outdoor state-of-the-art facility. It operates under an agreement with the Idaho Foundation for Parks & Lands and the Idaho Department of Parks & Recreation. Boise has more than 100 parks.

JCR | How did you get the job?

AN | Idaho is gradually implementing captioning in venues where it’s been commonplace for many years in other parts of the country. I’m happy that I moved here from Michigan two years ago and have been able to introduce captioning to deaf and hard-of-hearing Idahoans who need services.

JCR | What are the challenges in captioning Shakespeare?

 AN |There’s no inside space for me to set up to caption so my captioning nest was outside in the tower on the third floor. It’s an interesting journey up very narrow stairways and a top-opening door.  

 JCR |Would you like to do it again?

AN |Yes, I would caption at ISF again and will! Their patrons loved the first night of captioning. And the view of the foothills is breathtaking.

 JCR | Do you have any advice for other captioners?

AN | Reporters and captioners, the world is your oyster. If you dedicate time to your realtime skills, dictionary building, and passing certification tests, opportunities will present themselves. If you build it, it will come.  This year marks my 27th year as a captioner. I’m thankful for this amazing job that has brought opportunities I couldn’t have dreamed up.  

Mixing business with pleasure: Working in an RV

NCRA member Lisa Johnston, RMR, CRR, CRC, casts off ties in Melbourne, Fla., every year to travel across the United States with her husband. Rather than forgo her usual work
as a broadcast and CART captioner, she set herself up to caption from wherever she and her husband parked the RV. Mixing business with pleasure was just right for the two of them.

Johnston spoke to JCR Contributing Editor Deanna Baker, FAPR, RMR, about the journey and all the stops in between.

BAKER | How long was the planning process to make sure you had all the work equipment you needed, as well as possible back-ups?

JOHNSTON | I packed all my equipment as if I were going to an event to work onsite. I have two laptops, two writers, two realtime cables, headphones, etc. Over the years, I have developed a checklist to make sure I have everything before I leave. I also bring the huge notebook of prep I have accumulated over the years. I travel a lot with work, and so, by now, I know what I need.

BAKER | Did you forget anything or wish you had brought something?

JOHNSTON | No, I haven’t forgotten anything yet — hopefully, I won’t ever forget something! I’m not too proud to admit that I now and will always use a checklist to make sure I have everything I need.

BAKER | Was all of your work strictly through the internet, sending data as well as audio?

JOHNSTON | I do remote CART captioning while traveling in our RV using the internet. I have two wireless routers that act as mobile WiFi hotspots, one with Verizon and one with AT&T; and both work really well. In certain parts of the country, one wireless provider may give me a stronger signal than the other, so I use what I feel gives me the most internet strength at that location.

I get my audio by dialing in using my cell phone. I have also used Skype for audio in the past as well. That can be iffy at times, so I always do some testing before an event starts.

BAKER | Any glitches along the way?

JOHNSTON | When I first started this journey of traveling on the road and CART captioning, before there were cell towers everywhere, I had to take my wireless hotspot and check the strength where the RV was “docked,” and if I had bad reception, I would get in my car and drive and see where the strongest service was. Many times, I’ve had to write on my machine, with the laptop on the seat next to me in the back seat of my car (we have a car we bring on our trips, which we tow behind our RV). I’ve been in Nowhere, U.S.A., in some unique locations sitting in my car taking down an assignment! Fun times!

Cell towers are the norm nowadays, so I don’t have to necessarily always be in a “big city” like I used to be to find a strong internet signal strength. I now can get good internet service most anywhere, thank goodness!

BAKER | Are your clients aware of your traveling, or has it been that they haven’t noticed a difference at all?

JOHNSTON | I strive to provide my clients with seamless captioning services and have been able to do so successfully for many years. As long as they are receiving the product they need, they are happy. I provide only CART captioning while on the road; no broadcast captioning which may use a landline and encoders.

I hope my reputation speaks for itself. If I am requested to support someone who needs communication access, I will go out of my way to accommodate. I have been in this profession for 34 years now, I love what I do every single day, and I hope that shows. If I can leave a person or situation and they have a smile on their face, then I’m happy and I’ve done my job successfully!

BAKER | I’m “assuming” your husband was not driving at the time you were working?

JOHNSTON | No way do I work while my husband is driving down the road. First off, it’s not very comfortable doing it that way for me, as not all roads in the U.S. are nice terrain and can get very bouncy and unstable. So, if we’re driving to a destination and I need to stop to take a job, we will pull into a rest area or at a truck stop/gas station and that works well for me. My husband is my fabulous support staff!

BAKER | Was there a particular goal for your travels?

JOHNSTON | We have no goals in our yearly travels. One year we head northeast to Maine, with many stops along the way, and the next year we head somewhere west (last year was Washington state; most years to California) with many stops along the way. We’ve been from one end of Canada to the other. We’ve been to all 50 states, and 49 traveling in our RV. Maine is one of our favorite states, so every other year we enjoy traveling up Maine’s coast and enjoying some lobster!

BAKER | Anything unexpected pop up that you didn’t plan on?

JOHNSTON | Nothing unexpected comes to mind right now. Pre-planning pays off!

BAKER | How many other colleagues were you able to visit on your travels?

JOHNSTON | In our travels across the beautiful United States, I try to reach out to some dear friends and colleagues when I know I will be nearby. In Flagstaff, Ariz., I had dinner with you and Lori Yeager Stavropoulos, RPR, CRR, CRC, and their spouses; in Mobile, Ala., spending time with Alan Peacock, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, and Elliot Carter was such a treat and highlight; in Seattle, I just missed seeing Darlene Pickard, RDR, CRR, CRC, as she was out of state the week I was there. And I keep promising Toni Christy, RPR, CRR, CRC, that we will make a trip to the San Diego area soon! Such good friends that I love seeing!

BAKER | Would you recommend this as a way to travel and work at the same time?

JOHNSTON | For me, this is the best of both worlds. I work a lot with clients who have meetings throughout the week. That is all I want to cover while I’m traveling, so while traveling on the road, I choose to work 2-3 days a week, which is perfect, because I can cover their meetings and yet still “play” and explore the areas my husband and I visit.

I choose to keep my workload light and not be constantly working, because I enjoy my time off sightseeing where we are traveling. We usually stay in a location a few days, so in that timeframe, we like to play tourists and see what the area has to show us, so I don’t want to always be inside working. But I love the flexibility to do what I want and work when I want!

BAKER | What have you seen on your travels that really stuck out for you?

JOHNSTON | We’d both always wanted to see Mount Rushmore, and the first time was such a treat. We love going to the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. Living an hour from Walt Disney World, I’d always wanted to see Disneyland in California, and that was fun to go to. Growing up in Florida with no seasons really, it’s been a treat for us to see the beauty of the United States. Fall is our favorite time to travel; seeing the leaves change their colors is breathtaking!

BAKER | Anything else you’d like to pass along to the readers?

JOHNSTON | My husband and I have been RV travelers for 15 years now and love every single minute of our adventures. Come join me! The United States is a great place to call your office!

Bringing captions to Coachella

Stan Sakai and Isaiah Roberts

By Heidi Renner

When Isaiah Roberts, RPR, Magnolia, Ill., thought he wrote the word lemon while captioning Ariana Grande’s performance at Coachella, he was a little concerned. Did she really say lemon? It turns out he was captioning the moment when someone in the crowd threw a lemon and hit Grande, which became a well-known moment at the music festival.

“I remembered writing lemon during Ariana’s performance and definitely thinking I misheard something,” he posted on Facebook. “Then my cab driver in LA today asked if I saw her get hit by the lemon, and instantly I felt a relief knowing why I did, in fact, write lemon followed by a bunch of expletives.”

Roberts and Stan Sakai, CRC, New York, N.Y., had the unique experience of captioning Coachella, an annual music festival in Indio, Calif. It is one of the biggest music festivals in the world. Then the next weekend they captioned Stagecoach, another music festival held in the same location. Roberts posted a video from Coachella that has been widely shared.

Roberts had looked at the ADA section of Coachella’s website and noticed it told people to reach out if they needed ASL or closed captioning. He sent an email asking if they offered captioning and who provided it? Coachella responded on a Monday saying they wanted to have a meeting to talk about it on Friday. Roberts called his friend Sakai, and they prepared for the meeting. Sakai had already built a website that allowed captioning to be accessed through an app. Sakai worked on making changes to his program to make it work with Coachella. Roberts said the two worked late into the night every night that week. They gave a demonstration Friday to the Coachella representatives over a video call.

“They were blown away,” Roberts said. The representatives recorded what they were seeing on the screen and then showed it to the festival directors. “We were on cloud nine,” Roberts said.

Sakai described it this way on Facebook: “After hundreds of hours of work, the Coachella and Stagecoach captioning systems are online and (nearly) ready to go! A five-server monstrosity spread across New York and California able to serve at peak 29,000 connections per minute, averaging 2,000 connections served per minute at saturation. This will be woven into their existing web and mobile platforms available to their 130,000 attendees, who will all be able to access the live captioning of mainstage performances right from their phones. As a team, Isaiah and I will be tag-teaming, between feeding out pre-scripted lyrics and live stenoing, handing off the baton depending on what’s thrown at us. And when people ask if technology will replace us, my answer to that is: no, we harness technology to keep us going!”

Because the captions were available through the festival app, they were available to everyone. All audience members were required to download the app to activate their wrist bands.

Isaiah Roberts

Roberts saw it as an opportunity to spread the word about court reporting and captioning.

“This is the thing I’m most excited about,” he said. “In trying to grow the profession, I speak to students, but does it really make the profession look appealing? Being at the major music festival really meant something.”

Rachel Meireis from Placentia, Calif., appreciated the captions. She had requested captioning at Stagecoach.

“I am late deafened,” Meireis said. “I lost my hearing in my 20s and wear bilateral cochlear implants to help me hear. But it can be iffy and makes it quite hard to know what’s going on at times. That situation gets complicated because I can sign but I am not fluent in ASL at all. Having access at the concert was amazing. I could keep up with what the performer said between songs and understand lyrics I have been hearing wrong on the radio. Having the captions stream to my phone was great too. It made me able to leave the ADA riser freely and move about the concert but still follow along. Stanley and Isaiah were so helpful and friendly though the whole process. I am very grateful they were able to make this work.”

Roberts said he had wondered who would be benefiting, and he was happy to meet Meireis. During Coachella there were 500 unique visitors viewing the captions. At Stagecoach, there were 400 on the first day. By the end of the weekend they had reached about 1,000 people.

“Hands down the best part was meeting Rachel and getting to meet a consumer of [the captioning],” Roberts said.

For the actual captioning, Roberts and Sakai would usually get a set list so they would look up lyrics ahead of time when possible. They had headphones directly hooked to the singer’s microphone. Sometimes the performer would start talking about other performers or the other people on stage with them, so Roberts and Sakai tried to prepare ahead of time for those things as much as they could. They worked together, captioning on both of their machines at the same time. Sometimes one person would write and the other would look up lyrics.

“It was as cool as I wanted it to be,” Roberts said. “I don’t know what could have gone better.”

Roberts urges other court reporters and captioners to make more of these opportunities happen. Coachella didn’t offer captioning until Roberts reached out to them.

“My takeaway is whatever event you are into, realize that under the ADA they need to offer this service,” Roberts said. “Advocate for yourself.”

Sakai and Roberts are hoping this is a beginning, and there will be more music festival work for them.

Sakai summarized the experience on Facebook: “COACHELLA RECAP: Between shoddy internet connections, knocked-over equipment from dudes getting tackled backstage, my laptop getting nailed by a flying rogue water bottle, or minor software issues, providing live captioning at Coachella was a resounding SUCCESS. Isaiah and I powered through and got the app online on all the monitors at the ADA platforms and on the official Coachella mobile app, captioned Spanish-language performers, and even spared a few moments to visit our friends. I’m still gobsmacked and star-struck by the weekend but can’t help to think that this is the beginning of something huge. We all worked hard but we’re both forever grateful for having had the opportunity to pioneer live-event captioning on this scale. A HUGE thank you to Isaiah for making this all possible, and as I’ve said before, I remain humbled and excited for what’s to come.”

Captioning word of the month: Baby Habs

Steve Clark

Below is the ninth in a series of monthly featured words to help captioners build their dictionaries and knowledge. The words for this series are being provided by Steve Clark, CRC, a captioner from Washington, D.C. Clark captions for Home Team Captions and covers the Baltimore Ravens NFL team  and the Washington Nationals baseball team.

Our terms this month, Baby Habs, comes from hockey and refers to the American Hockey League (minor league) team affiliated with the Montreal Canadiens of the National Hockey League.


not Baby Habs, as defined

Baby Habs
(hockey)

Definition

One of the nicknames for the NHL Montreal Canadiens, in French, is Les Habitants, sometimes shortened to “the Habs.” Therefore, the minor league team has come to be known as the Baby Habs.

Usage     

“Desjardins is sure to get called up by the Habs very soon, considering his level of play here with the Baby Habs.”

Baby Habs, as defined








Captioning term of the month: Red zone

Steve Clark

Below is the eighth in a series of monthly featured words to help captioners build their dictionaries and knowledge. The words for this series are being provided by Steve Clark, CRC, a captioner from Washington, D.C. Clark captions for Home Team Captions and covers the Baltimore Ravens NFL team  and the Washington Nationals baseball team.

Our term this month, red zone, comes from football.  At the end of this email is a diagram showing the area on the field that is the red zone.


Red zone
(football)

Definition

In football, the area between the 20-yard line and the goal line at both ends of the field.

Usage     

“With that pass down to the 15-yard line of Colorado, Nebraska finds itself in the red zone.”

“Oregon has one of the best red zone offenses in college football.”

Origin

I have had a difficult time finding a plausible explanation for why the red zone is called the red zone, particularly why the color red was chosen. There are two prevailing thoughts that seem to make sense: One thought is that the color red denotes warning, and so when the offensive team enters the red zone, the defensive team heeds this warning and is aware that the offensive team is close to scoring. The second thought is that once the offensive team is in the red zone the chance of scoring is higher, including the chance of successfully kicking a field goal.








Local television news station commended for providing captions during tornado

The State Journal Register, Springfield, Ill., posted an opinion piece on Jan. 4 that commends Channel 20 TV news for providing captioning services during the recent tornado crisis that hit its viewing area.

Read more.








Captioning words of the month: Seed and berth

Steve Clark

Below is the seventh in a series of monthly featured words to help captioners build their dictionaries and knowledge. The words for this series are being provided by Steve Clark, CRC, a captioner from Washington, D.C. and NCRA Board member. Clark captions for Home Team Captions and covers the Baltimore Ravens NFL team  and the Washington Nationals baseball team.

Our terms this month, seed and berth, come from many sports.


Girls remain stingy regardless of seed

Seed
(basketball, fencing, football, hockey, soccer, tennis)

Definition

A preliminary ranking used in arranging brackets to determine which teams (or players) play each other in a tournament. Typically, teams or players are “planted” into the bracket in a manner that is intended so that the best teams don’t meet until later in the competition.

Mishear

Remember, a team is seeded, not seated.

Usage     

“After the year this team has had, Maryland deserves to be the number one seed.”

“This Virginia women’s team has never been seeded this high coming into March Madness.”

 

Teams clash to secure a playoff berth

Berth

(basketball, football, soccer, volleyball)

Definition

A slot held by a team (or player) which allows it to compete in a tournament. In NCAA basketball, conference tournament champions from each Division I conference receive automatic bids, or berths. The remaining slots are at-large berths, with teams chosen by an NCAA selection committee.

Mishear

Remember, a team earns a berth, not birth.  

Usage     

“After a nearly perfect season, the UConn Women Huskies have earned another berth in the tournament.”

“The selection committee has quite a task ahead of it as it tries to choose the teams for these at-large berths.”