NCRA Board of Directors approves ethical guidelines for CART and broadcast captioners

During the November Board Meeting, the NCRA Board of Directors officially approved the NCRA Code of Professional Ethics for CART and Broadcast Captioners. The code of ethics will be implemented next year, but members may use them as guidelines immediately.

The code of ethics provides information on the role and responsibilities of both CART and broadcast captioners for a variety of on-site and remote settings, including educational, legal, medical, and entertainment. A task force of 14 captioners, consumers, and interpreters spent the last year developing and refining the code of ethics.

“As the world of CART and Broadcast Captioning has evolved, there were unique situations coming up daily that the traditional court reporting COPE guidelines did not address and were never anticipated. By bringing together a group of captioners, consumers, and sign language interpreters, the committee was able to create the new COPE guidelines addressing the ever-evolving and specific issues surrounding communication access,” said Linda Hershey, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP, a broadcast captioner from Chattanooga, Tenn., who co-chaired the task force.

For more information about the NCRA Code of Professional Ethics for CART and Broadcast Captioners, please contact Adam Finkel, NCRA’s Director of Government Relations, at afinkel@ncra.org.

Read the full document.

New Professionals: Tips from the pros

By Annemarie Roketenetz

It’s not uncommon for new professionals in any field to face anxieties when starting out in their chosen career. This is especially true for those entering the court reporting and captioning professions, whether it’s a new internship or a new job.

But take heed, newbies. According to the pros, the three major concerns when starting a new position typically involve first impressions, working with others, and making a lasting, positive impression. And there are numerous ways to deal each of them.

According to Kevin Hunt, a freelance reporter and owner of Jack W. Hunt & Associates in Buffalo, N.Y., a first impression can make the difference between landing a job or being shown the door, regardless of how well someone writes. “When a reporter goes to a job, they’re representing the reporting firm as a whole, and if their clothes are inappropriate or they are not well-groomed, that’s probably not the image the firm wishes to present. That goes for not just the visual impression, but the auditory and olfactory impressions as well.”

NCRF Chair Jan Ballman, RMR, CMRS, owner of Paradigm Reporting & Captioning in Minneapolis, Minn., agrees that first impressions are instant. “Whether it’s fair or unfair, we are judged based on how we appear and whether we have our act together. You should be mistaken for counsel, not the witness,” she said. “If you come screeching through the conference room door for a deposition stressed out, in a huff, in a sweat, or otherwise agitated — whether because of traffic, or your GPS sent you on a wild goose chase, or your infant spit up on your shoulder just as you were leaving, or you had to turn back for your power cords — be assured of two things: First, counsel won’t care why you’re late; and, you’ve just started the day in a deficit when it comes to making a good impression.”

Ballman also stresses that the best and easiest way to create a good first impression is to look great, not average and not just good. “Look like you made an effort and that you belong in a room filled with highly educated professionals,” she advises.

In addition to looking professional, acting professional is also important in making a first positive impression. “I feel the most important part of making a good impression is arriving early, being friendly, having a good attitude, and being organized,” says Shelly Hunter, RPR, CRR, owner of Hunter & Geist, Denver, Colo. “As we all know, depositions are often stressful environments. Having someone in the room that is neutral to all parties and that can remain friendly in the midst of chaos can be a game changer. If a deposition is not going so well for a client, the last thing they want is a court reporter with a bad attitude.”

Don’t let your good impression down once you have established it. According to the pros, be sure to take the time to know the firm you plan to work with and understand its culture both in terms of employment and services offered.

In addition, be sure the work you produce is of high quality in terms of accuracy, readability, and usability. Hunt advises having a conversation with the transcript when proofreading. “The ultimate consumer of your service will not know how beautifully you wrote when they were speaking at 300 words per minute, they won’t know how skillfully you navigated the software used to translate, edit, and print the transcript; they will only make a determination of your skill as a reporter through the final presentation of the transcript. What are the attorneys and witness trying to verbally describe? If you don’t understand something, ask. In brief, if you want to know how your clients will judge you, remember this phrase: ‘It’s the transcript, dummy!’”

To help ensure an accurate transcript, new reporters should also not be afraid to interrupt the person who is speaking if they cannot understand what is being said. “I stress to my reporters that you must interrupt and you cannot rely on your audio sync,” says Hunter. “I stress that it is the reporter’s job to interrupt and get a good record.”

Ballman agrees. “As with anything else in life, it’s all about phraseology, phraseology, phraseology. If you can’t hear, you have no choice but to interrupt. It’s all about how you interrupt,” she says. “Think about how you would like to be interrupted if you were deep in thought and delivering a very important point in front of an audience, then practice doing that so it comes naturally when you have to interrupt attorneys in mid-sentence or mid-thought.”

According to the pros, maintaining lasting good impressions also takes work, and new reporters should make it a habit to keep positive attitudes both on and off the job, be helpful to others, and learn to be unflappable in the face of all things in the world of court reporting. “It’s not just a matter of doing a great job once and then being recognized for it; it’s a matter of doing an impeccable job consistently, over and over and over again,” says Ballman. “That’s how you set yourself apart.”

Hunter also advises that new reporters make it a habit to arrive early at jobs to ensure enough time to address any issues that might arise. “You may have forgotten something in your car. You may have trouble with your equipment. You may have gone to the wrong location. Being early allows you extra time to deal with situations that happen to all of us. You have extra time to add entries to your dictionary from the notice or the caption. Arriving early also allows you time to get acquainted with counsels who might have arrived early, as well. And most importantly, as a new reporter, arriving early will give you time to calm your nerves. There is a confidence attorneys have when they know the court reporter is set up ready to go and it is still 20 or 25 minutes before the deposition is to begin,” she says.

“New situations constantly arise, and as a professional court reporter, it is necessary for each of us to be aware of the guidelines that NCRA provides to assist us in acting ethically and professionally,” Friend continues. “While these guidelines from the Committee on Professional Ethics cannot envision every possible situation, they give a framework for all reporters – whether new or seasoned – on how to act appropriately, professionally, and without favoritism to any party in a case,” Friend advises.New professionals also need to ready for any situation that might arise and remain calm. One way is to be prepared, says Doug Friend, RDR, CRR, with Beouvich, Walter & Friend, Portland, Ore.: “Working as a new reporter can be stressful! Here you are on a deposition or in court, and there is no one to hold your hand, so it’s important to be prepared.

NCRA’s Code of Professional Ethics can be found at NCRA.org/CodeofProfessionalEthics.

Annemarie Roketenetz is NCRA’s Assistant Director of Communications. She can be reached at pr@ncra.org.

 

Developed in coordination with the Corrinne Clark Professionalism Institute

The Corrinne Clark Professionalism Institute, NCRF’s newest initiative, officially launched at the 2015 NCRA Convention & Expo. It was developed to educate court reporting students and new professionals about professionalism, branding, and building a successful career. NCRF will be developing materials, such as seminars and articles, for dissemination for court reporting students and new professionals throughout their careers.

The Corrinne Clark Professionalism Institute was created to honor Clark’s lifelong passion for journalism and education, as well as her love of the court reporting profession. Corrinne Clark is the wife of Robert H. Clark, for whom the NCRF library is named.

Tips, tricks, and the latest in trends shared with attendees at 2015 NCRA Convention & Expo

The wide array of sessions and presentations adorned with tips and tricks as well as the latest in trends at the 2015 NCRA Convention & Expo, held July 30-Aug. 2 in New York City, provided the nearly 1,200 attendees with a varied selection of educational choices.

NCRA member Gail Verbano, RDR, CRR, a freelance reporter from Boothwyn, Pa., led a lively discussion of what-if scenarios in a session called 25 Years On-the-Job Training in One Seminar, as part of the Judicial Track. Attendees discussed what to do when people speak too fast, if a lawyer answers for a witness or says ‘strike that,’ or asks the court reporter to leave a blank in the transcript. Other scenarios discussed included how to handle interpreters when witnesses answer in English and when and how to interrupt.

She also shared pointers from 25 years of being on the job, tips for producing cleaner writing, and a glimpse into what she packs in her case each time she takes on a realtime job.

According to Verbano, “we try to protect the record, but we can’t make the record.”

Captioners Linda Hershey, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP; Jennifer Schuck, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP; and Steve Clark, along with sign language interpreters Jana Owens and Rita Jo Scarcella, led on a panel entitled You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know – Ethically Speaking, as part of the Realtime Track. The members were representing CART Ethics Task Force, which was charged with creating a NCRA Code of Professional Ethics for CART and Broadcast Captioners, recognizing that the ethical issues that captioners face are often different than those faced by judicial reporters.

According to the presenters, many elements of the captioning NCRA Code of Professional Ethics for CART and Broadcast Captioners are similar to those on the judicial side. Some of the important differences are the higher emphasis on confidentiality and privacy, concerns about working with a minor rather than an adult, or the difference between a file and a transcript (which Schuck wrote about in the July 2015 issue of the JCR).

Because the Task Force was essentially developing ethical professional standards for the captioning industry, they included their partners in accessibility – sign language interpreters. The interpreters helped the captioners with discussions about verbatim transcripts, for example. A common misconception about sign language interpreters is that their interpretation is verbatim, which is not possible since American Sign Language and English have slightly different grammar and syntax. The sign language interpreters commented that working on the task force was a learning experience for them as well, providing them new insights in how captioners work with a similar client base.

Audience questions also promoted a discussion on issues related to accessibility and advocacy.

The Task Force submitted the NCRA Code of Professional Ethics for CART and Broadcast Captioners for the NCRA Board of Directors’ approval and has gone to the next step towards implementation. Look for more information in the near future.

Bruce Balmer, CLVS, led a practical session on video files in legal videography where he reviewed the different types of video files currently used in the industry. During the session entitled I Have a Video File, but What Should I Give My Client? as part of the Business Track, Balmer said that authored DVDs are the most common formats, but predicted that MPEG-4 will become more common in the future. He pointed out that if videographers offer other formats – including multiple MPEG versions and synced versions of all formats – then clients will ask for them.

Balmer also ran through a series of questions that the videographer should ask the client to determine which format to use, such as what the video will be used for (for example, whether a trial is bench or jury), the client’s playback equipment, and if the video should be synced. He also addressed questions that the client should ask of the videographer, such as whether the videographer uses standard or high definition.

Balmer also provided a step-by-step demonstration of the TMPGEnc Video Mastering Works software, which is the industry standard for converting from the video source.

A wide range of national and international court reporting educators attended Motivating, Coaching, and Mentoring for Student Success, a session led by Marybeth Everhart, RPR, CRI, CPE, and Karen Sole, RPR, CRI, CPE, which was part of the Teachers’ Workshop. Everhart and Sole began the session with a puzzle to encourage creative thinking and discourage the mindset of “that’s the way we’ve always done it” or “this is how we did it when I went to school.”

The interactive session covered topics ranging from types of engagement to the importance of setting high standards and appropriate boundaries to intrinsic verses extrinsic motivation. Attendees shared specific tips, such as using a school social media page to share briefs or celebrate student accomplishments (while keeping in mind FERPA privacy issues).

Everhart reminded attendees, “What we’re training our students to do is really difficult,” and it can be tempting for a student to fall under the trap of thinking, I’m not progressing because of the way the school or program is run. In court reporting, the honeymoon phase ends quickly, especially in theory. While instructors should find ways to provide their students with regular individualized feedback and support, at the end of the day, students need to spend the time in school thinking and behaving like their future profession. This includes tracking and assessing their own progress and connecting with their local, state, and national court reporting communities.

Maureen Walsh, CLVS, and Chris Willette, RDR, CRR, CCP, teamed up to show the strengths of court reporters and legal videographers working together in the deposition setting during The Reporter and the Videographer Partnership, a session included as part of the Business Track. Walsh and Willette shared the workflow before, during, and after a deposition for both court reporters and legal videographers, as well as which certifications to look for and the types of questions to ask to find the right teammate. Both presenters emphasized the importance of using a CLVS, citing the quality of the CLVS Seminar and the rigorous exam. Walsh explained that, unlike any other legal videography organization, the NCRA program was developed specifically to help CLVSs support court reporters.

A common theme throughout the session was how court reporters and legal videographers can help each other. Willette suggested that the Realtime Systems Administrator certificate is valuable not just for a court reporter to earn, but also for a legal videographer to earn, explaining that an RSA-certified videographer who is working with a CRR-certified court reporter can assist with troubleshooting. In addition, the court reporter can hook into the videographer’s audio mixer (Walsh suggested bringing a splitter, 25-foot cord, and ¼-inch adaptor), which is higher quality sound than any audio backup system a court reporter may be using.

Marilynn Larkin from PosturAbility presented a session entitled Power Up Your Posture where she noted that good posture involves the entire body, that it’s dynamic and interactive, and that it can help relieve some body problems while preventing others, like back soreness. Attendees had the opportunity to practice specific stretches, both sitting and standing, to do before or during work, while Larkin continually reminded everyone to breathe and keep their shoulders down and core activated. She also reminded attendees to make their environment work for them rather than trying to fit themselves into the environment, offering tips like asking for a different chair if necessary or wearing comfortable clothing. The session was part of the Judicial Track.

Members who are interested in Larkin’s session can view her two-part series of posture available in the NCRA e-seminar library.

As part of the Realtime Track, Brenda Brueggemann, a professor at the University of Louisville and a CART consumer, led a discussion-based session entitled Composing Sound – A Workshop on Creative and Critical Thinking. Part of the session focused on adding “flavor” while captioning, an issue that was well-illustrated during the session itself. After attendees discussed a series of high-level questions about captioning in small groups, Brueggemann said that for a group in the back, she could hear words from the discussion, but she had no idea what the tone of the discussion had been. When one participant from the group said that they had been confused by the questions, Brueggemann said that the word confusion added just the right amount of context to interpret the words better. The attendees discussed the difficulty in adding flavor while captioning, first because captioners are so focused on capturing the words that it can be difficult to also catch ambiance, and also because it can be difficult to avoid using personal judgment while trying to add in flavor. One example would be how to describe background music while captioning.

Brueggemann also pointed out that sound studies are garnering more attention in the university and that recently captioning has been seen as an integral part of video rather than an afterthought.

During a session entitled Best Practices for Remote Reporting, NCRA members and Realtime Systems Administrator certificate holders, Robin Nodland, RDR, CRR, and Christine Phipps, RPR, attendees were provided with an overview of what remote reporting is and what it is not, why best practices are needed to ensure quality realtime is provided, and what business models currently exist in the realtime world.

Nodland and Phipps also shared best practices as they relate to protocols for attendees and working with audio proceedings.

Handouts and presentations for many of the sessions held at the 2015 Convention & Expo are available online at NCRA’s Convention & Expo Web page.

 

COPE PUBLIC ADVISORY OPINION 38: An attorney requests a copy of a reporter’s backup audio media

By Linda Larson

The Committee on Professional Ethics reviewed the following scenario: While taking down the official record, a reporter makes an audio backup recording of a proceeding for use by the reporter only while preparing the transcript. During a break in the proceeding, an attorney requests a copy of the reporter’s backup audio media. What are the obligations of the court reporter under the Code of Professional Ethics?

The committee has determined that absent a court order to do so, the NCRA Code of Professional Ethics does not require that a reporter provide a copy of any backup audio media that the reporter uses to make the official transcript of a proceeding. If a court reporter chooses to give the audio to the requesting attorney, the court reporter should be aware of Provision Number 1 and Provision Number 4.

Provision Number 1 of the Code of Professional Ethics states that a member shall be fair and impartial toward each participant in all aspects of reporting the proceedings and always offer to provide comparable services to all parties in a proceeding.

Provision Number 4 of the Code of Professional Ethics requires that the reporter preserves the confidentiality and ensures the security of the information, oral or written, entrusted to the member by any of the parties in a proceeding.

In conclusion, if the court reporter decides to provide audio to the requesting attorney, then the offer should be made to all other parties in the proceeding. The audio should be carefully screened to be sure there are no confidential discussions inadvertently picked up on the audio that would violate Provision Number 4.
Linda Larson, RPR, CRI, is a member of the NCRA COPE Committee and a freelance court reporter and owner of Premier Reporting, LLC, with offices in Carlisle and Harrisburg, Pa. Linda can be reached at linda@premierreportingllc.com.

Wisconsin Association of Legal Professionals joins Ethics First

The Wisconsin Association of Legal Professionals has formally signed up as an Ethics First supporter, becoming the first association representing legal professionals to do so. NCRA’s Ethics First program was developed to recognize NCRA members who have made a commitment to abide by and promote the rules of the Code of Professional Ethics, particularly with regard to gift-giving.

Ethics First seeks to positively educate court reporters, firms, and clients that the impartiality and neutrality of the court reporter is of utmost importance in maintaining an unbiased legal system. Getting the word out to attorneys, legal staff, and other consumers of court reporting services about the perils of accepting free gifts from court reporting firms is also one of NCRA’s Ethics First task force’s charges.

At a meeting in April, WALP’s membership formally voted and unanimously agreed to support the precepts of Ethics First regarding incentive and excessive gift-giving. Even greater, the association proudly features the Ethics First logo on its website.

“We are extremely grateful and proud that an association representing so many individuals involved in the legal profession inside Wisconsin recognizes the potential ethical issues associated with incentive and excessive gift-giving,” says NCRA President Tami Smith Keenan, RPR, CPE. “I would like to personally thank the Wisconsin Association of Legal Professionals for making this commitment to promoting the Ethics First program and NCRA as a whole.”

“The Wisconsin Association for Legal Professionals is proud to be an Ethics First supporter,” says 2013-2014 WALP President Darla Stephenson, PP. “The members of WALP are bound by the same objectives and standards of conduct represented by the Ethics First program, and so the decision to become a supporter was an easy one.”

For more information on the Ethics First program, visit NCRA.org/ethicsfirst.