Thank you for your (volunteer) service

NCRA would like to thank those members who have graciously volunteered their time to caption events ranging from Town Halls with the president to the numerous webinars the Association has made and continues to make available to members. Here’s a special shout-out to those volunteers:

  • Tina Dillon, RPR, CRR, CRC, Chicago, Ill.;
  • Lisa Doyon, RPR, CRC, Eagle, Idaho;
  • Kim Falgiani, RDR, CRR, CRC, Warren, Ohio;
  • Patty Nelson, CRC, Annapolis, Md.;
  • Anissa Nierenberger, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI, Boise, Idaho;
  • Sheri Smargon, RDR, CRR, CRC, Riverview, Fla.;
  • Angie Starbuck, RDR, CRR, CRC, Columbus, Ohio
  • Carol Studenmund, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, Portland, Ore.; and
  • NCRA Director Heidi Thomas, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, Kennesaw, Ga.

The JCR recently reached out to these volunteers to learn more about what motivates them to serve their association and fellow members. Tina Dillon told the JCR why she volunteers. Here’s what we learned from our other volunteers.

JCR | What motivates you to volunteer to caption for NCRA’s events and webinars?

Kim Falgiani, RDR, CRR, CRC

Kim Falgiani | The challenge of captioning before my peers is what motivated me initially. Once I volunteered and was a part of planning, I saw how much others contributed and wanted to continue being a part of all the hard work that goes into these events. 

Anissa Nierenberger | To encourage others to volunteer for our national Association and to highlight the awesome career of captioning.

Sheri Smargon | I would love for other members of the Association to branch out and do something they may find terrifying, writing live in front of their peers. It’s a great way to promote the Association and show why we are the gold standard over other methods of taking down the record.

Angie Starbuck | I enjoy giving back to a profession and Association that has given me so much in my career. I have been a member since graduating from court reporting school, and I am honored to give back as a way to thank all of those people who have served NCRA over the years and helped shape me into the court reporter I am today.

Carol Studenmund, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC

Carol Studenmund | I volunteer to caption for NCRA out of a love for our profession, the friends I have in this organization, and the need to bring more people into the profession

JCR | Why is it important to volunteer your time and skills to assist the Association?

KF | As a member, I have a responsibility to participate in NCRA. Not everyone is at a place in their careers where volunteering fits into their hectic schedules. If you can find the time to volunteer, then go for it! You will have so much fun and overcome the trepidation of sitting before your peers and writing realtime. 

AN | As a past president of the Michigan Association of Professional Court Reporters and after volunteering five years on the Board, I saw the benefits of volunteerism to boost up others so that we can all represent our industry as professionals. The same applies at the national level.

SS | The profession can only move forward in its advocacy and its mission of proving we are the gold standard for preserving the record as well as a channel of communication in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community if we all support it through our deeds and our words. When we showcase our skills, in whatever way we practice our profession, we bring awareness of the skill, professionalism, and dedication to people who may not realize we’re even there.

Angie Starbuck, RDR, CRR, CRC

AS | An association needs its members as much as the members need the association. We wouldn’t be able to advance our profession without volunteers! If you want to see a change in your profession, you have to be willing to step up and volunteer. Getting involved in your association is the best way to make a positive impact for others in the court reporting and captioning field.

CS | I’m a big believer in organizations. I make friends; I learn about captioning; I spend time with people who understand what my work is.

JCR | What would you say to encourage others to volunteer their time to caption for NCRA events and webinars?

KF | For any captioners who may feel that they are not fully engaged in the organization, volunteering is a great way to get involved. Participation helps the Association promote captioning. It also fosters an appreciation for the work NCRA does to support court reporters and captioners alike.

AN | Don’t let self-consciousness hold you back! Thousands of people have already seen your captions, so go for it!

SS | When I volunteer within the Association, I honestly feel like I’m giving back to something that has given me so much. When you are able to pay it forward by donating your time, talent, and energy, you’re giving back. If this career has been good to you, it’s definitely something you should consider. You don’t have to live caption a Town Hall. You can serve on a committee that piques your interest. Are you interested in deciding what seminars are on tap for the next in-person convention? Join the Education Content Committee. Do you want to be part of writing the questions that appear on the certification exams? Join the WKT Committee. Do you like the thought of shaping where your profession is going and how your association is going to best represent you and what you need? Become a Board member. There are so many avenues within NCRA that don’t require you to be “live, on stage.” Our Association runs mostly through reporters willing to step up to the plate and volunteer.

AS | It’s a great feeling to volunteer your services, and it’s a way to help the Association by doing what we do best. Many times, captioners are so busy with families and their career that they may not have time to serve on a committee. This is a perfect opportunity to serve NCRA and its members without a large expenditure of your time!

CS | You will only grow in experience and knowledge but also in friendships when you volunteer for NCRA.

JCR | How long have you been a captioner?

KF | Eighteen years now, but I had a 22-year court reporting career first, both as an official and a freelancer.

Anissa Nierenberger, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI

AN | I’ve been a captioner for 28 years!

SS | I have been captioning since 1992. I graduated court reporting school in February 1992 and began working for my local county government captioning the Board of County Commission meetings. The team I was a part of was the first county in the nation to open caption their government meetings. I think I’ve come a long way from the stage fright that caused, “You need to slow down. I think it’s coming up in Russian up there” to writing live for an NCRA Town Hall. I couldn’t have done that without the support and guidance my Association provides.

AS | I have been providing CART and captioning services since 1995. It is the most rewarding part of my job!

CS | Since 1992.

JCR | How did you hear about the profession?

KF | During my senior year in high school, I was involved in a Gregg Shorthand contest at a local business college. During that competition, we were shown the school. We were taken to a classroom where students were writing away on these strange machines. I inquired that day about the program, and I couldn’t be convinced to pursue any other career after that day. 

AN | I sat in with a court reporter at a career day in high school, and I knew at age 14 that this was what I was meant to do.

SS | When I was a senior in high school, the local tech school presented at a career day. I had never heard of stenographer or court reporters, but it seemed mildly interesting. I am an incredibly bad procrastinator. I didn’t have the grades to get a scholarship into college, and I certainly couldn’t pay for it myself. And I knew if I didn’t do something after high school, I would end up doing nothing, so to speak. I would have no career and would just work an anybody-can-do-it job.

AS | My husband heard a famous radio advertisement in our city for “court reporting jobs going unfilled” back in 1990. He came home and told me I should check it out. I became a court reporter first and then was trained by my mentor, Linda Sturm, to provide CART and captioning. Here I am 30 years later still doing a job I love and working with amazing colleagues!

CS | My grandfather was a court reporter in Oklahoma in the 1910-1940s. I knew he made a very decent living through the Great Depression. Then a friend told me about the court reporting school here in Portland and how the classes were organized, and I thought I’d give it a try. It was a great match from the start.

JCR | What is the most interesting event you have captioned in your career?

KF | Earlier in my captioning years, I would have said the Tour de France without hesitation. But it’s difficult for me now to pick one since my remote broadcast captioning has expanded into on-site CART and open captioning. On-site CART for the Democratic National Convention in 2016 was very interesting, in the true sense of interesting. Traveling to Harvard to be a part of “Jagged Little Pill” was a joy. In fact, “isn’t it ironic, don’t you think” that I am scheduled on a virtual reception now with Alanis Morissette and the cast of “The Jagged Little Pill” in just a couple days? Those types of jobs among common captioning jobs make every day interesting. 

AN | I’ve traveled to Menlo Park, Calif., numerous times and captioned Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook. I love tech captioning along with sports and anything that challenges me. Professional trainers and mentors got me to where I am now: Janet Cassidy-Burr, Larry Driver, Judy Brentano, Jen Schuck, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, among others. I’m a very fortunate girl. I encourage all reporters/captioners to do something today that makes you better than you were yesterday. 

SS | I have captioned a lot of interesting things. My first day on the air when I worked for VITAC was the Oklahoma City Bombing. Nothing like trial by fire. Sept. 11. There’s always good, bad, and indifferent when you’re captioning. I may have started my captioning day captioning a fluff tabloid show and ended the day by captioning hard-core national news.

I’ve captioned the Golden Globe Awards a couple times. I captioned the Stanley Cup Finals one year. “My” team wasn’t playing, so I didn’t have a dog in the fight. I used to love when I’d caption a show I’d watch anyway, like “The Voice” or “Saturday Night Live.”

I’ve captioned the Olympics eight times. There’s nothing like preparing for something “easy,“ like track and field, only to end up with soccer between two countries that you are almost sure are made up.

But no matter what I’m captioning, if possible I try to learn something from every event. I have learned to expect the unexpected and remember that I’m there to help someone understand. If I find myself wavering and getting annoyed with a job, I recenter and think about my Dad, and now Mom, who almost wholly rely on closed captioning to watch television. Would they be proud of the job I’m doing?

This profession gives back in so many ways, noticeable and unnoticeable. You just have to pay attention.

AS | There have been so many interesting things over the years: presidential commencement speeches, Big 10 football games, NHL hockey games to name a few. I would say my favorite was probably captioning an in-person Joe Rogan comedy show! My most proud (and most challenging) moment was being asked to provide on-site captions for one of the presidential debates in Ohio in 2019.

CS | It’s hard to pick between captioning onsite for the Dalai Lama and captioning for the stadium where the Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl.

If you are interested in captioning an NCRA event, please contact Laura Butler at lbutler@ncra.org.

What motivates me to volunteer

Tina Dillon

By Tina Dillon

We all know how much it takes for an organization to serve its members. I have sat on the sidelines for much of that time and have watched so many of my colleagues tirelessly work on behalf of their peers. What I’ve given is small in comparison but something I can offer and will do so whenever possible. 

It’s important to give what you can. We are not all meant to take on leadership roles, and some may feel as though they don’t have time or skills to serve on a committee. However, if you are a captioner, I would encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and volunteer to caption an event. Now more than ever we need to showcase what we do to separate ourselves from the threat of technology replacing our skills. We need to encourage each other to hone our skills and be the best at what we do. We know we can offer speaker identification and insert punctuation where Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) doesn’t. We also know we can insert human noises, such as music playing or applause, something ASR doesn’t do. Together we can work to overcome what we are facing and remain the gold standard for captioning.

I have had a relationship with my steno machine for 41 years. It’s been a labor of love that started when I was 18 years old. As I watched all my friends leave for college, I went to a local “trade school” where I learned and practiced every day to eventually pass my CSR exam. I remember the elation I felt that day. Eighteen months prior, when that journey began, I didn’t know how excited I would be to begin a career with a little machine that feels almost like an appendage to me. While in high school, my mom had a friend whose daughter became a court reporter. After hearing the glowing description my mother conveyed, I look back now and think she had more than an inkling I would succeed. We went to a local school where the administrator asked me a few questions: Are you a good speller? Are you a fast typist? Do you play a musical instrument? All to which I said yes. It apparently was a foundation to the path of becoming a court reporter. To this day I ask the same questions of anyone thinking about entering the field.  

For the last 13 years of my career, I have almost exclusively been a CART captioner. I didn’t intend to give up reporting, but there was and still is a great demand for captioning. Another bonus is I have been able to attend and be a part of so many wonderful and interesting events.  It’s always something new, which can sometimes give you jitters but a great feeling of accomplishment afterward. One of my more memorable events was captioning a keynote speaker, James Sinegal, cofounder of Costco. He sat with me and marveled at my captioning skills. All the while I kept thinking, weren’t you interviewed on Dateline for opening one of the biggest wholesale chains?

I remember relying on a few colleagues to help answer questions and get me started. I didn’t have the benefit of the many seminars and workshops that are now offered. If you love to focus on your writing, dip your toe into captioning and give it a shot. You might just become addicted to it like me!

Tina Dillion, RPR, CRR, CRC, is a CART captioner and freelance court reporter from Chicago, Ill. She can be reached at tina@dillonreporting.com.

Notre Dame Law School graduate thanks CART provider

Tammy Vandervort, RPR, and Ross O. Kloeber, IV

Ross O. Kloeber, IV, is a graduate of the Law School of the University of Notre Dame Law School. Throughout his three years attending classes, NCRA member Tammy L. Vandervort, RPR, a freelance court reporter from Osceola, Ind., provided CART to Kloeber who is deaf. Upon graduation, Kloeber accepted a position with Sidley Austin, LLP, in their Chicago, Ill., office as part of the firm’s litigation group. Below he shares insight into his experience working with Vandervort and why the services she provided were important to his law school success.

JCR / How did you hear about the services that Tammy could provide?

RK | I was connected with Tammy by the University of Notre Dame’s Student Services Center.

JCR/ What impact did she have on your course work?

RK | Tammy had a significant impact on my ability to complete my coursework as a law student. The law school classroom is a discussion driven experience where many professors utilize the “Socratic” method, which involves the adversarial discussion and debate of various relevant bodies of law. This can be a disorienting experience for just about anyone, but it can be an added challenge to do so with a disability. Tammy’s services allowed me to perform at a high level all throughout my law school experience. 

JCR / What was it like to have her in every class?

RK | I very much enjoyed having Tammy in my classes. By the end of my law school experience, she was as much a friend as anything else. In the classroom, courtroom, and everywhere else, Tammy is a consummate professional and I was lucky to have her with me.   

JCR / What would you say to encourage others who could benefit from services like hers to seek them? What was the greatest benefit to you working with Tammy?

RK | If you feel that you’d benefit from CART services, I would endorse them wholeheartedly. The value provided to me is hard to fully articulate, but, for some concrete examples, I continue to use CART and similar services for court appearances, conferences, office meetings, and telephone calls. CART and other similar services help facilitate my work, and it hard to overstate the value they can add.

JCR/ What type of law are you practicing?

RK | My practice focuses primarily on complex commercial litigation and disputes as well as securities and shareholder litigation. As a part of my work, I’ve worked on a variety of disputes including consumer privacy class actions, government enforcement matters, public and private company shareholder disputes, and corporate internal investigations. I also have an active pro bono practice that has included the representation of incarcerated individuals in civil actions against prison officials, the representation of indigent parties in civil proceedings, and veterans in actions challenging their denial of appropriate military retirement benefits. 

Three years of providing CART in law school leads to friendship

Tammy Vandervort, RPR, and Ross O. Kloeber, IV

NCRA member Tammy L. Vandervort, RPR, is a freelance court reporter from Osceola, Ind., who has been at the machine for 32 years. After she and her business partner sold their freelance firm, she took a position as Client Relations Manager with Stewart Richardson Deposition Services in Indianapolis, Ind., where she provides CART, covers Federal Grand Juries, and recently has worked on a pro bono case. She also provides students at the University of Notre Dame Law School with the experience of working with a live court reporter during their deposition training as they prepare to become professional attorneys. But one of her best experiences of her career was attending three years of law school with a student who is deaf to whom she provided CART. The JCR Weekly recently caught up with Vandervort and her student to learn more about her work in the deposition classroom and her student’s experience with Vandervort’s services.

JCR / Tell me how you became involved in providing services for University of Notre Dame Law School’s deposition classes.

TV | Stewart Richardson Deposition Services has clients who are adjunct professors teaching the deposition class, and I approached one of them with the idea of providing a real-life experience utilizing court reporters who will provide a transcript so they can see what they look like on paper.

JCR / How many other reporters are involved in this effort?

TV | We have a team of two to four reporters each semester.

JCR / Why do you find this work important?

TV | It gives the law students an opportunity to learn the importance of a clean record. We not only provide a transcript, but offer our advice on what went well and where they need to improve. 

JCR / Do you have any advice for others in the profession interested in becoming involved in this type of work?

TV | Put yourself out there. It never hurts to ask. Sometimes you must give a little to make an impact.

JCR / What have you learned by doing this type of work?

TV| That every law school should be doing deposition classes for students going into litigation. We have eventually worked with some of the law students after they passed the bar, and those attorneys are far more advanced in taking depositions and being conscientious of the record than some of their senior colleagues who have not had the same opportunity.

JCR / What do you hope law students will learn from seeing a court reporter in action?

TV | How important it is to their case to have a clean record and how difficult our job is, especially when they do not take into consideration their part in making a clean record.

JCR / What kinds of questions do you get from the law students?

TV | “Do you really write everything we say?” 

“How do you do that?” 

“What’s the funniest deposition story?”

JCR / How did you happen to meet the law student you provided CART for?

TV| I have had a long-term working relationship with Notre Dame providing CART. 

JCR / Did you attend every class with him?

TV | Yes, I attended the majority of his classes. Two other reporters helped fill in the gaps when needed. 

JCR / Did you become good friends?

TV | We did. He’s the same age as my oldest son, so he easily took on the role as another one of my kids. My husband and I were invited to his graduation where we met his family, and we still stay in touch.

JCR / What made those three years attending classes with him some of the best years of your career?

TV | Throughout my career, I have done a variety of jobs. Hands down it was the best three years of my career! First, I always wanted to attend law school and become a lawyer. Attending law school for three years and getting paid to do what I love to do was the next best thing. But, mostly, I felt honored that I was able to give back a gift I was given for someone who needed it to pursue their dreams.

There were several highlights, including providing CART for him to argue in front of the Seventh Circuit Appeals Court in Chicago; meeting and providing CART for U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., in one of his classes; becoming friends with the then professor, now newly appointed Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals judge; and providing CART for when U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke to the law students in 2016.

JCR / What did the other students think of the service you were providing him?

TV | Because he was such an outstanding student, most were in awe of his ability to communicate clearly and pull off mock oral arguments like nobody’s business. The part I loved is that most of the students did not know why I was there. When they found out, they were surprised that he relied on CART services throughout his time in law school.

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.

New Professional Profile: Tiffany Nicole Headley

Tiffany Nicole Headley

Tiffany Nicole Headley is a CART provider/court reporter in Deatsville, Ala. She and her husband have three sons. Evan, the oldest, is living in Mobile, Ala., attending the University of South Alabama. Ethan is almost 16, and Elijah is 11. She also has five pets: three dogs, a cat, and a horse.  She graduated from Prince Institute in Montgomery, Ala., in December of 2012.

JCR | What year did you start doing CART?

TH | August of 2012 while still in school.

JCR | What year did you obtain your Alabama CCR?

TH | I believe it was October of 2016.

JCR | When did you begin freelancing?

TH | I’ve always freelanced.  In CART it is considered freelancing as well.  We are independent contractors just like court reporters, but I started freelance reporting in November of 2016.

JCR | How did you get introduced to court reporting and what made you want to become one? 

TH | I was first introduced to court reporting after I graduated high school in 1998.  My younger sister’s best friend was Sarah Prince’s granddaughter, and she told me about the school because I had mentioned a time or two that I was thinking about going into the legal field, but I was unsure for what. I checked into it, and it seemed like the perfect fit for my future plans career-wise and family-wise, but the timing wasn’t right since my husband and I were getting married in January of 1999.  I did, however, start in 2001 for the first time, but I had to leave in 2003 due to pregnancy and the stress it was putting on me.

After a few years, I still wanted to pursue it, and I enrolled after our family was complete.  So I went back at 28 years old with a family of five with three kids who all were involved in some sport or activity at some point throughout my schooling.  I attended online for the first year, and throughout the program, I did online and in-house classes.

JCR | You’ve done CART and transitioned into freelance reporting. Has that been a difficult transition? Do you have any advice for someone else looking to do the same?

TH |
It was very difficult at first for several reasons. The travel, multiple speakers, random places that you have to take depos, and getting transcripts done was a huge change for me.  As a full-time CART Provider, I worked from home the majority of the time, and I only traveled a few times a year.  

As far as adjusting to multiple speakers, CART is more like doing a Lit take than a Q&A. It’s a lot easier to get into a rhythm with CART to me.  Basically, you have one professor and the occasional student asking a question.  Most of you know, that’s very different in the court reporting field. You can have multiple voices, so it’s keeping up with who said what, constant back and forth, along with interruptions and/or everyone talking over each other, etc.

I will say, though, that I believe that transcripts were the biggest adjustment for me.  When you do CART, you don’t always have to turn a transcript in. If you do, you simply have to do a quick spellcheck, scanstop, and look over it to make sure you paragraphed properly and used the right punctuation.  It is more pressure because you are writing realtime all the time. There is someone on the other end depending on you for their education.  You really need to be on it.  Those people need you producing clear and concise captions at that very moment.  There is not much room for error.  The student/consumer may or may not be reading it later. 

When producing transcripts for depositions and court, it is very different and so much more involved.  You have to go back over your work with a fine-toothed comb with audio backup, if you use it.  The scoping, then proofreading, and making sure that the record is 100 percent accurate. You are listening to the same material over and over again.  Needless to say, that was very exhausting at first.

As far as advice I have for someone transitioning:  Make sure you keep a lot of court reporter mentors and friends in your circle. I promise they are valuable resources when making that change. In all honesty, if it was not for my court reporting mentors and friends, I would’ve probably given up on this a long time ago. It is just such a different realm for me. You definitely have to stay super focused on the task at hand and manage your time wisely so your work is turned in in a timely manner so the transcripts are returned to the client on time. Remember they have a deadline too, and they need their records to review before going further with a case.

JCR | What’s your must-have in your bag?

TH | For court reporting it is my water, long extension cord, exhibit stickers, and pens.

For CART it is an extension cord and multiple connection cables, i.e. HDMI cord, high-speed USB plug, a converter plug for projectors that may still be old school and require those bulky plugs with the thumb screw, and my handy-dandy USB Type-C Multi-Adapter.  At any given time, you could have several things plugged in at one time, and newer computers don’t always have multiple USB ports.

JCR | Tell me the best piece of advice you’ve received from another court reporter that you’d love to pass along.

TH | There’s been so many things that have been helpful. I have a great circle, but there are two big things I’ve learned. First of all, do not be afraid to clarify what someone is saying if you don’t understand them and/or stopping the attorneys from talking over one another during proceedings.  Second, never become too reliant on your audio backup. Always have a fail-safe because electronics fail, so make sure you have a backup for your backup.

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..

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!

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








Reporting from the courtroom to jury deliberations

Theresa (Tari) Kramer, RMR, CRR, CPE, an official court reporter from Charlotte, N.C., recently provided CART to a juror. She described the experience for the JCR Weekly.

Tari Kramer

JCR | How long have you been a court reporter?

TK |28 years.

JCR | Have you been the reporter for a juror before?

TK | Yes, one other time, but the juror did not make it into the jury box. This was my first time one made it all the way through the trial process.

JCR | How did you get this job? 

TK | I obtained this assignment based on my skills, equipment, and experience and because our courthouse recognizes the benefit and convenience of utilizing a certified realtime reporter. The jury services office advertises CART as an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) option for hearing-challenged prospective jurors. They refer to it as a “note taker.” We have two full-time realtime reporters, and I was assigned to cover the assignment. The juror had requested someone to provide note-taking services during their jury orientation and during all phases of the trial process.

JCR | How would you describe the experience? What were you doing, and how did you do it? 

TK | This was such a rewarding experience. I can confidently say that it was the most rewarding week of my career. It’s one thing to be involved in the trial process on a daily basis, but it’s an entirely different and humbling experience to help one on one with someone who otherwise would not have been able to participate in the jury process.   

Through this experience I have realized that there are some folks who fall within a gray zone of not being deaf and only somewhat hard of hearing, people who don’t need a full-time interpreter and function well on a daily basis without any assistance. My juror was not fully deaf, has not been diagnosed with any hearing deficit, and does not read lips or communicate through sign language. She was fully capable of communicating her thoughts, articulate with her words, and responded appropriately to attorneys during voir dire. 

Her challenge, as relayed by her, came when people speak soft, there are other noises in the background, or when the speaker is not looking in her direction. The sound suddenly cuts in half, and she begins to panic. Knowing this challenge and realizing the importance of her role as a juror, she decided to ask for a note taker to fill in the gaps during these kinds of moments. 

The view from the juror’s seat

I met the juror at 8 a.m. on Monday morning in the jury assembly room. I discussed with her the services I would be providing, a little bit about the technology, and got some background on her hearing challenges. My employer provided me with a rolling cart, and I followed the juror wherever she was directed to go. She received my streaming feed through an iPad. I had two other iPads on a constant charge, ready to change out for the one she was using. I use a wireless router for the room only. While she was able to view the feed on the iPad, I noticed that my router would cut out when I moved the cart to another room. In the future, unless the juror is sitting in the jury box further away from me, I will just have them view the feed on my computer.

Eventually she was called into a courtroom and was put in the box on the first call by the clerk. I sat behind the official court reporter and provided a feed for her during the voir dire process. Shortly thereafter, she was approved and sworn in as a juror. 

When the trial began, I was sworn in as an interpreter. Having this be a new experience for myself and the judge, I took the liberty of printing out some information from NCRA, the state of North Carolina’s policies on ADA requirements for trial participants, and a few other articles. I highlighted and tabbed the areas most pertinent to the situation and handed it to the judge. It was soon determined that I would act as an interpreter of sorts. My sole job during the trial was to meet her needs. When the jury went in and out of the courtroom, I was with her. I purposely did not stay in the courtroom during the parts of the trial when the jury was gone. I wanted to remove myself from any knowledge of the case and/or any impropriety. 

She did express a desire to have me in the deliberation room because, when everyone was talking, she didn’t think she would be able to hear folks on the other side of the room. That moment came, and I got the enviable opportunity to be a fly on the wall during a jury’s deliberation process. I informed the jury of my role and that my iPad feed was just to be viewed by her, not to ask me any questions, and to treat me as if I was invisible in the room. I did, however, request that they “try” to speak one at a time. Any experienced reporter knows that this will not happen when you have 12 impassioned folks discussing an issue, but I felt I had to make the request anyway.

The deliberation takedown was fast and furious. One juror had been dismissed so it was a jury of 11 (civil case).  In my mind, that was one less voice to pick up and write. I sat in the middle of the room. My client was to the left of me. Eventually we got into a rhythm. She heard what the people were saying to her left and next to her. I wrote mostly what I heard on the right side of me. I would not write what she said. 

Logistically, I had literally five minutes to prepare for this, as the judge got the case to the jury rather quickly, so I had no time to prepare speaker IDs. As it turns out, I would not have had time to identify each speaker anyway due to the fast nature of the conversation. So what I ended up doing was adding two to three lines to my paragraphing stroke. When someone new spoke, I paragraphed and the screen went down a couple of lines. This provided space in between speakers. I know this was not the most ideal, but it’s what I had in the moment and it was my first time going through this experience.  

On a side note, I am so very thankful for the NCRA CART group inside of Facebook that I feverishly made requests in that day. Several reporters chimed in on suggestions for deliberation takedown. I have such appreciation for my seasoned colleagues who have journeyed through this before me. 

When the deliberations were finished, I had written 110 pages in one and a half hours. Mind you, this includes extra lines between speakers, but it was still extremely fast. What an exhilarating challenge that was! They threw the kitchen sink in, metaphorically, with the whole conversation. The terminology varied wildly — everything from religion to hematomas to DUI alcohol terms.

It was also interesting to observe the process. Eleven people who remained silent were suddenly full of thoughts and opinions, waiting impatiently to be the next one to voice their ideas. Most folks were boisterous while the minority were a bit reserved. In the end, however, they came to a consensus as a group because members were willing to compromise without relinquishing their principles. There was some heated conversation and one member who seemed to stand out from the rest on his opinions. This all reminded me of my bachelor’s classes in behavioral science. We studied things like this — what causes a group of people to respond and make a collective decision the way they do; how do outside influences, life experiences, and core beliefs affect a group decision? I was fascinated, like reading a book, to see this process unfold. 

JCR | Did the juror say anything to you about her experience?

TK | Yes. At the end, I was in the jury room with the jurors and the judge. Everyone was speaking frankly and openly about the case and the experience. My client made it a point to thank me and the judge for allowing her to be an involved participant in the process. She said she had been very nervous about the experience (as are most prospective jurors) but especially because she had serious doubts about her ability to serve successfully. She said that my services made that possible for her. The judge also said he had never seen this technology being utilized before. He was familiar with realtime technology but not how it was used for a juror. 

JCR | How long was the case? 

TK | The juror entered the courtroom on a Monday afternoon, was sworn in at the end of voir dire, then came back the next two days for the trial. So it lasted about two and a half days.

JCR | Would you be interested in doing this again? 

TK | I would definitely like to do this again. However, next time I would tweak my dictionary a bit to have more room sound definitions than I currently have; i.e., laughter, loud noise, private conversation held. I would also only bring my laptop into the jury room (thank you, NCRA Facebook group member suggestion). When someone recommended that, I metaphorically slapped my forehead like “oh, yes!” It would have made things go a lot faster had I just provided the juror with a view of my laptop instead of everyone waiting for my technology to reboot in a different room. But I don’t fault myself for any of this because it was all new terrain for me, professionally speaking, so I chalked it up to a wonderful learning experience.

While this appeared to have been a positive experience for the juror, it was eye-opening for me how beneficial court reporters are to the hearing-impaired community. There are folks like this juror who have no idea that this opportunity exists — people who do not fit the black-and-white description of a hearing-impaired client. I wish that CART was more readily known because so many people would find a genuine benefit from this technology. I would love to be involved in creating a CART-in-the-courtroom training program for our officials in North Carolina because, when preparing for and going through the juror’s time in our courthouse, I did not find much information on how to perform my role. It would have been nice to have a crash course of sorts or a cheat sheet to take with me throughout the assignment. We also need to update the verbiage in the interpreter oath, as it did not reflect my role during deliberations. All in all, though, I would definitely do this again because the experience far outweighed the challenges.