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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The life cycle of a Skills Test

By Eva Liu

Believe it or not, from the birth of a Skills Test to its activation for our candidates, it involves quite a lengthy process and many people.

There are two committees whose charges include writing Skills Tests – The Skills Committee and the Test Advisory Committee (TAC).  Each committee member is responsible for writing several tests a year.  The Certification and Testing department works with the chairs to assign each committee member their various tests. Committee members use a software program called Syllables to ensure each test meets NCRA standards.  After the tests are submitted, TAC members travel to NCRA headquarters twice a year to “test the tests.”  Committee members bring their steno machines and write out each test that’s been submitted.  They make changes as they see appropriate, mark punctuation, determine preview words, and sometimes have to “throw out” some tests.  TAC works all day for two to three days approving tests to ensure candidates get top-quality tests.

After the approval process by TAC, NCRA staff formats and makes any noted changes accordingly.  Then, the tests are ready to be recorded at the recording studio by our voice talents.  The voice talents usually record about 30 tests in two days, including all types of Skills Tests, Jury Charge, Literary, Testimony, etc.  The NCRA staff is there with the voice talents to make sure that the tests are read perfectly and on time marks. 

After that, studio engineer and voice talent Rob Buhrman takes the recorded tests to his studio to re-check everything again, take out edits and the repeated parts that were recorded, and produce the perfect five minutes of test audio candidates hear on their tests.  Once Buhrman has finished, he uploads all the newly recorded tests so NCRA staff can listen to them and check one last time just to make sure there are no additional errors. 

Once the audio part is done, all the tests are formatted by NCRA staff for NCRA’s testing platform, allowing the platform to provide a preliminary score once candidates copy and paste their transcripts.  All tests with punctuation marks and preview words are scanned for NCRA qualified graders.  NCRA staff uploads all three files – computer-formatted documents, PDFs for graders, and audio files to the Realtime Coach testing platform once all items are complete. Every test that a candidate takes has gone through this entire life cycle.

“The creation of NCRA skills tests is a long and tedious process comprised of multiple resources: Two volunteer testing committees, certification and testing staff, voice talents, recording studio engineers, and NCRA partner vendors,” said NCRA Certification and Testing Director Amy Davidson. 

Eva Liu is the NCRA Certification and Testing Program Manager.

NCRA member recognized in local paper

The Herald-Whig reported on Dec. 29 that NCRA member Erin Johnson of Carthage, Ill., earned the Registered Professional Reporter certification. The announcement was generated from a press release distributed by NCRA on behalf of Johnson.

Read more.

NCRA member recognized in local news

The Detroit Legal News posted a press release on Dec. 18, issued by NCRA on behalf of Gina Wells of Chesterfield, Mich., announcing that she has earned the RPR.

Read more.

Local reporter recognized

The Hawk Eye posted a press release on Dec. 15, issued by NCRA on behalf of member Erin Johnson, Carthage, Ill., announcing that she recently earned the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) certification.

Read more.

Local court reporter earns distinction

The Athens Daily Review posted a press release on Dec. 12, issued by NCRA on behalf of Tami Lewis, CRR, CRC, Canton, Texas, announcing her recently earning the Registered Diplomat Reporter (RDR) certification.

Read more.

Local court reporter earns certification

The Suffolk News-Herald posted a press release on Dec. 12 issued by NCRA on behalf of member Beth Chandler, Chesapeake, Va., announcing her recent earning of her Registered Professional Reporter (RPR).

Read more.

Holiday e-Seminar bundle sale

Pick a bundle and save this holiday season while you earn needed CEUs. These e-Seminars are available for purchase until Dec. 27. They will then be available to watch from Jan. 1-31, 2020.

Bundle #1

(Not for individual sale)

CEU: 0.225 CEU

Cost: $65 member/$85 nonmember

NCRA STRONG

Description: Members of the NCRA STRONG Task Force will share how to use the tools that have been created for you, which you can take back to your state to educate your clients about the facts and risks of digital recording and why a stenographic reporter remains the gold standard of preserving the record.  The PowerPoints, handouts, and tips will help you effectively present the material to your local bar associations and clients. By the end of the session, you’ll feel confident and ready to take on the role of steno advocate in your state!

Presenters: Phyllis Craver-Lykken, RPR, and Liz Harvey, RPR

International Depositions 101

Description: Interested in expanding your business and earning extra revenue by covering depositions internationally? Global deposition expert Ian Hardy will show you how. Specifically designed for court reporters and legal videographers, this session will teach you everything you need to know about covering depos abroad, including: 1) a survey of the market for international depositions; 2) what clients want from reporters and videographers who cover their depos abroad; 3) the legalities of covering U.S. depos in foreign countries; 4) important visa and travel information; and 5) special tips on how to keep things from going wrong when working outside the United States.

Presenters: Ian Hardy

Bundle #2

CEU: 0.225 CEU

Cost: $90 member/$135 nonmember

Easy Peasy, Lemon Squeezy

Description: Youʼve heard the adage “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” In this seminar, discover mental strategies and problem-solving skills that you can apply to your professional and personal activities in order to turn mountains into molehills and be the successful person you know you can be.

Presenter: Mike Hensley, RDR

Taxes and You

Description: This session will review options for self-employed individuals for filing taxes, reducing their tax liability, and maximizing their wealth opportunities.

Presenter: Meredith Glover, CPA

Purchase individually

Two of the e-Seminars are also available to purchase separately:

  • Easy Peasy, Lemon Squeezy, CEU: 0.125 CEU, cost: $65 member/$89 nonmember
  • Taxes and You, CEU: 0.1 CEU, cost: $55 member/$79 nonmember

Registration is now open for the Registered Skilled Reporter Skills Tests

Registration is open for aspiring court reporters to test in January 2020 for a new NCRA certification, the Registered Skilled Reporter (RSR). This new designation will recognize those stenographic professionals who are looking to validate their beginning level of competency. Previously named the Registered Apprentice Reporter (RAR), the NCRA Board of Directors, after careful review, determined that the term ‘skilled’ better reflects the mission supporting this latest professional certification than the term ‘apprentice.’

“Those new professionals who make the commitment to earn the RSR are also showing their commitment to continuing their skills and proficiency through professional practice while earning an income,” said NCRA President Max Curry, RPR, CRI.

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

Created as a stepping-stone credential to ultimately achieving the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) designation, the RSR certification will offer the prestige of an NCRA certification for those new or returning to the court reporting profession who have yet to be able to get their writing speeds up enough to earn the RPR.

Current or aspiring stenographic reporters are eligible to earn the RSR and do not need to be members of NCRA to take the RSR tests.

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

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

To pass, an accuracy level of 95 percent is required for each leg. Passed RPR skills tests cannot be used toward earning the RSR.

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

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

Visit the NCRA website for more information. 

Captioning the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

By Debbie Dibble


Sesame Street characters showed up for the Tabernacle Choir Show
Photo © The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

After a career full of unusual cases, including surfers in New Zealand, terrorists in the Philippines, and Saudi princes in Grand Cayman, I was sure I had done it all. But captioning the Mormon Tabernacle Choir — or The Tabernacle Choir on Temple Square as it is now called — is a uniquely gratifying and challenging experience, particularly when special guests, like the cast of “Sesame Street” or Frozen, pop in for a performance. Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Count von Count, Ernie, Bert, and Elmo were unbelievably challenging, but Rosita and Zoe just about did me in! Their quick-fire, Spanish-accented repartee can be a captioner’s nightmare — but make for great stories if you survive!

Since 1929 – nearly the lifetime of radio – the Tabernacle Choir has been a phenomenon of broadcasting. Its “Music & the Spoken Word” is the longest continuous broadcast on the air. This show is broadcast – and captioned – every Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. Mountain Time. It is a half-hour show that is mostly music. As the captioner, I have the arrangements – with words – provided ahead of time for prescripting. It’s not a complicated broadcast to caption, but each show is different and has its own distinct challenges. The Christmas Concert each year, with invited celebrities and special themes, is always quite the spectacle. There are also periodic holiday specials as well as programs to honor dignitaries, veterans, historic events, and whenever else there is cause to celebrate with music. I find that each broadcast comes with new obstacles that require creative solutions, and I grow as a professional while I work with my team of engineers and producers to find ways to provide the best product for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.

How did I end up with this dream gig? The simple answer is: Credentials! About 10 years ago, when the Utah state courts converted their entire system from official stenographers to electronic recording, it was obvious I needed to take steps to increase my skills and, therefore, my value in the freelance market, and to become proficient as a certified captioner. I educated myself and passed both of the NCRA captioning certifications offered at the time: the Certified CART Provider (CCP) and the Certified Broadcast Captioner (CBC). Within a month of receiving those two designations, I was informed of this opportunity and that they were only looking for those with my new credentials to fill the position.

Moving from depositions into captioning hymns and sermons required a substantial learning curve. Sure, I had captioned the news, but this was an entirely new environment. They used different software that toggled between live and prescripted work. I needed to learn about pop-on, paint-on, three-line roll-up, how to use musical notes, and so many new elements, like how to clear the screen in a hurry. I look back on how daunting it seemed to me when I started—during my first show I told them I quit three times—and now, seven years later, I can flip and fly between cells and programs seamlessly and without breaking a sweat!

The Tabernacle Choir with the Sesame Street characters. Photo ©The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

I work with a huge team of engineers, producers, and directors, and supervise a team of captioners that provide captioning in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French. They have all helped in my journey of education and progress, and together we have created new solutions to provide a better experience for those that we serve. Sometimes we aid an even broader group than just the deaf and hard-of-hearing in the audience. During one broadcast, there was a speaker who was struggling with debilitating health issues. He was in a wheelchair and could hardly speak above a whisper. His voice was gravelly and very difficult to understand. I later learned that one of the dignitaries in attendance was struggling to hear and asked his grandson if he could understand what was said. The grandson began to repeat the words verbatim. Later, when the youngster was asked how he had possibly heard all that, his reply was, “I had the closed captions on!” This individual was a high-profile leader in the organization, and his experience spread like wildfire. It was great exposure for our unmatched skills!

This has been an incredibly fulfilling experience for me both personally and professionally. My skills improve with every broadcast, each new project, and every new challenge. I have learned so much from colleagues both in the court reporting and captioning industry as well as the engineers and producers on my team. They have taught me how my duties interact with their jobs, and we all have become more keenly aware of what a critical part the immediate access to captions play. One engineer, after hearing the story of the grandson reading my captions, decided that captioning should be offered to all attendees in the main hall. He worked with a caption delivery system to develop a new platform that would support simultaneous connections to 25,000 mobile devices, where the prior system had only been capable of supporting a few hundred.

While providing captions is itself a rewarding experience, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that this choice assignment has afforded me a front-row seat to performances by incredible talents such as James Taylor, David Archuletta, Donny Osmond, Gladys Knight, Kristen Chenoweth, Tom Brokaw, Walter Cronkite, and so many more. This profession, our profession, opens doors to learning and lifetime experiences unlike any other. It is truly the greatest profession on earth! Never stop learning and never stop working to improve your skills. You never know when the next great opportunity will present itself.

Debbie Dibble, RDR, CRR, CRC, is a freelancer and captioner based in Salt Lake City, Utah, as well as NCRA’s Vice President. In addition to the NCRA certifications listed above, she has earned NCRA’s Realtime System Administrator certification and the state certified shorthand reporter credentials for Utah, California, Nevada, and Texas. She can be reached at ddib06@gmail.com.