Actor Tom Hanks ‘hearts’ captioning

Photo by David Kindler

NCRA member Jo Gayle, RPR, CRR, CRC, a freelance captioner from Chicago, Ill., recently earned a shout-out from actor Tom Hanks for her captioning skills during an event held by the Chicago Humanities Festival. The JCR Weekly reached out to Gayle to find out more about being recognized by an international celebrity for her skills. The JCR Weekly also reached out to Brittany Pyle, director of production and audience experience for the Chicago Humanities Festival, to learn more about the benefits captioning brings to audiences.

NCRA member Jo Gayle, RPR, CRR, CRC

JCR | How did you connect with the Chicago Humanities organization?
JG | I was asked by a captioning company to caption some of their events.

JCR | How long have you been captioning for them?
JG | Three years, since fall of 2015.

JCR | What types of events do you caption for them and how often?
JG | I started out just captioning a few events, but this fall I did 15 events as well as a day-long marathon of interviews that I split with a remote captioner. The events are either interviews or lectures, and the Humanities Festival chooses which ones will be captioned based on audience interest and accessibility requests.

JCR | What do you enjoy most about working with this organization?
JG | They are extremely accommodating when it comes to making sure I have a comfortable and accessible work space. Also I’ve enjoyed the diversity of events and the famous people I’ve been able to caption: Alan Alda, Gloria Steinem, Al Gore, and James Comey, just to name a few.

JCR | What were you captioning when Tom Hanks gave you a shout-out?
JG | He was doing an interview with Peter Sagal of NPR to discuss his love of writing and his collection of short stories, Uncommon Type.

JCR | Did you know he was going to do that?
JG | What happened was they did not know the event was being captioned and only discovered it when they looked at the screen behind them that was going to display audience questions.

Here’s the back and forth from the transcript:

PETER SAGAL: We have a couple of questions from members of the audience who submitted them earlier. We selected a few. We’ll put them up on the screen.
TOM HANKS: Oh, really?
PETER SAGAL: Yes.
TOM HANKS: I thought this was a temporary graphic.
I just realized that. Has that gone on? So you get to say I read the best interview with Tom Hanks. Anybody deaf that is actually doing it? Anybody hearing-impaired?
PETER SAGAL: Hello, I am the person typing the captions.
THE CAPTIONER: That’s me.
(Laughter and applause.)
TOM HANKS: Let’s hear it — are they up here or back there?
THE CAPTIONER: I’m up here.
(Laughter and applause.)
PETER SAGAL: That’s great.
We actually do have some questions for you so we can put them up.
TOM HANKS: That is hilarious. I’m sorry. That is just fantastic. I’m sorry, that is truly fantastic.
“Which character in your book do you love the most and why,” says Jill. There you go. We want Jill’s name up there twice. I think that’s fabulous.
(Applause.)

JG | I felt I had to insert myself in there so they would know it was an actual person doing the captioning and not voice recognition or artificial intelligence.

JCR | What was your reaction?
JG | I got a big kick out of it, but I was overwhelmed when I received this email from him through the Humanities Festival:

You tell Jo Gayle that she made our night! A personality to go with those magic words! It was an honor to share the stage with her! Tell her that, or better yet, send her a text one word at a time … It was a grand night,
Tom Hanks

JCR | Did you get to meet him?
JG | No, unfortunately.

JCR | Have you met any other celebrities through this work?
JG | Alan Alda is the only celebrity I’ve met.

JCR | How long have you been a captioner?
JG | I’ve been a court reporter since 1980, and I transitioned into CART in 2004. I don’t do broadcast captioning, only CART captioning. Transitioning into CART was the best career move I ever made!

JCR | How did you learn about the court reporting/captioning profession?
JG | After four years of college and two years of grad school, I couldn’t find a job in what I majored in (mass communications), so my father, who was an attorney, told me about the court reporters he worked with and actually found a reporting school for me. I looked into it and found my niche.

This whole experience has been unreal. From getting the shout-out from Tom Hanks to having the event posted on both the NCRA and Illinois Court Reporters Association Facebook pages and in an email from the Chicago Humanities Festival to their subscribers has been beyond my wildest dreams! And the recognition from my colleagues is the topping on the cake!

 


Captioning provides accessibility

Here is what Brittany Pyle, director of production and audience experience for the Chicago Humanities Festival, said about the benefits that captioning brings to audiences.

JCR | How long have you offered captioning services to your audiences?
BP | We implemented open captions at our events in fall 2015.

JCR | What prompted your organization to begin providing captioning of your events?
BP | The Chicago Humanities Festival is committed to accessibility for all audience members. Back in 2015, I was learning a lot from my involvement with the Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium (CCAC). Based on audience feedback, I sensed that many people in our audience identified as being hard of hearing, and some audience members were deaf but ASL interpretation was not their preference. Being able to understand what a person is saying on stage is the primary value of our events. It became clear to me that making realtime captions available and visible to everyone in the room was going to be a clear benefit to our audience’s experience.

JCR | How long have you used the services of Jo Gayle?
BP | We’ve worked with Jo Gayle since the beginning of utilizing live event captions in 2015. We also work with a few other talented captioners in Chicago. We have so many events running at one time that we often need more than one captioner on a given day!

JCR | You mentioned that she is your go-to person for captioning services. Why is that?
BP | Jo has amazing accuracy. I’m very impressed by how she can listen to a fast talker rattle off complicated terminology and get it perfectly right on the screen. She works very hard to prepare for our events. She and I work together in advance to make sure she has everything we know about a particular speaker, words they might use, the correct spelling of names. Jo does a lot of prep work on her own, looking up videos of that person, learning their speech cadence, things they often talk about when they’re giving a presentation. If our audience members can spot her in a theater, they will flock to her after an event to thank her for how much her captioning helped them get more out of the event.

JCR | What would you say to other organizations considering offering captioning services to their audiences?
BP | It is so worth budgeting for this accessible service. I find captions to be beneficial to a wide audience. It makes our events inclusive of people who are deaf or hard of hearing but also elevates an experience that could be less than ideal, say, in an acoustically challenging church or helps aid understanding if a speaker has a heavy accent. I would also urge other organizations to aim for open captions (as opposed to closed captions on a device) so that they are integrated into the entire experience, and someone can see them from any seat in the house without having to self-identify. I would also urge organizations to make it easy and transparent for a person to request the service of open captions from your organization.

JCR | Please feel free to add any additional information you think would be helpful for the article.
BP | The Chicago Humanities Festival is a guest in over 40 venues per year, producing roughly 130 events per year. We try to make our events as accessible as possible by showcasing how to request accessible accommodations on our website when buying tickets, and our audience services representatives are trained to ask each ticket buyer if they require accessible accommodations as part of their order when speaking to people on the phone. While we haven’t been able to afford to caption all 130 events just yet, we do budget for requests, pre-schedule captioning in venues that would benefit from them, and we are always fundraising and applying for grants hoping to increase the number of events with open captions. I also think it would be a logistical challenge to get realtime captioners at 130 events, since a demand at that volume would certainly exceed the number of qualified captioners in Chicago! I would love it if more colleges and trade schools provided a pipeline into this growing field of realtime captioning for accessibility.

Veterans History Project, stenographers work to collect stories

Radio station WTOP in Washington, D.C., posted an article about NCRA’s and NCRF’s involvement with the Veterans History Project program.

Read more.

Listen to radio story.

Why realtime is wicked awesome: Exorcise your demons with these tips

Happy Halloween from your NCRA Tech Committee! This is a spooktacular article with tips and tricks on how court reporters can boo-st their expectations and relieve fears about realtime. Realtime fear is not a grave issue when you can implement some of the fangtastic ideas from our committee members. Don’t be frightened — start your realtime journey today. So creep calm and carry on!

Realtime is a ghoul’s best friend!

Don’t fear impostor syndrome

Realtime trick or treat

Fight the realtime monster by being prepared

Realtime captions are pure magic in the classroom

Realtime is a ghoul’s best friend!

By Lynette Mueller

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR

Lynette Mueller

Court reporters need to embrace the future of court reporting and move ahead — the future is realtime! Realtime is “wicked” awesome, for sure! The benefits of realtiming for your clients and yourself are many:

  • improved skills
  • less editing time
  • improved translation delivery
  • quicker transcript turnaround
  • job satisfaction
  • name recognition (people will ask for you specifically)
  • increased income
  • readback is phenomenal

Fear ~ an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

Fear is normal for everyone. Even the best of the best in our profession, I’m sure, experience that tug of fear every now and then. We must not let fear hold us back, though. As the definition of “fear” states, it is a belief that something dangerous may happen to cause pain or a threat. There is no physical pain when providing realtime. Remember that we are the guardians of the record and provide an essential and valuable tool for our clients and participants receiving our realtime feed. There are many resources available to attain your realtime potential and become the most important person in the room!

Like with many activities in our daily lives, trepidation and exhilaration go hand in hand. Those two emotions definitely happen with me for every realtime assignment. But with some helpful tips from experienced realtimers, those court reporters who are on the fence about providing realtime can break through the fears and start embracing the beauty of this tool. Just as you salt bland food, realtiming for yourself can turn your work life from dull to delicious! Overcoming your fear of anything will give you the focus to achieve great things and to do what you really want to do. It takes much effort to strive to become realtime-proficient, but the rewards are worth it!

When I do start having that feeling of fear, I take a step back and remind myself to do a few things in order to control the situation – and these are simple steps that you can take too:

  1. I do my realtime testing and job dictionary building the night before in order to be ready for the next day’s job. A detailed prep session will relieve the perceived stress.
  2. I control my breathing. It has a calming effect on the whole body.
  3. I don’t overthink my realtime sessions. Fear and anxiety thrive when I imagine the worst. I go in the deposition setting with the confidence that I will do the best job I can. I’ve already prepared and done the testing — I know I’ve got this!
  4. I think about the last realtime session I provided and how well it went. Yes, the fear was present, but the client was extremely pleased with my output. I get a “high” for a job well done!

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, is a freelancer based in Memphis, Tenn. She chairs NCRA’s Technology Committee.

Realtime captions are pure magic in the classroom

By Amy Marie Yarbrough

With each new semester, there’s a cauldron of frights. What if the professor lectures like an auctioneer? What if there’s only one plug and it’s in the back? What if all the students around me are banging on their keyboards, making it impossible to concentrate? Messy realtime is no longer the apparition of my nightmares. Realizing their fears can be far more intense, working with deaf and hard-of-hearing students relieves my anxiety in a very organic way. Walking into a room full of hearing people can cause goosebumps! The mere presence of their onsite captioner is a cloak of security and comfort.

Realtiming in the classroom doesn’t have to be terrifying. If you utilize the hocus pocus of your software, your consumer will appreciate your captions for what they are: Pure magic.

My biggest ally in conquering realtime demons is the BriefIt pane in Case CATalyst. If you fingerspell a tricky word, for instance, it will immediately suggest a brief, avoiding the need to resort to pronouns if the lecture is dense. Right-click on devilish words/phrases and choose Suggest a Brief when one does not appear.

You may have also noticed in your Brief It pane the (1), (2), and (3) followed by words you wish you had correctly stroked. Those are Live Suggestions, and they are nothing short of supernatural. Familiarize yourself with your Realtime Commands dictionary, which is found in System Files. It’s full of goodies!

The best way to know you’re not writing like Frankenstein is to show your translate statistics. Are they ghastly? Perhaps they are not so terrifying after all. Are you misstroking words or phrases the same way every time? If there’s no conflict, define them. The evolution of your skills depends on your ability to write shorter and more efficiently.

Many of us begin steno school aspiring to caption and then realize how spooky it is for someone to see our realtime feed. We are far too hard on ourselves! Let’s say there are make 25 mistakes out of 5,000 words. Sounds like a lot; right? That is 99.5 percent accuracy. What do we do? We dwell on the 0.5 percent errors rather than celebrating the 99.5 percent success. Manage your expectations and always be striving. Knowing you gave your all can alleviate feelings of defeat.

Harness your fear, howl at the moon, jump on your broomstick, and disguise yourself as a fearless, enchanted writer who does not dread a cobweb of mistakes.

Amy Marie Yarbrough is a CART captioner and freelancer court reporter based in Atlantic Beach, Fla. She is a member of NCRA’s Technology Committee.

 

Fight the realtime monster by being prepared

By Deborah Kriegshauser

Deborah Kriegshauser

Realtime stage fright: Will I be prepared? Will my equipment hook up to the judge? Will it hook up to the attorneys? Will it translate appropriately? What will they think when there’s a steno outline or a mistran? Oh, yeah, we all fight those demons. We are all human; remember?

Being a federal official, we have the capability to log onto our federal docketing system and can pull up the briefs written by the parties as well as the charging documents or complaints. Take advantage of that opportunity. You truly will get a feel for the terms and spellings you need to have in your steno dictionaries, be it the job dictionary or your main dictionary. Nothing’s more satisfying than to see people’s names translate correctly, especially on the attorneys’ laptops. Pull up those witness lists as well, as the exhibit lists that are filed ahead of time. They’re a wealth of information! Get those case-specific terms entered into your dictionary ahead of time. You can fight this monster!

I freelanced previously in my career. In the deposition setting, you never know what you’re walking into. What a nightmare in itself! The best thing you can do is keep up with your steno dictionary entries. Improve on your prefixes and suffixes. Practice your number drills. There’s lots of phone numbers and addresses and Social Security numbers in depositions.

While we all strive to have everything as perfect as possible, remember that realtime is still considered a rough draft but that rough draft can be of benefit to all parties. Your judge is going through voir dire and when approached about striking a witness for cause, he cannot recall the prospective juror’s answers; pull up the realtime and do a juror number search. Your Spanish-speaking interpreter is interpreting the spoken words to the defendant and they lose their place reciting the commentary and questions that were sped through by the judge and counsel; consult the realtime on the screen at the podium. Realtime is so valuable! I need spellings of people’s names mentioned as witnesses or DEA/FBI agents; pull up the realtime file and plug in those spellings with counsel right there on the spot!

By using reverse psychology, I conquered the fear of my realtime not being perfect on the screen. As I would tell my judge, that’s a sign that that person is just speaking way too fast or maybe it’s because my hands, fingers, and shoulders are just exhausted from writing so long without any break. I have actually scored a break by the judge realizing there were suddenly more untrans on the screen. He realized it was suddenly time for everyone to have a break. He truly does not have an evil spirit!

Invest in your realtime skills! In our profession, it’s simply a matter of life or death. We need our realtime skills to maintain this great profession and keep it alive and well!

Deborah Kriegshauser, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CRC, CLVS, is an official court reporter based in St. Louis, Mo. She holds NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator certification. She is a member of NCRA’s Technology Committee.

Realtime trick or treat

By Alan Peacock

Alan Peacock

As many seasoned reporters and captioners know, any realtime assignment can be a nightmare, filled with ghosts and goblins, or it can be a treat, filled with all of the joy and pride of a top-notch steno superstar. Whether your realtime experience is a “trick” or a “treat” depends on you.

If you want to make sure that your experience is a treat, there are a few things you need to know. The first and most obvious task is to use your time in advance to your advantage. Be sure to thoroughly prep each assignment.

Contact the assigning agency or law firm and ask for previous depositions in the case, as well as indexes from other reporters. You can scan them for quick dictionary building. If there are no depositions available, then ask for the complaint filed in the case. If nothing is still available, use your savvy online research skills to find similar cases and vocabulary. Always be at least prepared with the witness’s name, counsels’ names, their law firm’s names, subject matter specific vocabulary and anything else you can think of. The more armed you are in advance, the better your realtime will look.

Take the time to really think through the subject matter. If there are several multisyllabic high-frequency words, then do your best to find one-stroke briefs for your job dictionary. There’s no need for two- and three-stroke briefs if you have the time to prep. Your chances of mis-stroking a brief are cut by 50 percent by decreasing the number of strokes for each word. So do your best to keep prep as simple as possible. If your software allows you to generate a report of the most frequently used words, use that to your advantage. Create single strokes for those high-frequency words, even if they are not difficult to write.

Another tip you can use is to make a checklist for each assignment that you must check off the night before your job. That way you can always be sure that you have your tablets charged to 100 percent, that all of the necessary cables and chargers are in your bag, and that you have everything you need. There’s no worse feeling in the world than arriving to an assignment and realizing that the one thing you left at home will prevent you from working or from providing the best realtime. So even though it sounds simple and redundant, checking your equipment needs off of a list can actually save you a lot of time and trouble and keep the goblins away!

Alan Peacock, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, is a freelance court reporter and CART captioner based in Mobile, Ala. He hold NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator certificate. He is a member of NCRA’s Technology Committee.

Don’t fear impostor syndrome

By Lisa Knight

Lisa Knight

Who isn’t afraid of mistrans or untrans when writing realtime? I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I am always a little nervous for the first five minutes of any deposition – especially when they enter their appearances for the record at an unintelligible 400 words per minute with their eyes glued to the realtime screen (just to see if you got it right)!

I always felt terrified that if counsel saw my mistakes, I would be exposed as the fraud that I truly was. I’ve later come to realize the Imposter Syndrome is quite common! Of course, no one is perfect, but if I have errors in my transcripts, will they think I am not competent to handle the deposition/arbitration/trial?

Part of my confidence-building plan from the very beginning of my career was to get every certification, accreditation, or training offered to help me be the very best realtime reporter I can possibly be! NCRA has helped me every step of the way, whether with the CRR (Certified Realtime Reporter), the Realtime Systems Administrator certificate, or the many seminars/webinars they offer. I consider myself a lifetime learner, and NCRA gives me the tools to accomplish that and more!

Lisa Knight, FAPR, RDR, CRR, is a freelancer and agency owner based in Littleton, Colo. She hold the Realtime Systems Administrator certificate. She is a member of NCRA’s Technology Committee.

NCRA Board Member participates in elementary school mock trial

NCRA Board Member Cindy L. Isaacsen, RPR, an official court reporter from Olathe, Kan., participated in a mock trial with fifth- and sixth-graders hosted on Oct. 10, by the Santa Fe Trail Elementary School in Shawnee Mission, Kan. The students sat with Johnson County judges, attorneys, a deputy court administrator, and Isaacsen, who helped the students determine if Goldilocks, from “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” was guilty of a crime. These professionals visited the school to talk to students about the Constitution and branches of government.

Read more.

Watch the video.

NCRA members top list in USCRA realtime contest

NCRA members Sherry Bryant, RMR, CRR, of Harrisburg, Pa., and Doug Zweizig, RDR, CRR, of Towson, Md., both competed in the United States Court Reporters Association (USCRA) Realtime Speed Contest. USCRA, which is an association dedicated to federal court reporters, holds an annual contest with five minutes of recorded two-voice Q&A at 230 words per minute. To qualify, participants’ files must achieve a 96 percent accuracy. Bryant and Zweizig were the only two qualifiers this year: Bryant took top honors with 99.65 percent, and Zweizig followed closely behind with 99.48 percent.

Sherry Bryant

Bryant won NCRA’s 2018 Speed Contest; Zweizig placed second overall in NCRA’s 2018 Realtime Contest and won the 2015 contest. The JCR asked Bryant and Zweizig about the contest and their experience attending the USCRA convention.

How long have you been a reporter?

SB | I have been a court reporter since 1981.

DZ | 29 years this year, I think. It starts to run together.

Doug Zweizig

How long have you worked in a federal court?

SB | I worked in the Eastern District of New York from October 2013 through July 2016.

DZ | Four years this month!

How long have you been a member of USCRA?

SB | Since the end of 2015.

DZ | Four years.

Why did you decide to go to the United States Court Reporters Association convention this year?

SB | Since I live and work so close to where the convention was being held in Tysons Corner, Va. , I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to attend. Other factors were: A friend from Eastern District of New York was attending; Chief Reporter Melinda Walker, Deputy Chief Damien Jackson, and two reporters from the U.S. House of Representatives where I currently work were presenting one of the seminars; plus the chance to compete in their realtime contest.

DZ | It was very close to my area. About an hour away (well, two in the crazy Washington, D.C., traffic).

You said this was your first time. What were you expecting? 

SB | I was unsure what to expect other than something similar to other conventions or contests I have attended and entered.

DZ | I was not at all sure, honestly.

Was it what you were expecting?

SB | It was similar to the NCRA convention in some respects: The seminars were interesting and well-presented; lunch was provided; CEUs are awarded. There were not different seminars to choose from as there is with the NCRA Convention. I enjoyed all the seminars, though, so this was not an issue for me. There was a buffet lunch that we ate in the same room as well. I was pleasantly surprised that the venue was so nice and the food was excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience attending the convention and competing in the realtime contest.

DZ | I will say that the USCRA contest was extremely orderly. We were instructed to meet in the lobby, and we’d be taken to the contest room. Once in the room, just pick a seat, take an envelope with your number. A bit of practice was next and then the contest was played. The room for the contest was small, so it was easy to hear with the Bose speakers.

How is it different from the NCRA contests?

SB | NCRA gives you special terms or proper names in order to create a job dictionary after you set up at the contest site, while USCRA gives them to you in advance of arrival. At the NCRA contests, you can set up approximately an hour in advance, while with the USCRA contest it is 15 minutes. After you are set up, they play warm-up material for 15 minutes or so. The NCRA Q&A realtime contest is 225 words per minute, while USCRA’s is 230 words per minute and is based on Federal Court transcripts. It was a challenging contest.

DZ | The USCRA contest had a relatively small number of contestants, and there was only one leg instead of two (230 Q&A). During the NCRA contests, we are able to use radio headsets to assist with hearing in a large room with sometimes high ceilings. It didn’t matter in this instance, because the room was small and I had no issue hearing. And the contest, to me, was extremely difficult, which is fine. I like a challenge. But I practiced a CD I ordered from USCRA that consisted of old contests, and I was making anywhere between zero to three errors. The actual contest material was considerably more difficult, and I had to hang on for dear life through the whole thing. Again, it was a challenge!

Any advice on contests – USCRA’s or in general?

SB | The key advice I have is to practice as much as possible with a variety of fast, difficult material several months in advance. Working in court or depositions, no matter how difficult, is not a substitute for practice.

DZ | Always read the rules beforehand. The USCRA contest was only one take, and printing in all caps was allowed. If that’s something that’s permitted, always do it! In the NCRA speed contest, you cannot print in all caps. In the NCRA realtime contest, all caps is only allowed in the literary take. So definitely read the rules and use something like all caps to your advantage. It can make a big difference or it could also mean the difference between qualifying and not qualifying or winning or not winning.