Article about court reporting school spotlights captioner for Pittsburgh Pirates

RealClear Politics posted an article on April 16 about Nathan Sibley, York County, Pa., who entered the court reporting program at his local community college. Since graduation, he has earned the job of JumboTron captioner for the Pittsburgh Pirates major league baseball club after interning with the organization.

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New Professional Spotlight: Tracey L. Tracy

Tracey Tracy

By Rachel Barkume, RPR

Tracey Tracy, RPR, is a freelance court reporter in Tacoma, Wash. She graduated from the online court reporting technologies program at Green River College in June 2017, attained her RPR in July 2017, and her Washington CCR in August 2017. She’s a true go-getter who radiates positivity and enthusiasm with a smile that is downright infectious. At the close of her first full year of reporting, she’s navigating through being a new professional with grace and tenacity.

JCR | Why did you choose to become a court reporter?

TT | During high school I was exposed to the field of court reporting by my aunt who worked as an official court reporter in my home town. I had considered following her path early on, but life had other plans for me. I spent the next several years raising children, working as an administrative assistant, and even had a stint as a barista at Starbucks.

With our youngest son approaching high school, I decided it was the right time for me to finally go back to school and accomplish my dream of becoming a court reporter. I set a personal goal to finish and be certified by the time he graduated. Well, it’s June 2018, our senior just graduated, and I’ve been working as a freelance court reporter now for 10 months.

I graduated in June 2017 at the age of 46, so I’m proof that you’re never too old!

JCR |   What is the ultimate goal in your career?

TT | I would say it’s too soon for me to predict my ultimate goal, but this first year’s goal has been spent learning the business side of being a freelance court reporter. We are essentially running a small business, which includes implementing a bookkeeping program to track all expenses and incoming revenue, preparing taxes, employing scopists and/or proofreaders, and time management.

Although the workload of a freelance court reporter can ebb and flow, I quickly discovered that work life can get so busy with transcripts that you have time for little else.  However, with a solid business foundation in place, a freelance court reporter can be successful in having a healthy work-life balance.

JCR | What’s the coolest experience you have had working in the profession?

TT | Every day as a freelance court reporter has been a “cool experience.” Prior to court reporting, I never had a job where I could honestly say, I love going to work every single day.  As a freelance reporter, no two days are ever the same. We play a critical role in producing an accurate and verbatim record of proceedings, and we have a front-row seat into the most important legal matters of people’s lives.  Thus far, I would say the best experience has been the realization that no machine will ever be able to replicate the accuracy of the human brain for synthesizing speech and converting it to text.

JCR | How has involvement with state and national reporting associations benefited your career thus far?

TT | As an online student and now a professional reporter, I am very passionate about the importance of being involved with your state reporting association and the NCRA. One of the benefits of being involved with state and national reporting associations is attending the yearly conventions and seminars, which allow for many connections and reconnections with students and professional reporters.

My first experience with an NCRA convention was New York City in 2015, where I was honored as the recipient of the CASE scholarship award. I was welcomed, supported, and encouraged by all of the professional reporters I met while I was there, and I even had a couple of them who would continue to mentor and e-mail me along my journey in school, which reminds me: Debbie Dibble and Irv Starkman, if you’re reading this, I did it!

Through my state and national reporting associations, I enjoy promoting the field of court reporting through career fairs and other venues that actively encourage new students, such as the Discover Steno video with NCRA and the Career Outreach video with WCRA, which has benefited not only my career, but hopefully some new recruits!

JCR | What do you like to do when you’re not reporting?

TT | When I’m not reporting, I love spending time with my husband, family, and my grandson, who calls me Noni. We enjoy anything that has to do with the outdoors, entertaining friends, music, and traveling.

JCR | What did you do to remain positive and motivated while in court reporting school?

TT | As an online student, you are somewhat isolated, so it was important for me to be involved with my state and national reporting associations. I had some amazing teachers, reporters, and fellow students along the way who mentored me in a way that both inspired and motivated me to keep pushing and never give up.  These same people continue to mentor and encourage me today as a professional reporter.

JCR | What do you love about your career?

TT | There are many benefits about this rewarding profession.  We truly have a one-of-a-kind career where we get to utilize our skill that is rare and in great demand worldwide.

As a freelance court reporter, I enjoy the benefits of schedule flexibility, a great income, job security, opportunity for professional growth, and the adventure of being presented with a new assignment and location every day.

Court reporting is rarely dull for people who enjoy learning!

Rachel Barkume, RPR, is a freelancer and CART captioner in Alta, CA. She is a member of the NCRA New Professionals Committee and can be reached at rachel.barkume@gmail.com.

NCRA A to Z Alumna Profile: From A to Z to RPR in two years

Taylor Lauren Nirschl

Next month, NCRA will have its first known court reporting program graduate who started in an NCRA A to ZTM  Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program. Taylor Lauren Nirschl from Combined Locks, Wis., will be graduating in May with an Associate Degree in Applied Science in Court Reporting from Lakeshore Technical College, and she will also have another credential behind her name: RPR. Nirschl has some advice for students who are considering taking an A to Z program.

JCR | Is court reporting your first choice of career?

TLN | I would say yes, since my dad has been talking to me about court reporting since seventh grade. My dad works at a workforce development center. I did change my mind a couple of times, but I would always come back to court reporting.

JCR | What attracted you to learn more about it?

TLN | My dad told me how much money court reporters made.  As a seventh grader, that really got my attention. But as I got older, my attraction was more about the technology they use on their job, being in a courtroom, and just thinking about how important their job really is.

JCR | How did you hear about the NCRA A to Z program?

TLN | My parents mentioned that I should go sit with someone to see if this was something I wanted to do. I went back to the school to see if I could get a recommendation on a local court reporter to shadow, and that’s when I met Lori Baldauf.  While I was asking questions about shadowing a court reporter, Lori gave me a flyer about the program.

JCR | What prompted you to sign up for the program?

TLN | I had already signed up for the court reporting program [at Lakeshore Technical College] before I signed up for the A to Z program. I was waiting for school to begin. When Lori shared the information, I decided to sign up.

JCR | What surprised you most about learning steno in the A to Z program?

TLN | How you must learn a whole new alphabet; and the letters are not on the keys. The way you learn how to remember the keys. 

JCR | How soon after completing the A to Z program did you enroll in Lakeshore Technical College?

TLN | I took A to Z in the spring of 2017 and started court reporting school in the summer of 2017. I’m waiting to graduate next month!

JCR | Did you test for any NCRA certifications while in school?

TLN | Yes, I did.  I took the three legs of the RPR certification from October through December 2018 and the Written Knowledge Test in January 2019.  I passed the Written Knowledge Test my first time taking it. When I passed my Lit leg at school, I took the Lit leg of the RPR. It took me two times to pass the Lit leg, but only one time to pass the Jury and Testimony legs. I found testing for the RPR after I passed my legs in school helped me stay on track. I also had an added incentive from my teacher: get my RPR and I’m done with classes.  

JCR | What do you plan to do when you graduate – official, freelancer, broadcast captioner, CART provider?

TLN | I’d like to take a little break since I’ve gone straight through school. However, I would love to work in the court where Lori works, but they don’t have an opening yet. I’ve thought about doing CART.

JCR | What would you say to others considering career choices to encourage them to enroll in the NCRA A to Z program?

TLN | I would definitely encourage anyone interested in court reporting to take the NCRA A to Z program. I think that is what got me through school so fast. It gives you a great head start above everyone else. You already know your letters, so you are able to focus on your short forms and theory. I also think I had more confidence when I started the program and when I attended orientation. When I attended orientation, we got an opportunity to write on the machines. I remembered my letters and easy words like “egg.” I also already knew a few people from participating in NCRA A to Z, which provided me with a ready-made community.

Taylor is currently working toward earning NCRA’s Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC) certification. For more information on the NCRA A to Z program or to learn about the court reporting and captioning professions, visit DiscoverSteno.org.

NCRF scholarships – open to qualifying students at any court reporting program

The National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF) is now accepting nominations for the Robert H. Clark and Frank Sarli Memorial scholarships for students, as well as applications for the New Professional Reporter Grant. The deadline for all of these awards is June 1. Beginning this year, all NCRF scholarships are open to NCRA student members enrolled in any court reporting program, not just NCRA approved programs. The New Professional Reporter Grant is now open to qualifying graduates of any court reporting program.

The Robert H. Clark and Frank Sarli Memorial scholarships are awarded to high-achieving students nearing the end of their court reporting program who meet a number of criteria, including current student membership in NCRA, having passed at least one Q&A test at a minimum of 200 wpm, and a GPA of at least 3.5 based on a 4.0 standard.

 “This [scholarship] has given me an extra boost of motivation and confidence I needed while I head into my final semester,” said Megan Baeten upon receiving the Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship in 2018. “It will help me with the cost of schooling for this last semester without the added stress of how I will pay for it. It will also help me with some of the start-up expenses upon graduating, as well as the certification fees.”

The New Professional Reporter Grant is given to a promising working reporter in his/her first year out of school who meets a number of criteria, including current NCRA membership, a graduating GPA of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 standard, and a recommendation from the person’s current employer.

Students looking for scholarships can also consider the CASE scholarships and NCRA A to Z ™ scholarships. Deadlines for these two scholarships, which are also supported by funds from NCRF, have been extended to April 19.

More scholarships and other NCRF programs can be found by visiting NCRA.org/NCRF.

Remember to nominate for awards and scholarships, including the all-new NCRA A to Z scholarships

Time is running out to recognize someone special! Every year, NCRA offers members several scholarships and awards to bring attention to the people who are contributing to the profession in important ways. In addition to the annual scholarships managed by the Council on Approved Student Education (CASE), the National Court Reporters Foundation has initiated an all-new scholarship to help students who have completed the NCRA A to Z™ Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program with the next step in their training. Scholarships are supported by funds from the National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF).

Nominations are now open, so consider nominating individuals for these special opportunities:

CASE scholarships. Five scholarships are available. Students attending an NCRA-approved court reporting program and writing between 140 and 180 wpm are encouraged to apply for this scholarship. Teachers and mentors, let them know that you see their potential. The nomination period closes April 1.  

NCRA A to Z ™ scholarshipsUp to 10 students will receive a $500 scholarship. Qualified applicants must have completed the NCRA A to Z™ Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program as well as pass a skills test writing between 60 and 100 wpm, among other eligibility requirements. Nominations close April 1.

 CASE Educator of the YearThis special award is for a court reporting instructor. Was there someone special who inspired you, who got you through the ups, downs, and plateaus of your court reporting classes? If your teacher was an incredible influence in you getting started, now is the time to say thank you by nominating that special someone for the CASE Educator of the Year Award. Nominations close April 1.

Fellow of the Academy of Professional ReportersIf you know a dedicated court reporter or captioner who has contributed to the profession in a big way over the years, nominate that person as a Fellow. Candidates must be active practitioners in the field and have at least 10 years of experience. Criteria for nomination include the publication of important papers, legislative or creative contributions to the field, and service on committees or boards. Nominations close April 1.

Annual scholarship to benefit students of judicial program

Twin Cities.com reported on Feb. 24 that Benchmark Reporting Agency, based in Minneapolis, Minn., has partnered with Anoka Technical College on an annual $1,000 scholarship.

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It’s an honor to be mistaken for the court reporter

Sharon Velazco

By Sharon Velazco, RPR


I was recently amused when I came across the article in which accomplished female judges and attorneys were interviewed, and they were relating instances in their career when, because of their gender, they were mistaken for the court reporter. And, although I am sure it is not the intention of the author, the tone of the article assumes that to be mistaken for the court reporter would be somehow demeaning. So, to the average reader who has probably never met a court reporter, I would like to explain what it is that court reporters do and how it is actually an honor and privilege to be a member of this niche, necessary profession which, ironically, given the theme of the article, was once mostly held by men.

There’s a common tenet in the medical community, “If it’s not written down, it didn’t happen,” referring to the importance of a written record in the care and treatment of a patient. The same premise may be applied to the legal process. The written record is the foundation of our system of justice, and court reporters are the scribes and keepers of that written record. That same written record will be needed and relied on by the jurist in order to prepare and advance her case. In our American institution of jurisprudence, the legal process is dependent on the written record — the record prepared by the court reporter.

Contrary to popular belief, this is not a skill which is acquired in a few weeks or that can be performed by just anyone. This is not just a job. This is a chosen career. The uniquely qualified individual will spend an average of two to three years to complete the basic training necessary to become a court reporter. It takes about a year just to learn the stenographic theory of the writer, and then the remainder of the time is spent building speed, accuracy, and taking other classes to complement the knowledge base needed to produce a transcript. In addition to the obvious requirement for advanced English and grammar, there is the prerequisite for legal and medical terminology. It is often necessary to study a wide range of material in order to be prepared to take down the specific, vital testimony of a doctor, engineer, or other expert witness whose opinion may be crucial to a case. There is no script from which to prepare until the court reporter writes it — in realtime.

Additionally, the qualities of innate human intuition and skill combined with modern technology provides for real-time capturing of the spoken word to text in a readable, usable format, regardless of accent or subject matter. So whether that court reporter is working in a legal setting and giving realtime, immediate access to the transcript, or perhaps working behind-the-scenes doing the closed captions for a television broadcast, please know that it takes a special kind of talent, dedication, and determination to achieve the level of skill required to provide that invaluable service. And, while the closed captions are, without a doubt, appreciated by the viewer, that viewer is probably unaware that it’s all being done by a court reporter.

So, in summary, this occupation is a challenging, constant education-in-process. This occupation is flexible, exciting, and never boring. This occupation offers opportunities to travel the world. This occupation also happens to be extremely rewarding financially. So, without taking away from the successful careers and accomplishments of our respected members and leaders of the legal community whose experiences were the basis of the original article, let me turn the article’s slant the other way. I would like to ask that author, now that they know a little about what we do, who wouldn’t want to be the court reporter?

Sharon Velazco, RPR, is a freelance court reporter based in Miami, Fla. She can be reached atscribe3159@aol.com.

2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week celebrated big across the nation

Jane Kohlwey helps spread the word at Madison College during Court Reporting & Captioning Week.

NCRA’s seventh consecutive Court Reporting & Captioning Week event was celebrated across the nation by state associations, individual members, students, and firms, via an array of events ranging from open houses to contests to time spent with lawmakers.

At the national level, U.S. Rep. John Shimkus from Illinois recognized the week in a written speech submitted for the official record of the U.S. House of Representatives. In addition, U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis from Illinois delivered a similar speech from the House floor on Feb. 14, recognizing the event.

Members of the Texas Court Reporters Association were at the Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 12.

Official proclamations for the week were also issued in 16 states including: Arizona, California, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin. Official proclamations were also issued in Eugene, Ore., and Bexar County, Texas.

All states that submitted an official proclamation will be entered into a drawing by NCRA to win one free 2019 Convention & Expo registration. In addition, states that entered the annual NCSA State Challenge, a friendly contest among state associations and individual NCRA members to spread the word about the benefits of a career in court reporting or captioning, will be entered into a drawing for a variety of prizes ranging from complimentary NCRA event registrations to vouchers for continuing education. The winners of both contests will be announced in the Feb. 26 issue of the JCR Weekly.

NCRA President Sue A. Terry, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, a freelance court reporter from Springfield, Ohio, celebrated the event by participating in “Spread the Word,” an online event hosted by the College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind. Terry joined other representatives from the court reporting and captioning professions to talk to students firsthand about the benefits of a career in court reporting or captioning and to provide motivation and inspiration to those who attended.

Other schools that marked the event with special activities included Anoka Technical College in Anoka, Minn.; Green River College in Auburn, Wash.; the Captioning and Court Reporting program at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C), Cuyahoga, Ohio; Madison College, Madison, Wis.; and Plaza College, Queens, N.Y.

A number of state court reporter associations reported activities such as get-togethers for members, attorneys, and judges, as well as courthouse displays, contests, social media campaigns, and more.

In honor of the week, NCRA also released several videos of members promoting the court reporting and captioning professions by sharing what they love about their careers. The first five of the series are available at NCRA’s YouTube Channel. Members and state associations are encouraged to share the videos on social media sites as well as use them to promote the profession at career days and other events where the skills of court reporters and captioners are showcased.

See the media generated by the 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week

National Court Reporting Week recognizes the fastest fingers in New York

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Queens court reporting students compete for speed and accuracy in contest to prepare for jobs

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Help wanted: As court reporters age, craft seeks new blood

 (Subscription required)

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National Court Reporting & Captioning Week Showcased on Local Station

Watch the story.

Court Reporting & Captioning Week in Iowa

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Local court reporters recognized

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An Interview with Kaylee Lachmann, RPR

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Planet Depos Celebrates NCRA’s 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week

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See how others celebrated NCRA’s 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week.

NCRA members gear up for 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week

2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week is happening nationwide

2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week celebrated in the media and on social media

Thanks to everyone who participated in 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week and making this seventh year of celebration a great success! Mark your calendars now for 2020 Court Reporting & Captioning Week happening Feb. 8-15.

Even though 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week is coming to an end, you don’t need to stop showing your pride in being a court reporter or captioner. Keep up your activities to promote the professions year-round. NCRA has a number of resources to help members promote the profession throughout the year. Below are just a few:

NCRA’s Press Center

NCRA’s Information Center

NCRA’s Court Reporting & Captioning Week Page

NCRA DiscoverSteno

Contact pr@ncra.org for more information about what’s available.

National Court Reporting Week recognizes the fastest fingers in New York

On Feb. 15, the Queens Daily Eagle posted an article that quotes NCRA member Karen Santucci, CRI, court reporting program chair at Plaza College in Queens, N.Y.

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How an “Evil Zombie Vampire Court Reporter from Hell” figures prominently in NCRA’s Court Reporting & Captioning Week

Maxyne Bursky

By Maxyne Bursky

NCRA’s 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week is a great impetus for veteran reporters to head into reporting schools and give both students and newbies a taste of what successful and amazing careers lie ahead of them. As experienced professionals, we have the privilege and advantage (and obligation, I would offer) of being able not only to show them a living, breathing sample of what’s possible, but also to give them a leg up on the mistakes, errors, or omissions (yes, omissions) we have made and bring this whole industry into perspective for a new generation of verbatim reporters. We are the face of the past and present, and they are our future.

On Feb. 9, I, along with my husband, Richard, a reporter of nearly 45 years, was honored to present a film I wrote and produced called “Evil Zombie Vampire Court Reporter from Hell” to students at Brown College of Court Reporting in Atlanta, Ga. The film is a 43-minute spoof of a deposition in which the star commits 47 professional infractions, any one of which could have gotten her dismissed from her job and many of which could have potentially ended her career.

Just to give you a little taste, the court reporter is 15 minutes late to the deposition, and she offers no apology or excuse. In fact, within the first five minutes, her actions clearly point to the fact that the attorneys in the film are in for a very, very long day.

Every time over the past five years that I have presented this film — as well as its sequel, “Evil Zombie Vampire Lawyer from Hell” — I watch it from beginning to end along with the attendees. I never tire of hearing students and veteran reporters alike gasp and giggle at the evil reporter’s bad behavior. It heartens me to know that the principles of preparedness, professionalism, and propriety, not to mention common sense, are ingrained in the majority of court reporters.

Even so, there are those who have come up to me at the conclusion of my lecture at a reporting school or even at a state convention and complained that the film is misguided in that, for example, not being prepared with exhibit stickers, extension cords, and the like is not so bad, or showing up 15 minutes before the start of a proceeding is acceptable. I typically arrive 45 minutes to an hour early, and when a student is shadowing me, I require them to meet me 60 minutes before the scheduled time so that we can chat about what is going to transpire once we are on the record.  My usual response to these naysayers is, “Well, you keep doing that, and next time those clients will call me, not you.”

Each person who watches the film receives a list of those 47 sins that evil reporter has committed, and I encourage everyone to hold off looking at the list and write on a separate piece of paper the number of bad behaviors they observed and then compare that list to the distributed material. I am so pleased to say, when we got to the lecture portion of the session at Brown College, the students were able to volunteer more than half of the unprofessional antics demonstrated in the film.

Brown College requires my book Talk to the Hands, a practical guide for the newbie, to be used by students in their career development class, which is one of the courses offered just prior to graduation. At each film presentation, I supply a workbook for that book, along with exemplars of cover, appearance, and certificate pages, among others, for students to use as a template when first entering into the court reporting workforce.

As a proud participant in NCRA’s online mentoring program, before I get off the phone with a dedicated court reporting student who’s stuck at 150 wpm or who has just emerged from theory and is feeling overwhelmed, I make sure that they know I went through the same angst, managed to get through it, and love (nearly) every minute of my workday.  And the paychecks aren’t bad either!

Because our profession has expanded so rapidly through technology, one of my mantras at every “evil” film presentation, on every mentoring phone call, at every meet and greet for new students, is realtime, realtime, realtime. That skill is what separates the proverbial men from the boys and expands our opportunities for personal and professional growth. In fact, the “evil reporter” is vehement in refusing to provide realtime to the movie’s attorneys.  In my early days of doing realtime, I felt as if I were sitting in the conference room in my dirty pajamas, and everyone present could plainly see how incompetent I was because of a misstroke here and there. I’m not afraid to share this and other similar observations with newbies, to let them know that with time and experience and a commitment to attaining higher speed through practice even after graduation, these insecurities will fade and be replaced with a satisfaction and acknowledgement of one’s own competence that will give rise to that new generation of professional court reporters.

Maxyne Bursky, RPR, CRR, CRC, is a freelance court reporter from McDonough, Ga. She can be reached at bullymax1@aol.com.